The Microphone You Use All The Time

Day 2 of black history month, let’s say a big hooray for James West. Not the sci-fi, paisley-wearing cowboy James West (hooray for him too), but James West of Bell Laboratories, co-inventor of the Electroacoustic Transducer/Electret Microphone.

I have three small cheap condensor mics in front of me right now – one in my phone, one in my laptop, and one that’s just my microphone. James West made that possible. 90% of the microphones we use these days depend on just one of his patents – including the microphones in hearing aids. He’s a legend.

Thanks for helping us hear each other across time, space, and age, James West.

He’s still alive, by the way. He’s 85. He has 47 U.S. patents, 200 international patents, a purple heart from his service in Korea, the National Medal of Technology, and four kids he loves.