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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.

Legendary car “kustomizer” whose vehicles starred in many TV shows during the 1960s, including the Batmobile, the Munster Koach and The Beverly Hillbillies truck. Barris was even buried in a coffin modeled after the Batmobile.

Kathryn Gould: Tech industry venture capitalist (Died Nov. 26, age unknown)

One of the first female venture capitalists, Gould left a mark on the tech industry through investments in early stage companies. Foundation Capital, which she co-founded in 1995, has backed enterprise ventures such as MobileIron and ShoreTel, as well as big-time IPOs like Netflix. Trained as a physicist, she got her big start in tech as an early Oracle employee and Larry Ellison’s VP of marketing.

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Kathryn Gould (Photo via Kathryn Gould)

Joshua Greenberg: Co-founder of Grooveshark music sharing service (Died July 19, age 28)

This young man helped to shake up the music world by starting up Grooveshark in 2006 with two University of Florida classmates at a time when such services were brand new. Grooveshark eventually attracted upwards of 35 million users, but the service shut down this past April with the co-founders acknowledging they made serious mistakes in not licensing much of the music uploaded to its site by users.

Charles Hard Townes: Laser co-creator (Died Jan. 27, age 99)

Won a share of the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics “"for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser-laser principle." Laser technology played a major role across disciplines including telecom, medicine and entertainment. Townes, who has been a professor emeritus in physics at UC Berkeley, built on that pioneering work on the laser to later extend the technology’s use for astronomy.

Tony Verna: Inventor of instant replay for live sports (Died Jan. 18, age 81)

This television director and producer is credited with coming up with instant replay, initially for the annual Army-Navy football game played in 1963. His system used audio tones to identify when replay-worthy action took place. According to a New York Times obituary for Verna, the game’s play-by-play announcer warned viewers: “This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!” Verna wasn’t one to rest on his laurels either: He also holds patents for smartphone technology.

Steve Bristow: Early video game designer (Died Feb. 22, age 65)

An electrical engineering whiz from UC Berkeley  and the University of Santa Clara, Bristow started his career as a co-founder of Atari, and worked on early microsoprocessor-based systems such as the Atari 2600 in the late 1970s. His games to fame during his career included early coin-operated games and games such as Tank and Indy 800. Beyond gaming, he was involved in numerous Silicon Valley tech startups and has his name on close to 20 patents. This gem from Bristow is found in an old Wired article: “I worked part-time doing maintenance on the Pong machines and collecting the money. In Berkeley, a weapons permit is hard to get, but they won't stop you from carrying a hatchet, so people out at 2 am would see my wife walking ahead of me carrying a hatchet and me carrying $1,500 in quarters, and they'd say, ‘Leave them alone.’”

 

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