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Notable 2015 deaths in technology, science & inventions

Bob Brown | Jan. 4, 2016
In memoriam: We mourn the passing of Gene Amdahl, Ralph Ungermann and other industry influencers.

Gary Dahl: Inventor of the Pet Rock (Died March 23, age 78)

Friends fussing about their live pets led this copywriter and entrepreneur to suggest a rock would be a perfect pet, and thus the fad of all fads was born in 1975. The $3.95 rocks, complete with punny care and feeding manuals, sold wildly for a year or so and made Dahl a millionaire. Later efforts, such as the Original Sand Breeding Kits and Red China Dirt failed to catch on. He did, however, author “Advertising for Dummies.”

Dave Goldberg: CEO of Survey Monkey (Died May 1, age 47)

Goldberg was a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur who started online music site Launch Media, served as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Benchmark Capital and was head of Survey Monkey, an online survey/polling company. He was married to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.

Satoru Iwata: President of Nintendo (Died July 11, age 55)

The Japanese game programmer and businessman oversaw the company during its highs and lows as the gaming industry shifted from dedicated consoles and PCs to mobile devices. During his early programming days at HAL Laboratory, he worked on games such as EarthBound and Kirby, and during his tenure at Nintendo the company released products such as the Wii and Nintendo DS.

Joseph Lechleider: a Father of ADSL technology (Died April 18, age 82)

As the National Inventors Hall of Fame states, “Lechleider’s work turned the existing copper wire phone network into a high-speed broadband delivery instrument, allowing for the transmission of data at equal rates in both directions.” The electrical engineer’s work at Bellcore in the 1980s also moved beyond basic DSL to asynchronous DSL that avoided interference and supported carrier initiatives to transmit video across copper to try to compete with cable TV companies.

Leonard Nimoy: Mr. Spock (Died Feb. 27, age 83)

The American actor portrayed the inimitable Mr. Spock, he of the pointy ears and

Vulcan powers, from the 1964 start of the Star Trek TV Series to a 2013 film. Nimoy, also an accomplished singer, photographer and author, had an asteroid named after him in 2015.

Joseph Traub: Computer scientist (Died Aug. 24, age 82)

This pioneering computer scientist “was most known for his work on optimal algorithms and computational complexity applied to continuous scientific problems,” according to Columbia University, where he founded the CS Department following a period during which he led Carnegie Mellon’s CS Department. Traub’s early work in computer science took place before such a field was really even defined. His algorithms were used to solve problems in fields ranging from physics and math to Wall Street financials.

George Barris: Designer of the Batmobile (Died Nov. 5, age 89)

 

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