Time magazine reported Steve Jobs calling it "as big a deal as the PC" and investor John Doerr claiming it was "maybe bigger than the Internet." Now it has become a cause of death.Jimi Heselden: made nerds super-cool and lighting-fast. Before the gyroscopic personal transport rucked the entryway runners of every tech HQ in Silicon Valley, it was a wildly over-hyped cipher.
The hype let-down when the Segway was revealed was thunderous, though the things seemed to sell well enough in a flush economy to become a fixture at tech companies. Eventually, the good times well past, inventor Dean Kamen sold the company that produced the Segway to Hesco Bastion Ltd., chaired by British businessman Jimi Heselden, in 2009. Heselden subsequently died by driving one off a cliff.
Hesdelden had dropped out of school at 15 to become a coal miner then used unemployment payments to start Hesco. The company was best known as the manufacturers of easily employed blast-walls for soldiers, devices which saved countless lives over the past decades.
Last Sunday, Heselden rode a ruggedized Segway out to a hiking area in Yorkshire, England. A hiker spotted his body floating in the Wharfe River. He had apparently shot out over a cliff and fell to the river where he died.
Jelinek, the Julian Sinclair Smith Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Center for Language and Speech Processing at Johns Hopkins University, died earlier this month of a heart attack in Baltimore.Frederick Jelinek: imbued computers with the horrifying power of speech.
After surviving the Holocaust in his native Czechoslovakia, now called the Czech Republic, Jelinek immigrated to New York. He studied at City College and MIT, where he also taught. He also taught at Harvard and Cornell before joining IBM's Watson Research Center, where he stayed for over 20 years. There, he worked at the forefront of machine language recognition and speech. He successfully pushed a non-analogous relationship to language apprehension using statistics and pattern recognition instead of syntax and semantics.
If you ever queried or directed any digital machinery by voice, thank Jelinek. Not out loud, of course. That would just infuriate IDAK Alpha 12.
Segway photo by Matthew McCullough