Banatao: With culture of science, Filipinos can compete globally

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Apr 30 2012 02:51 PM | Updated as of May 01 2012 05:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino engineer Diosdado Banatao may not be familiar to many Filipinos but he is right up there with the who's who of the computer technology industry, having helped revolutionize the way we see and use computers today.

An innovator, Banatao is credited for devising a more efficient way to link computers, by simplifying the computer design with fewer chips, that has made computers smaller, more portable and more affordable.

"I just thought I can redesign this with a few chips. Out of 150 or so, just five chips. That was the entire PC," Banatao said on ANC "Headstart."

Today, Banatao notes, technological innovation has further reduced that to a single chip.

His inventions are believed to make up 30% of every computer in the world today.

His contributions to the modern computer industry include: the first single-chip, 16-bit microprocessor-based calculator thru his first company Mostron; the first 10-Mbit Ethernet CMOS Media Access Controller (MAC) and Physical Layer (PHY) Chip, the first system logic chip set for the PC-XT and the PC-AT.

He is also behind the technology that sped up the computer graphics via the first Windows Graphics accelerator chip for the PC. The enhanced graphics adapter chips sets were eventually acquired by semiconductor giant, Intel.

He also pioneered the local bus concept for PC.

Thru his group's efforts, the global-positioning system (GPS) device ordinarily used by the military has become more accessible to consumers.

"They (the military) declassified it two years before we started SIRF so our goal was let to consumerize this and make it so affordable it can go into any electronic device. We were the first company that did that."

He noted that he, together with a group of other Filipinos, had the first patent on the technology.

Banatao has hobnobbed with America's computer technology elite in Silicon Valley.

"I was a member (of the homegrown club)and Steve Jobbs, and other guys we were just playing around with computers. We were fooling around with computers, probably realizing we were able to hack enough complexity into a chip to make it a true computer."

Banatao credits his success to his humble beginnings, the premium his parents placed on quality education and his own passion for numbers and learning.

Born to a rice farmer in a barrio called Malabhac in Iguig, Cagayan Valley on may 23, 1946, he used to walk to school barefoot .

Schooled in Ateneo de Tuguegarao and at the Mapua Institute of Technology, he was a pilot trainee for Philippine Airlines (PAL) when Boeing pirated him as a design engineer and brought him to the United States where he pursued a masters degree at Stanford.

While working with leading tech-companies for 10 years, he set on to do work that transformed the computer industry.

Despite his achievements, he remains grounded, taking satisfaction in seeing people use his innovative ideas.

"If you like to do something, at some point in time, you will be good at it, that's what happened to me in the tech field. While I don't do designs anymore, I still meddle in engineers designs, ask questions..."

"There is nothing more satisfying for an engineer than to see what he has done. No money can equal that satisfaction."

Going by his own experience, Banatao says, aided by a culture of science, Filipinos can compete with the rest of the world.

"Filipinos can compete in Silicon Valley in a big way."

"I was discovered by my parents and I applied myself, I'm sure there are millions of kids more talented that I was who are just waiting to be discovered."

"It is a global economy now and to participate in a global economy we have to have technologies and they can only be created by scientists and engineers. We are natural engineers and we are born to create."

Now a multi-millionaire, Banatao believes in investing in technology and in the Filipino talent.

Together with the Philippine Development Foundation (PhilDev) which he chairs, he is on a mission to send 151 brilliant young Filipino minds to school, towards maximixing their potentials for the future of the country.