Raymond “Ray” Kurzwell is an American Jewish inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, 2002, for his invention of the Reading System, Patent number 6,199,042. This was the first machine to transform print into computer-spoken words, to enable the blind and visually impaired people to read printed materials. Since Braille, this has been the single most significant advancement for the blind.
He was born on February 12, 1928, in Queens, New York. His parents were Jewish, who managed to escape from Austria before Hitler took over the country, prior to World War II. His father was a musician and a composer and his mother was a visual artist. Kurzwell had an uncle, who was an engineer at bell Labs, who taught him the basics of computers. He was fifteen years old when he wrote his first program. IBM was so impressed with it that they distributed it to researchers.
Kurzweil continued to enlarge and use his technical computer abilities in high school. Here, he created a sophisticated pattern recognition software program that analyzed musical pieces of great classical music composers and then synthesized its own songs in similar styles. This feat got him an appearance on a CBS television program, and he was personally recognized for it by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
He was a student at MIT, in 1968, where he started a company that used a computer program to make many comparisons about every college. When he was twenty years old, he sold it to Harcourt, Brace & World for $100,000, and royalties. He received his B.S. in Computer Science and Literature, in 1970.
Kurzweil has organized and developed nine companies, which were all successful and sold to other corporations. He is the author of five books: The Age of Intelligent Machines, The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life, The Age of Spiritual Machines, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology and Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever.
He has received many awards:
First Place in the International Science Fair for inventing the classical music synthesizing computer, 1965.
Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computing Machinery for his Kurzweil Reading Machine, 1978
Engineer of the Year award, from Design News, 1990
The National Medal of Technology, 1999
Telluride Tech Festival Award of Technology, 2000
Lamelson-MIT Prize, 2001
Kurzweil has received fifteen honorary degrees from different universities.
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