From Lab to iPod: A Story of Discovery and Commercialization in the Post–Cold War Era

  • W. Patrick McCray
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Abstract

In 1988, two European scientists independently discovered that tiny changes in magnetism can produce unexpectedly strong electrical signals.Within a decade, their seemingly esoteric observation—a phenomenon physicists dubbed “giantmagnetoresistance,” or GMR—revolutionized the electronics industry as it facilitated the ability of computer disk drives to store ever- increasing amounts of data.When the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics to Peter Grünberg and Albert Fert, journalists and scientists immediately associated their laboratory research with today’s ubiquitous electronic gadgets. “You would not have an iPod without this effect,” claimed an academy member when the prize was an- nounced, referring toApple’s bestsellingmusic player.1Optimistic experts in

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Authors

  • W. Patrick McCray

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