Amar Bose, the guru of sound design doesn’t have a computer

Bose makes expensive audio equipment including noise cancelling headphones for high end travellers and pilots.

Amar Bose passed away July 12, 2013. This article has been popular on this site, so I am adding a bit of interesting information here in 2015 before the original article below that I posted.
Dr. David Perlmutter, in his book “Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain for Life” published in April 2015 (which I highly recommend) notes that,

Just over a decade ago I developed a close friendship with Dr. Amar Bose. If that name isn’t familiar, you will no doubt recognize it when I explain that the sound system in your car was probably designed by his company. Dr. Bose built a career on exploring and transcending boundaries, not just in audio equipment but also in many areas of science and technology. I remember the day he proudly escorted me through his research laboratory, revealing projects that were building on incredibly futuristic product development ideas. We went from one laboratory to the next, and it was clear how proud he was of the work of his research scientists. But what was most memorable for me when I visited him that day was the 1911 quote by Belgian Nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck that was stencilled on the glass wall of Bose’s private office. It really summed up the motivational force that led to Bose’s great success: At every crossway on the road that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men assigned to guard the past.

Mr. Bose doesn’t have a computer in his office:

Original concepts don’t come out of computers,” he said. “They come from the insight you have into the problem. Computers are necessary for analysis, to justify your findings.

Spotlight: Amar Bose, the guru of sound design
By Roxana Popescu
Friday, May 11, 2007

FRAMINGHAM, Massachusetts: Sitting in his office atop a hill in the high-tech belt west of Boston, Amar Bose glanced at the large white board behind his desk. Three words – “perception, acoustics, physics” – and two interlocking sound waves drawn in red and black marker were the only things that made sense to an uninitiated visitor. The rest of the board was filled with equations and diagrams.

“That’s been up there for years,” said Bose, 77, a former professor and the founder, chairman and technical director of the audio technology company that bears his name. “I found myself putting it up again, after I erased it.”
Call it a thread of continuity at a time when Bose and the company appear to be headed in a new direction: from engineering big-quality sound systems in small packages to creating the smoothest ride on four wheels.

It is an unexpected turn for a company known for cutting-edge acoustics, packaged for the consumer in such trendsetting products as the Bose Wave speakers, the Bose SoundDock portable speakers for the Apple iPod, and the Bose noise-canceling headphones. The success of such products helped propel Bose Corp., the privately held company Bose founded 43 years ago, to $2 billion in revenue last year.

The next big project, which has been 27 years in the making, is an energy-efficient automobile suspension system that uses electromagnetic motors to raise and lower the wheels to cope with ruts, rocks and potholes. The resulting ride feels like the car is gliding on glass.
Bose is aiming to find an automotive partner that will offer the system in a luxury-brand car within five years. Like all of his products, it will be expensive.
The suspension has its fans, though for the moment they are waiting to see the price. “It’s technically very, very interesting, and an intriguing approach,” said Jack Nerad, executive market analyst with Kelley Blue Book, which tracks prices for new and used automobiles.
When it comes to engineering, Bose said, this has always been his motto: “Do whatever it takes to make it better than it was before. If you do that, everything else” – money, for example – “will come along.”

Bose links his interest in auto suspensions and sound design by one tenuous but essential factor: “Just curiosity.” Born near Philadelphia to an Indian immigrant family, Bose was always exploring as a boy. “I stuck a screwdriver into a power outlet and rolled around on the floor,” he said with a laugh. A former violin player, he has musician’s fingers, illustrating many of his stories with nimble gestures.

