Digital designerVictor Poor

As an engineer, Poor was mostly self-taught. He started with ham radio, building his own transceiver as a teen. While working for the Computer Terminal Corp. (later renamed Datapoint Corp.), Poor was in charge of developing a new programmable computer terminal. In 1969 Poor took the project designs to Intel, proposing that they create a single chip to do all the work. CTC funded the work, based on Poor’s logic designs, but the final chip, dubbed the 1201, was finished too late for CTC’s terminal. CTC allowed Intel to keep the intellectual property, so Intel renamed it to the 8008 as a follow-on to the company’s calculator processing chip, the 4004, making it the first 8-bit microprocessor chip. (The next iteration was called the 8088, and was chosen in 1981 by IBM for its new “Personal Computer” — the IBM PC.)

Poor continued with other design work, including heading the design of ARCnet (or Attached Resource Computer Network), the first widely available networking protocol for microcomputers, which was specifically designed to ignore what type of computer was attached to the network. Poor shrugged off his contributions to the networking protocol, which was eventually overtaken by Ethernet: his colleagues did the work, he said, while “I sat in the office throwing darts at it the whole time.” Poor also developed new digital communications modes for his first hobby, amateur radio (APlink, or AMTOR-Packet link), and Winlink, allowing connections between amateur radio and Internet systems, which was one of the few data links that still worked after Hurricane Katrina’s landfall. Poor died in a hospice facility on August 17, from pancreatic cancer. He was 79.

From This is True for 19 August 2012