The Inner Hoax
was the non-secret production of a spoof Signetics data sheet for a fictitious product. A Write-Only-Memory called a WOM. I wrote the data sheet.
The Outer Hoax
When I stumbled onto Wikipedia’s description of the origin of the Signetics 25120 Read-Only-Memory, I was surprised to learn that the data sheet responsible for all the attention was created by an unnamed “frustrated engineer“. Later, he morphed into a “disgruntled” engineer. He was “frustrated by the long and useless sequence of approvals for data sheets (during which no actual checking occurred).”
The article goes on to say this engineer submitted the WOM data sheet for approval with a batch of other data sheets. The managers assigned to check them “saw nothing wrong with the data sheet“. The new data sheet was approved and “wound up in Signetics’ new product catalog“.
The article goes on to say, “customers began asking for price and delivery” and that was noticed by the managers who reprinted the data book and offered to replace the “erroneous” books. (Actually the books contained the WOM in the catalog for a period I don’t know and each was guarded like a misprinted postal stamp.)
In researching this fairy tale*, I found every one of more than 33 pages of Google results was rooted in this NSC publication, “The Best of Bob Pease” cited by Wikipedia who still consider their entry as “unrated” for quality and importance.
Except one. This result appeared when the search terms (signetics joke memory) included the word “curtis“. This result consisted of a very interesting ten-year old thread between Jeff Liebermann, a Jerry (xray) and a Malcolm Hoar. I can’t be sure who the “Jerry” is but he says his office was next to mine in the Signetics R&D basement and that “Jack Curtis” developed the (WOM) concept. And, he added, the DED concept (dark emitting diode). But I think that was a National Semiconductor (NSC) creation. Possibly this “Jerry” was the late Jerry Lawson who was in our same little group but it doesn’t sound like him. Interestingly, Jeff Liebermann was the winner of the WOM Application contest as he notes in the thread.
I hope to see a correction to the faulty Wikipedia entry or at the least withdraw it. This blog holds the true story. (Wikipedia today 12/16/2014 replaced entry with true story.)
*With all due respect to now departed guru Bob Pease, what prompted you to spin this yarn? It doesn’t even sound rational. And how did Wikipedia take this one casual source without supporting evidence to produce this tautology where the references cite the same source as the item itself? All five Wikipedia related references mirror the same source (Pease). Reference five ( Jargon) defines in a link the derisive term “management”, where superiors are too distant from actual work. That derision (of rival Signetics managers) is apparent in the Pease article.
John G. (Jack) Curtis