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Thanks, and a Wave of My New Hand!

This article is posted on behalf of Morry Marshall, who has retired. 

This is a personal thank you to the semiconductor industry, an industry that I have worked in for almost forty years.  My thank you is for a new hand. 

In 1962 I was in a line-of-duty military accident that resulted in the amputation of my left hand.  Soon after, in Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I was fitted with a cable-operated prosthesis, the best then available.  It used a Dorrance hook opened by a cable connected to a strap looped under my opposite shoulder and closed by two powerful rubber bands. 

That type of prosthesis served my needs for many years.  I have nothing but praise for the U.S. Army and the U.S. Veterans Administration for the medical and prosthetic care I received during that time.  After more than forty years using a hook I began experiencing pain in my shoulder.  The strap under my arm had been pulling on my shoulder all the time, creating a strain, even when it was not being used to open my hook.  To lessen the pain, it was necessary to loosen the strap and use only one rubber band to close my hook.  The hook still worked, but not very well. 

Something needed to be done, Enter electronics, especially semiconductors!  I was fitted for a myoelectric prosthesis, the ETD (Electronic Terminal Device), manufactured by Motion Control, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah. 

When I tense the muscles of my remaining forearm, as if to raise my hand at the wrist; the ETD senses the muscle tension and opens its hook.  When I tense the opposite muscles, as if to lower my hand; the ETD senses the tension in those muscles to close its hook.  No strap!  No cable!  No sore shoulder.   It gets better! 

I now have a new myoelectric hand, the i-LIMB Pulse, manufactured by Touch Bionics, Livingston, UK.  It senses the same muscle contractions; but it opens and closes articulated fingers and a thumb.  It’s not as good as Luke Skywalker’s replacement hand; but it has an opposable thumb and many versatile grips.  It can grasp a key, a credit card, a briefcase handle, a ball, a steering wheel and make many everyday tasks easier.  It’s better than a hook for many uses.  Using it feels much more natural.  So, my thanks to the semiconductor industry! 

Why?  Because neither the ETD nor the i-LIMB Pulse Hand would be possible without semiconductors.  Both are microprocessor controlled.  Both use semiconductor motor controllers.  No other technology could have delivered the combination of processing power and motor control needed.  The i-LIMB Pulse even has a built in Bluetooth connection so that software updates can be accomplished without a physical connection.  Semiconductors have improved my life. I’m not alone.  Many others’ lives have been improved or even saved by semiconductors. 

Those of us in the semiconductor industry often focus on the technology and the business numbers, but let’s pause a moment to consider semiconductors’ impact on people’s lives.  There are many examples.  Manufacturing jobs require less physical labor than they once did.  Airline reservations take minutes. Pacemakers save lives.  MRIs, CAT scans and other medical instruments improve diagnostic procedures.  Family connections are easier to maintain.  Semiconductors have touched every corner of peoples’ lives and have improved those lives immeasurably.  Let’s not forget it. 

Morry Marshall Director, Strategic Technologies

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Joanne Itow's picture

This is not a new blog but it certainly fits on this Veteran's Day.


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