Lubomyr T. Romankiw celebrated his 87th birthday on April 18. The Ukrainian, who invented recording information on a hard disk’s magnetic head almost half a century (49 years) ago, thus ushering in the era of personal computers, still works at IBM.
The longtime scientific career and work at IBM brought him to the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame, where the portrait of the Ukrainian is next to those of other inventors, including Steve Jobs. However, Romankiw’s colleagues are somewhat dissatisfied with comparing him to the latter. They claim that, hadn’t it been for Romankiw, Jobs would have stood no chances to achieve international fame.
He still does not have a computer of his own at home: he says the machine would be taking all his free time. “Some may regard this as a whim of an IBM whiz who invented magnetic heads, but who doesn’t have a PC. In fact, I’m looking forward to the time when PC can be linked to the brain, so fresh data can be downloaded while you are asleep. Then I’ll take that button and put it in my ear,” Romankiw told The Day half-jokingly.
Then he said he had already patented this idea in the US.
Whenever Romankiw is told that it is impossible to do something, he always replies: “If you can’t do this, someone else must do it for you.”
Photo from The Day’s archives
Romankiw has been living abroad for 70 years and has Canadian citizenship, but he calls Ukraine the most important country for him. The researcher confesses that he reads the Ukrainian press every night, and if the news is bad he cannot fall asleep for a long time.
Lubomyr last visited Ukraine almost five years ago. At the time, in October 2013, he was granted the status of an honorary citizen of Zhovkva, where he was born and lived until 1944, when his parents and he ran away from war to Munich. Quotations from the exclusive interview he gave then to The Day still go viral in the Web. Although the world seems to be changing at breathtaking speed, the material written five years ago is still fresh and topical.
ON STEVE JOBS
“It is Steve Wozniak who bought our first disks. He made the first PC, and only then Steve Jobs developed technology.”
ON THE WORK OF HIS LIFETIME
“When you boot up your PC, seven of my patents are at play. When you first push the key and an image flashes on the screen, it is also my invention – magnetic heads that make a recording on the disk. The heads I designed are thinner than a human hair. When you press letters, it is also my work.”
ON THE POSSIBLE-IMPOSSIBLE
“Back in 1965, I applied for a patent for a computer-brain-link design. The whole thing is simple: you carry a device in your pocket that receives a signal from your brain when you want something put on record, and then it records it. My boss, who was entitled to sign my application, told me that my idea was so crazy he would be an idiot to sign it, and I never made that patent. In 1995, they started experimenting with computers linked to monkey brains.”
ON THE ELECTIONS OF A NEW PRESIDENT
“I believe that raising a candidate, making him dedicated to his people, and training him as a good administrator, will take years. The main thing is to have more than one such candidate. It takes a self-sufficient team. Electing president minus team makes no sense.”
ON ROADS IN UKRAINE
“Kyiv is modernizing and going to be a big-world city. The same is true of Lviv which is becoming, in a way, a small Vienna. These are positive changes. One thing I dislike is the condition of Ukrainian roads. My impression is that the authorities no longer want to invest in road construction projects, so the hot-rodding Ukrainians will have to make do with the potholes.”
“I spend so much time working in the Internet that I wouldn’t have enough time to step away from my workstation if I had a Facebook account.”
“I’m a man who is interested in all kinds of things. Sometimes I can’t resist the tempttaion of reading something new.”