Tech Family Tree: Quiz answers

The answers to yesterday's pop quiz, all to be found on the Tech Family Tree - The History of the iPhone, are as follows:1.What connects Mel Brooks to Steve Jobs?
Written by Rupert Goodwins, Contributor on

The answers to yesterday's pop quiz, all to be found on the Tech Family Tree - The History of the iPhone, are as follows:

1.What connects Mel Brooks to Steve Jobs?

Apart from a facetious comment about disproportional confidence in themselves and their products (thank you Geoff Campbell), nobody really got this one. A few mentioned Blazing Saddles and thought perhaps Rock Ridge had been a project name: that's along the right lines, but what we were looking for was the film star Hedy Lamarr.

Famously, Mel Brooks had a character called Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles, whose confusion with Hedey of that ilk was a running joke; during the Second World War, Hedy Lamarr herself invented the basic concept of spread spectrum communications. She thought it would be useful for guiding torpedoes against hostile jamming; it was never used for that, but the idea was later adapted for radio and is now at the heart of 3G.

2. If 10 percent was worth $800 then, what's it worth now?

It depends on Apple's market value, but around $36 billion. 'Then' was 1976, when Apple co-founder Ronald Wayne sold his 10 percent of Apple for $800, a few weeks after the company started. Wayne was supposedly 'the grown-up' to control Jobs and Wozniak, and also designed Apple's first logo.

3. What went from the trenches in 1918 to your pocket in 2011?

A mini discussion about this broke out on Google+ - the answer is the superhet. Short for superheterodyne, this is a radio design that combines sensitivity, selectivity and stability, the three basic attributes for reliable reception. It was invented by the American Edwin Armstrong, who also invented broadcast FM, and is still by far the most common basis for radio receivers in everything. (A variant, the direct conversion circuit, takes up most of the rest of the market.)

Everyone should know about Armstrong. He spent a lot of his working life locked in legal battles over intellectual property and was at the sharp end of a number of really dirty tricks. The last set of court cases effectively bankrupted him: he killed himself in tragic circumstances brought about by their pressure, and it was left to his widow to win those cases and prove him right.

4 What could you buy for $5 a gram in 1983 and $4.4 a gram in 2011?

Some amusing answers from people who have clearly led sheltered lives (and have a very odd idea what ZDNet UK might be launching): this doesn't refer to any particular substance or herb, but to the mobile phone. The first mass market cellphone, Motorola's 8000x, cost $3995 in the US and weighed 785g, the iPhone 4 costs $599 in the US without a contract and weighs 137g. It's a curiosity that as weight has gone down and functionality has gone up, the price per gram for top-end phones appears to be a constant.

5 What do you get if you cross Simon and Plato?

No, not a hand-held game that deduces its own existence but the touch-screen phone. Plato was a very long-running computer education system that started in 1960 with custom terminals connected to a mainframe and finally morphed into a PC-based system in the 1980s. The Plato IV iteration of the custom hardware included a touch screen in 1975, and was the first thus. IBM's Simon is widely considered as the first smartphone - yes, IBM was into mobiles - and appeared in the US market only in 1994.

And the winners are (adjusted for number of close answers, wit and insight) - adamjarvis on the ZDNet UK site, and Michael Saunby and Geoff Campbell on Google+. They all get a ZDNet Tech Family Tree - History of the iPhone poster, if they'd like to drop me their postal addresses via rupert.goodwins@zdnet.co.uk.

(Facebook and Twitter had some pleasantly random replies, but hey, get your game up before the next Tech Family Tree appears!)

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