Friday, January 3, 2014

What's in a name?

That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet

The Bard was wrong. Even as he wrote these words, Shakespeare was carving a niche for the names Romeo and Juliette. This should be taken into account by any parent bestowing these personae dramatis upon their children.

One reserves a business’ name by testing its priority, but to overlook the implication of a name’s storied history would be to skip the essence of its poetry. The three DeWitt brothers, Dave, Gene and Burt, all went into their father’s machine tool business, and DeWitt Brothers Tool Company employed me for 23 years. Given that origin, would seem a suitable identity for my company. However, the URL was long ago claimed by a squatter who set a high price for the Internet use of my family’s surname. Not surprisingly, many variations on 3D are also taken in the dot com world. However, 3DeWitt was unclaimed. Not everyone pronounces DeWitt as we do with a hard eee, but between the aim of this endeavor in 3D optics and the family’s name, there was a certain resonance in We bought it. I hope you pronounce it as I do.

Name choices have shaped my family. Both my mother and my father came from families that Americanized their ancestral surnames, so our family tradition is not so much in the name as the changing of the name. In marrying Beverly Botto, I proposed by asking her to name us anew, and she suggested Ditto. It was a brilliant choice. First of all, neither of us would abandon our individual selves by way of matrimony. Our new selves were our old selves. We were identical copies, the Dittos. Secondly, the root from the Latin verb decare is the Italian past participle, ditto, meaning “having been spoken.” Be it known to all, Mrs. Ditto and I are spoken for. One wonders, why does the groom bestow the surname anyway? Marriage is not patrimony; it is matrimony. One would think if anyone, the bride would provide. So forget all that and invent something new. The anagram of DeWitt and Botto combined into Ditto was a shuffle that reflected what we had in mind for our DNA. The little Ditto was born in 1996. He is the sum of our strengths and the difference of our weaknesses. We didn't name him Romeo.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hello, World

A couple of years ago I visited a research lab at M.I.T. seeking collaboration on motion capture. That solicitation did not work out, but after I described what I was doing in optics, my interlocutor strongly suggested that I set up a company to pursue my patents. "Oh, no," I protested, "I'm way too old for that." I had pictured myself going out to pasture to provide wisdom in my field of expertise to academics.

In retrospect, I began to realize that on the side of the fence inside the Institute someone like me with patents held free and clear had the kind of entrepreneurial freedom some professors would prefer over the constant committee meetings and publishing quotas that come with a perch within the pecking order of academia.The grass is always greener where you can't graze, I suppose.

At about this time I was given further encouragement by my small group of immediate associates who sensed that something big could come from the seminal inventions I had shepherded through the shoals of the Patent Cooperation Treaty. There was a rising wave to catch in the 3D world. Looking back on the auto-stereoscopic 3D displays I had built in the 1970's and the unique methods of 3D image acquisition I invented in the 1980's, it was pretty obvious I had a surf board. The question was whether this shy and retiring artist/inventor had the testosterone to brave such a wave.

Let me put it this way: I never have known much of fear. Perhaps I'm too foolish to be cautious. What I say about myself is that I'm optomystic. It's a term I coined to describe two facets of my identity - my visual side and an attitude that the today is the yesterday of tomorrow. I look forward to bringing the optical devices I invented to the world. They are based on the interests I have as an artist to express how things look to my mind's eye. Generally, these are visions in 3D which I look forward to sharing with you all soon.