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The Unsung Hero of Modern-Day Communication: James Edward West

James Edward West was an American inventor and acoustician. He was born on April 6, 1931, in Farmville, Virginia, and grew up to be one of the most influential inventors of the 20th century. 

West's passion for science and technology began at an early age, and he went on to study electrical engineering at Temple University in Philadelphia. After graduation, he joined Bell Laboratories, where he was first introduced to the field of acoustics. 

West's work at Bell Labs focused on improving the quality of microphones used in telephones. He quickly became a leading expert in the field and was soon working on improving the sound quality of other electronic devices as well. 

In 1962, West teamed up with Gerhard Sessler, a fellow engineer at Bell Labs, to develop a new type of microphone that would revolutionize the way sound was recorded and transmitted. The result of their collaboration was the electret microphone, a device that could capture sound with unprecedented clarity and accuracy. 

The electret microphone was an instant success and soon became the industry standard for telephones, tape recorders, and other audio devices. It was also widely used in the music industry, where it quickly became the preferred choice for live performances and recording studios. 

Being low cost to manufacture and able to operate on just a simple battery, it is estimated that over 90% of all devices containing microphones in use today have electret microphones. This Includes smartphones, laptops, and tv remotes.  In 1973, West and Sessler were awarded the prestigious National Medal of Technology for their groundbreaking invention. 

West's impact on the world of technology didn't stop with the electret microphone. Throughout his career, he continued to innovate and create new technologies that improved the way we interact with sound. In 1990, he invented the foam microphone, which provided better sound isolation and improved clarity in noisy environments. 

West's contributions to the field of acoustics and his numerous inventions have had a profound impact on the world. Today, the electret microphone is used in millions of devices around the world and is an essential component of modern communication technology. 

James Edward West's life and work serves as a testament to the power of innovation and the role that technology can play in shaping our world. His dedication to science and his commitment to improving the quality of life for people around the world have made him a true pioneer in his field, and his legacy continues to inspire new generations of inventors and engineers.