This Filipino engineer who created the world’s first videophone is underestimated.
Video calling is an activity that can now be easily done by anyone thanks to modern technology.
All you need is a smartphone with a camera and an internet connection to chat live with another person in other parts of the world.
There are already several chat apps that support this feature.
But before video calling became what it is today, the technology got off to a slow start, perhaps because it was way ahead of its time.
The first video call comes from the Philippines
Its origins go way back to the mid-1950s in the Philippines – long before the start of the digital age.
The first recorded videophone or two-way television phone was invented by a Filipino engineer and physicist named Gregorio Zara.
It was taken out of science fiction in 1955 when he first introduced the device and patented it as a “photophone signal separation network”.
Apparently it didn’t sell.
The videophone developed by Zara was not intended as a commercial product anyway.
But that wasn’t until the 1960s AT&T began work on a mockup of a videophone or “videophone” for public consumption.
The company introduced the videophone at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
That didn’t go well for AT&T either, as the device was considered impractical at the time.
It made a comeback when the digital age dawned in the late 1990s.
Videophones emerged as a device that made distance learning and video conferencing easier than ever before, and also helpful for the hearing impaired.
No matter what, Zara started a technological revolution.
And it wasn’t the only thing he pioneered.
In 1930 he discovered the Physical law of electrical kinetic resistancenow popularly known as the Zara effect.
It is referred to as the resistance to the passage of electric current when the contacts are moving.
Permanent electrical resistance is noticeable when the contacts are stationary.
Engr. Zara has also created aviation marvels
The aeronautical engineer also contributed to his industry by inventing the earth induction compass.
This is an instrument used by pilots to this day, and a Alcohol-powered airplane engine.
In addition, he was part of a team that developed a robot called the Marex X-10 that can walk, talk, and respond to commands.
He also developed one solar powered batterya solar water heater and an oven, just a few of the 30 patented devices and equipment under his name.
Zara is a well educated engineer.
He graduated at the top of his class Lipa Elementary School in 1918 and at Batangas High School in 1922.
For his farewell award in high school, he received a scholarship to study abroad; but this was given to another student at the intervention of a public official.
As he was already enrolled University of the Philippines with the full support of his parents.
He got his scholarship back after his rival abroad fell ill and died.
It was an opportunity for Zara to continue his engineering studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He graduated with a degree BS in Mechanical Engineering 1926 there.
He later visited the University of Michigan for the Master of Science in Engineering (aeronautical engineering), where he graduated summa cum laude.
Shortly thereafter, he moved to France to pursue a degree Doctor of Science in Physics from the Sorbonne University in Paris.
In 1930 he graduated summa cum laude with “Tres Honourable”. highest honor for doctoral students.
For that, Zara became the first Filipino to receive the honor of the university.
A Filipino civil servant and engineer
Zara became involved in government after returning to the Philippines.
He was appointed to several offices Department of Public Works and Communications and the Department of National Defense, primarily on the air and aviation side.
Aside from that, he became part of the academy and taught aviation at the Valeriano Aviation School, the American Far Eastern School of Aviation, the Far Eastern Universityand the FEATI University.
Zara also published notable books and research papers, some of them in French.
As a prolific man in science and technology, he received several recognitions from various institutions.
But perhaps the most important was that National Scientist Award awarded by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1978.
However, that same year, Zara died of heart failure at the age of 76.
He is survived by his beautiful wife Engracia Laconico, the former Miss Philippines, and their four children.
Still, he will be remembered as the engineer who created the very first videophone, the ancestor of all video calling devices.
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