Thanks, and a Wave of My New Silicon Hand

This is a personal thank you to the semiconductor industry, an industry that I have worked in for almost 40 years. My thank you is for a new hand.

In 1962 I was in a line-of-duty military accident that resulted in the amputation of my left hand. Soon after, in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I was fitted with a cable-operated prosthesis, the best then available. It used a Dorrance hook opened by a cable connected to a strap looped under my opposite shoulder and closed by two powerful rubber bands. That type of prosthesis served my needs for many years. I have nothing but praise for the US Army and the US Veterans Administration for the medical and prosthetic care I received during that time.

After more than 40 years using a hook, I began experiencing pain in my shoulder. The strap under my arm had been pulling on my shoulder all the time, creating a strain, even when it was not being used to open my hook. To lessen the pain, it was necessary to loosen the strap and use only one rubber band to close my hook. The hook still worked, but not very well. Something needed to be done.

Enter electronics, especially semiconductors. I was fitted for a myoelectric prosthesis, the ETD (Electronic Terminal Device) manufactured by Motion Control Inc. of Salt Lake City. When I tense the muscles of my remaining forearm, as if to raise my hand at the wrist; the ETD senses the muscle tension and opens its hook. When I tense the opposite muscles, as if to lower my hand; the ETD senses the tension in those muscles to close its hook. No strap. No cable. No sore shoulder!

It gets better. I now have a new myoelectric hand, the i-LIMB Pulse, manufactured by Touch Bionics of Livingston, UK. It senses the same muscle contractions; but it opens and closes articulated fingers and a thumb. It's not as good as Luke Skywalker's replacement hand; but it has an opposable thumb and many versatile grips. It can grasp a key, a credit card, a briefcase handle, a ball, a steering wheel, and makes many everyday tasks easier. It’s better than a hook for many uses. Using it feels much more natural.

So my thanks to the semiconductor industry. Why? Because neither the ETD nor the i-LIMB Pulse Hand would be possible without semiconductors. Both are microprocessor controlled and both use semiconductor motor controllers. No other technology could have delivered the combination of processing power and motor control needed. The i-LIMB Pulse even has a built-in Bluetooth connection so that software updates can be accomplished without a physical connection. Semiconductors have improved my life.

I’m not alone. Many other lives have been improved, or even saved, by semiconductors. Those of us in the semiconductor industry often focus on the technology and the business numbers, but let’s pause a moment to consider semiconductors’ impact on people’s lives. There are many examples: Manufacturing jobs require less physical labor than they once did; airline reservations take minutes; pacemakers save lives; MRIs, CAT scans, and other medical instruments improve diagnostic procedures; and family connections are easier to maintain.

Semiconductors have touched every corner of people's lives and have improved those lives immeasurably. Let’s not forget it.

8 comments on “Thanks, and a Wave of My New Silicon Hand

  1. Barbara Jorgensen
    November 11, 2010

    Thank you, Morry, for your military service. And thanks for sharing your experience. The electronics industry and the medical/healthcare industries have made unbelieveable advancements. Another pill-cam is coming out to help with internal diagnostics. Great stuff.

  2. elctrnx_lyf
    November 11, 2010

    Semiconductors have paved way for many innovative products for the human. The advancement in any industry could not have been possible without the semiconductor technolgies. Healthcare can be seen as a direct impact on the human health, but telecommunication and networking has been the key factor that changed the way human maintains the relationships.

  3. Anna Young
    November 11, 2010

    The medical electronics market has advanced rapidly in recent years and what's ahead will be even better. I think the advances that has benefitted Morry is one of only a few we have seen. There are more ahead and also in the automotive market where sensors are making a huge difference in safety, navigation, comfort and entertainment.

  4. SP
    November 11, 2010

    So true. Electronics have given life to many people or have eased the pains caused by physical damage. I would wonder when electronics can heal the wounds that are mental. I guess everything is possible.

  5. hwong
    November 12, 2010

    Semiconductor innovation is one thing, the intelligence of the software algorithm is also something equally important. Most of the time, they go hand in hand for the most sophisticated applications.

  6. screenwriter
    November 12, 2010

    Morry:That was a great post! Very inspiring. It's real life examples like this that make people like us in the hi tech arena feel good about what we do for a living and its people like you who defended our nation and allowed us the freedom to do so.


  7. saranyatil
    November 13, 2010

    First thx Morry and hats off to semiconductor industry, days have come where we are soley dependent on them for our basic needs. Semiconductor industry cant just be functioning alone to this extent, software is acting as a backbone supporting it with all the platforms. with the help of semiconductors, innovations are going to be rigorously taking place draw back may be only with the developement of batteries to suite such great innovations.

  8. Backorder
    November 13, 2010

    I think the semiconductor industry deserves more credit than what it currently receives. Embedded designers enabled by new advances in semiconductors are creating intelligent applications that make our world a safer, healthier, greener and funner place to live. All the medical instruments, the cosumer medical ones, prosthetics, safety systems, fall detectors, alarms, automotive applications et al. are creating a safe and healthy environment. In fact, take into account the overall consumer, industrial, communication/entertainment or defence sectors and we ll discover that electronics is at the forefront of innovation everywhere. The nature of the semiconductor industry and the fact that it is abstracted through multiple levels before the consumer gets to use it, makes it a thankless contributor.

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