Dr. Amar Bose passed away several weeks ago, after what can only be described as an incredibly productive life as an innovator, scholar, designer and mastermind behind some fantastic products that made lots of customers very happy.
The child of immigrants from India, 13-year-old Bose helped keep his family fed during WWII by fixing radios in the basement of the family’s Philadelphia home. In 1947 he entered MIT, a practical expert in electronics, but woefully behind the curve in things like calculus and theoretical physics. Through self-discipline and strength of character, he doubled down on his studies and emerged nine years later, his doctoral research complete.
Being a classical music fan, Bose rewarded himself for his accomplishment with a top-notch stereo. Top notch, that is, based on component specs. He brought the gear home, hooked it all up, and turned it on. It sounded like crap. Gravely disappointed, but insatiably curious, he spent the next twelve years figuring out why. Along the way, many of the accepted precepts of acoustic engineering got scrapped. And, in 1964, a company was born of the effort.
We believe the relentless innovation from an iconic American company run by the curious kid from Philadelphia speaks for itself.
Bose the company was, and is, much more like a research laboratory at MIT — the place from whence the brand’s initial ideas sprang — than a US corporation consumed and driven by quarterly earnings. And the driving force behind the company was the man and his “insatiable curiosity”. This, you see, was once his answer to the question “How have you been able to impact so many different fields?”
His curiosity brought us the iconic Bose 901 speakers, then the 301s, and later, the Wave Radio and its various offspring. Then there are the noise-canceling headphones, possibly the single most distinctive gear of professional road warriors wandering airports the world over.
Few people know that Bose the company doesn’t just make speakers and fancy clock radios though. Their systems are also at the heart of electrical power management on commercial aircraft — an outgrowth of early contracts with the federal government, the first projects Bose had in the mid-1960s.
Bose engineers likewise labored in secret for a quarter century on an automotive suspension system that eliminates shock absorbers and makes a Lincoln Town Car handle like a Lotus Super7. The Bose Suspension System replaced an automobile’s shocks with sophisticated microprocessor-controlled linear motors that drove the wheels up and down fast enough that, to passengers in the car, hitting a pothole at speed felt like running over an expansion joint.
A team of Bose engineers spent ten years developing software that can simulate the acoustics of a performing venue. Dr. Bose didn’t think it could be done, but he allowed the work to continue. The result? The Bose Auditioner, which enables engineers to hear precisely what the specified audio system will sound like from any seat in the house, before the house is built. OK — that one’s a little like speakers.
Much has been said about Bose’s reputation being built as much on marketing as on producing quality products.
The same shortsighted logic could be applied to Steve Jobs and Apple as well.
We personally believe the relentless innovation from an iconic American company run by the curious kid from Philadelphia speaks for itself. The company mantra, literally written on a rock in the lobby of their Boston headquarters, is “BETTER PRODUCTS THROUGH RESEARCH”. We’re all over that.
Thanks, Dr. Bose.