Friday, March 11, 2011

My Secret Passion


Don’t let anyone know…

…but there’s a certain part of IBM that I simply love.

No, this isn’t a blatant attempt at buttering up our new Watson overlord who is currently using his Jeopardy-winning skills to sniff the Internet to answer the $2000 question in the “Winning! Like Sheen” category, “Employees ranting about IBM”. If it were, this post would be filled with obvious, italically-texted fawning that Watson would pick up on. I’m just too mature for such juvenile antics.

If IBM were food it would be Ice Cream!

Nope. What I love about IBM is that it’s where I learned to thrive as an inventor…and for that I am truly grateful.

More than any label given to me by IBM, “Master Inventor” is the one I value the most. I don’t talk much about it because I fear it’s ‘bragging'. However, since I recently reached somewhat of a milestone: 30 issued US patents, in addition to 2 China, 1 Japan, and 1 Taiwan issued patents, I think it’s time to talk about it.

Meet my kids: Lou, Sam, and AS400 (pronounced “Az-far-ooo”)

I love the creativity of inventing…

I love exploring the endless possibilities of inventing…

I love the collaboration of inventing…

…and I love that IBM supports my inventing passion.

I don’t write about my day job much because while most of the time it’s really good, sometimes it’s tough. However, IBM offers me this creative outlet outside of my day job that consistently floats my boat.

IBM should stand for Incredibly Blessed Me!

If I were to dream up a program that twirls my whirl I couldn’t think of a program better than this. Let me describe how it works:

When I am frustrated with technology, have technical problems in my day job, hear my kids/wife ticked about their game/pc behavior, or hear news stories that catches my attention, I capture that nugget, then brainstorm on what IBM could build that would solve that problem. I then get to unleash all my creativity to design an elegant solution, all without worrying about how doable it is to code in a current release cycle. I write up the design in detail, submit it, and if it gets through several review processes, IBM files it with the government to obtain a patent.

It’s honestly one of the most satisfying activities I do at work.

You should see my “I ♥ IBM” tattoo

After it’s filed, if it’s truly a unique idea, the government issues a patent (usually one to nine years later).

Click Here to see my current list of issued US patents. Some are low level and very technical, but some you might like.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Pictorial-based user interface management of computer hardware components
Filed 9/11/2000
Issued 3/31/2009
We had to create an interactive picture-based UI to manage our IBM computers. Nobody had done it before do the depth we did.

Watson = “kind benefactor” in middle Germanic!

Synchronizing software between computers
Filed 5/19/1999
Issued 7/23/2002
This basically says that our team (read: IBM) has the patent on synchronizing software between any two computing devices.

Changing display of data based on a time-lapse widget
Filed 11/18/2004
Issued 4/21/2009
You ever watch American Idol and wonder, “Who wrote that song?”, “They just showed the guitar player…what kind of guitar is that?”, or “What records has Simon produced?”. Well I did, and this resulting patent provides a way to stream related links, videos, photos in a rolling timeline so while you watch American Idol you can view related content while it’s happening (a perfect iPad app!).

Manna from Heaven? Almost…IBM employment!

Relaying of Messages
Filed 9/11/2003
Issued 2/13/2007
I got this idea after boarding a plane and losing my cell connection. I just wanted to complete what I wanted to say and send it to the person I was talking to without having reconnect and start over. With this invention you can push a button, finish your thought, then put your phone away. As soon as signal reappears, it will auto-send the message to the person’s phone. Or just ‘call’ several people while on the plane, and when the phone gets a signal, the messages are auto-sent.

I’ve got other patents I’m happy with too, like this one that is pretty far from my day job: the Smart Occupant Alarm System. This is a car seat that responds when inside an over-heating car and calls 911 automatically, pinpointing its location. Or the China patent, which is a DVD that, instead of a plastic ring in the inner circle, has FLASH memory…so that my son can bring his PlayStation games to a friends house and his scores and preferences are still on the disk, not in the console at home (thanks for your frustration, son!).

My heart beats IBM in Morse Code!

As you can see, it takes a long time from initial write up to an issued patent. I hope you can also see that it’s a long journey I am loving and hope to continue for years to come. I’ve been blessed to have 34 issued patents, and there are 39 more filed in some government slot waiting for approval that I’d REALLY like to tell you about!

‘Course if I told you about those, I would hear my Watson over-lord respond, “What is ‘rust’, ‘lightning’, and ‘sack of crap’?” to the question, “name three things Watson likes more than Greg”.

6785 days working for IBM. That means 8,215 left. Sweet!

Of course, to think that Watson technology is used to monitor IBM employees is ridiculous.

Watson Rocks!!!

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