In the bubble where I live, media, information, and communication technologies (MICTs) are truly ubiquitous. Most of the time I, and those around me, use these technologies thinking very little about how they were invented and the people who brought them to us. Yet, the more I learn about MICT the more fascinated I become with the individuals behind some of the major technological breakthroughs and innovations. I think some of their personal stories are truly fascinating and can give us a really unique perspective on their inventions.
My dad sent me a link to a documentary about one such person, Felix Zandman (in the picture). I have never heard about him before, even though most of my gadgets, and in fact the field of my studies, owe quite a lot to his talent. If you are using a laptop, a mobile phone, a digital camera or any other piece of electronics, most probably you are enjoying fruits of his work. Zandman, who is one of the only six recipients of Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Electronic Distributors Association (and a “few” other awards), is the founder of Vishay Intertechnology – one of the world’s largest manufacturers of discrete semiconductors and passive electronic components. In fact, many of the innovations in the sphere of minimization of electronic components came from Zandman’s ideas, which I think is amazing.
Even more amazing in my view is Zandmand’s personal story. His entire family, except for one uncle, was killed in the Holocaust. He survived through a series of coincidences (or miracles if you want), human compassion, and living in a hole (literally) with 3 (and then 4) more people for 17 months. He came out of that war with nothing and ended up building a Fortune 1000 company and creating technology that touches lives of billions of people. I find his personal story truly amazing and inspiring, and my attempt to abbreviate it here does not do it much justice.
If you have an hour to spare, I encourage you to watch the entire documentary. Someone uploaded it on 56.com (part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 – warning: it’s really slow, you need to let it buffer for a while to watch it smoothly) and the first 20 minutes or so are also available on YouTube (part 1, part 2) – all with English subtitles and narration. Most of what I know about the story of Felix Zandman at this point is from this documentary (the online materials are scarce), but it really got me interested in his personality and now I also intend to read his memoirs, Never The Last Journey.