Soon his projects grew ambitious. He made a television from oil burner parts even before there was anything interesting on the air. People came over to watch experimental broadcasts. “It was a curiosity in the neighborhood,” he said. By the time he was 13, his teachers accepted his occasional absences, knowing he was working to help support his family by fixing radios.
While studying for his doctoral degree in electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1950s, Bose bought a stereo that was “a disaster,” he said, and a seed was planted. Eventually he became a professor at MIT, specializing in acoustics. A mentor urged him to start a company to bring to market products based on his research, and gave him this advice: “A name should never be descriptive, because you never know what you’re going to be doing five years down the line.”
Bose’s research has known misfires and wrong turns over the years, but those only led him to conclude that “invention is arrived at by intelligent stumbling.”
A few mornings ago, a binder on Bose’s desk sat open to a page with this reminder: “If you think something is impossible, don’t disturb the person who is doing it!” Besides a pitcher of water and a telephone, the glass-top desk was clear. Conspicuously, there was no computer.

“Original concepts don’t come out of computers,” he said. “They come from the insight you have into the problem. Computers are necessary for analysis, to justify your findings.”
The idea for the perfect automobile suspension was hatched in 1957, when Bose bought a Pontiac with air shocks so brittle they made a donkey cart seem like a cushy ride. He used mathematical models to analyze what kind of performance was theoretically possible and then designed the mechanical components. Instead of shocks and springs, they use four electromagnetic motors and sensors that guide the motors to shift the position of the wheels relative to the body, keeping the chassis even and providing dramatically greater control and stability. And because the motors return energy instead of releasing it as heat, they are very energy-efficient.

“Other active systems would probably take more energy,” Nerad of Kelley Blue Book said. “That’s the selling point here.”
Nerad said the cost could be an obstacle and the product would have to demonstrate “a much greater level of comfort and/or performance” than high-end cars currently provide.
“I don’t think a lot of people driving luxury or sports cars are saying, ‘Wow, the suspension is horrible,’ ” Nerad said. “I think the Bose name does have a great deal of cachet, in engineering, in addition to sound. But I think the proof is in the pudding.”

John Waraniak, vice president of vehicle technology with the Specialty Equipment Market Association, an industry group, said that as more automobile models incorporated more sophisticated electronics, the suspensions would follow – and would vastly outperform anything mechanical.

“A car is basically a computer on wheels,” Waraniak said. “Seventy percent of innovation is in electronics. What Bose knows is electronics.”
Intellectual property is not an abstract legal concept for Bose; he has fiercely protected the integrity of his products by patenting selectively, guarding trade secrets from the public and even his own employees. When he announced the auto suspensions, only 100 people in a staff of 8,000 knew about them.
He is equally close-mouthed about his next venture, which will be unveiled in about two years. It is “something very new,” he said, adding that he is not sure which invention he will ultimately be remembered for.

Bose, who is divorced, has a son and a daughter who both studied at MIT. Forbes magazine this year estimated his net worth at $1.2 billion. He loves badminton and heads to Hawaii a few times a year to play and socialize, but otherwise he does not seem to care for money or its trappings. A third party names his salary. He wears a name tag at the office, in case someone does not know who he is. He plans to leave his fortune to an independent research institute he will found.
Despite his success, Bose is skeptical of the business world, and asked if he would ever sell, he cackled: “No. If I did that, I could be forced to go public.”

Spotlight: Amar Bose, the guru of sound design – International Herald Tribune


2 responses to “Amar Bose, the guru of sound design doesn’t have a computer”

  1. MIT Alumnus

    Amar Bose, a well-known right-wing wackjob, has been using clever tax-dodge techniques to screw the American public, and now he claims to have donated all his Bose Corp stock to MIT. One tax dodge has been thru diversion of money overseas via bogus “transfer pricing”. Bose has long claimed the company reinvests all dividends-so what exactly did he give MIT? A stock with no voting rights and no dividends? Why? A tax dodge for sure, that needs some serious investigation. Someone should start with his former secretary, long time mistress, and finally spouse, Swiss citizen Ursula Bolthauser. No one knows tax dodging more than the Swiss!

  2. Dane Plinz

    Your fact checker has made an error.

    While he was divorced, he then married his assistant and secretary of 30+ years, Ursula Boltshauser, for whom he obtained US residency in the early 1970’s. His marriage to the Indian woman that bore his children was a charade. Bose Corporation claims it is a moral company, and yet immorality is at its core.

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