Bob Doyle (inventor)

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Bob Doyle (born June 19, 1936 in Fall River, Massachusetts) is a scientist, inventor, and philosopher.


Doyle studied physics at Brown University (Sc.B, 1958) and astrophysics at Harvard University (Ph.D., 1968). In 2008 he returned to the Harvard Astronomy Department to study the origin of information structures in the universe.


Doyle's Ph.D. thesis was on the continuous spectrum of the hydrogen quasi-molecule. He was the secretary of the NASA Astronomy Missions Board from 1969 to 1972. He edited the Long-Range Program in Space Astronomy for NASA in 1970,[1] which led to the HEAO Program, including the Einstein Observatory. He was the coordinator of the Skylab Joint Observing Program, supporting a network of 250 ground-based observatories around the world synchronizing their cameras with space telescopes in the Skylab Apollo Telescope Mount.

As Visiting Professor of Astronomy at University of Washington in 1970, he taught a course on Space Astronomy and developed Project ASTRA (Astronomical and Space Techniques for Research on the Atmosphere). Project ASTRA was funded by the National Science Foundation, winning a special Director's Competition for innovative inter-disciplinary research.


Doyle describes himself as an "Information Philosopher". He argues that information philosophy can shed light on some classical unsolved problems, specifically free will, values, and knowledge.

Doyle's basic argument is that quantum mechanics, especially the wave function collapse, and the second law of thermodynamics play a key role in the creation of information structures. These structures range from galaxies, stars, and planets, to molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. They are the structures of terrestrial life from viruses and bacteria to sensible and intelligent beings. And they are the constructed ideal world of thought, of intellect, of spirit, including the laws of nature, in which humans play a role as co-creator.

When information is stored in any structure, Doyle argues that two fundamental physical processes occur. First is a collapse of a quantum mechanical wave function—essentially a quantum measurement. Second is a local decrease in the entropy corresponding to the increase in information. Entropy greater than that must be transferred away to satisfy the second law.

Over 100 years ago, Bertrand Russell, with the help of G. E. Moore, Alfred North Whitehead, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, proposed logic and language as the proper foundational basis, not only of philosophy, but also of mathematics and science. Doyle thinks that information is a better abstract basis for philosophy, and for science as well, capable of answering questions about metaphysics, epistemology and idealism itself.

Doyle was a contributor to the Garden of Forking Paths, a blog for philosophers specializing in free will and moral responsibility.


In the 1990s, Doyle was the Digital Video Editor for NewMedia Magazine, doing competitive reviews of leading Non-linear editing systems from Avid Technology, Media 100, and Truevision. From 2004 to 2008, he was a contributing editor at EContent Magazine and wrote on structured writing for the Society of Technical Communications Intercom Magazine.

Doyle joined the editorial board of the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) DITA Focus Area and created DITA Users, an international organization for technical writers working with the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, a standard developed by IBM. He edits and publishes the DITA Newsletter and its website.


Doyle's first patent was a synchronous sound method for synching low-cost Super 8 mm film cameras with a sprocketed magnetic film recorder called the Super8 Sound Recorder. Doyle became a member of the SMPTE sound engineering committee and helped define a digital sync pulse signal for use with compact cassette tape recorders.

He founded Super8 Sound, Inc. in 1973, now a part of Pro8mm, which sold complete production and editing systems around the world. Jean-Luc Godard bought a system. Super8 Sound Systems gradually replaced the MIT/Leacock System, which had been developed by documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock with a grant from Polaroid founder Edwin Land.

With his wife, Holly Thomis Doyle, and brother in law Wendl Thomis, Doyle constructed 25 electronic game prototypes beginning in 1974 and eventually published six of them through Parker Brothers. The first handheld electronic games were introduced in 1977, including Doyle's Code Name Sector,[2] a submarine pursuit game, Mattel Electronic Football, and Milton Bradley Electronic Battleship.

Integrated circuit chip suppliers such as Texas Instruments could not make enough game computers to satisfy market demand in 1977. The following year when Newsweek magazine featured Doyle's game Merlin and Milton Bradley's Simon on a December cover, sales reached hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 1979 Doyle produced Wildfire, a handheld pinball game, and Stop Thief, an electronic detective board game.

In 1980 the Toy Manufacturers of America named Merlin as the best selling game (2.2 million units sold) of the year.

In 1981 Doyle invented the Telecomputer, a handheld computer terminal with a built-in 300-baud modem that powered itself from the telephone line.[3][page needed] With Jeff Rochlis, the former President of Mattel Electronics, Doyle raised $13 million in venture capital to found iXO Corporation.

In 1984 Doyle, his wife Holly, and son Rob, developed MacPublisher, the first Desktop Publishing software, for the newly introduced Apple Macintosh computer.

In 2003, working with Christopher Lydon and Dave Winer, Doyle recorded a Lydon interview that was posted to Lydon's blog at Harvard University. Winer wrote the envelope for media files to be attached to a blog post. Doyle initially called the technology "blog audio," but it subsequently was called "podcasting" and the Lydon interview was sometimes called "the first podcast."[4]

In 2005, Doyle developed a method for tagging web pages with a globally unique Meme ID. A meme ID consists of three parts, MEMESPACE-TAXOSPACE-ID. The method, called Memography (for mapping memes on the web), led to a lightweight version of a Semantic Web called the Memetic Web. Since only those pages tagged with a Meme ID, and all the pages so tagged, are returned in a memetic search", memography produces essentially perfect precision and recall. Doyle developed the taxonomy resources website TaxoTips.

Collaborative communities[edit]

In 1977, Doyle was an early supporter and activist in the Boston Computer Society. He was a member of the BCS New Media Group and founded a Desktop Video Group.[5]

In the 1990s, he supported the Boston Film/Video Foundation and Cambridge Community Television. He won the Joseph Sakey Award from CCTV in 1995 and the BF/VF Catalyst Award in 2001.

In 2000, Doyle founded, developers of community collaborative software, used mostly by non-profit organizations.

In 2003, he helped organize an OSCOM conference at the Harvard Law School Berkman Center for Internet and Society on Open Source Content Management Systems. He then founded CM Pros, an international organization of content management professionals.

At the OSCOM conference and the first Bloggercon at Harvard, Doyle met Christopher Lydon. Lydon had recently been fired by WBUR for wanting the electronic digital rights to his well-known talk show, The Connection. Looking for a way to restart his career, Lydon took Dave Winer's suggestion that he should start a blog. Winer suggested that Lydon work with Doyle to record some of his interviews, which Winer would add to an envelope in his RSS feed.

Doyle assembled a portable recording studio for Lydon,[6] and helped him to produce over fifty interviews. These shows came to be known as "The First Podcasts."


  1. ^ A Long-Range Program in Space Astronomy, US GPO, July 1969
  2. ^ Board game geek .
  3. ^ Byte (magazine), April 1982 .
  4. ^ "The First Podcast", EContent (magazine), September 2005 .
  5. ^ Desktop video group .
  6. ^ Chris Lydon's Portable Recording Studio, Blog audio .

External links[edit]