In late 1969, a potential client from Japan called Busicom, asked to have twelve custom chips designed. Separate chips for keyboard scanning, display control, printer control and other functions for a Busicom-manufactured calculator.
Intel did not have the manpower for the job but they did have the brainpower to come up with a solution. Intel engineer, Ted Hoff decided that Intel could build one chip to do the work of twelve. Intel and Busicom agreed and funded the new programmable, general-purpose logic chip.
Federico Faggin headed the design team along with Ted Hoff and Stanley Mazor, who wrote the software for the new chip. Nine months later, a revolution was born. At 1/8th inch wide by 1/6th inch long and consisting of 2,300 MOS (metal oxide semiconductor) transistors, the baby chip had as much power as the ENIAC, which had filled 3,000 cubic feet with 18,000 vacuum tubes.
If you invent something you are discovering a configuration of the world around us. You are rearranging atoms into some useful form
Umm, if you do the rearranging, it's creation (or invention if you were the first to do the rearranging), not discovery. Invention is man-made, artificial, and not found in nature. Discovery is finding something that already exists in this world, you did not create it or shape it. For eg, "you found (discovered) a bird with eight wings in your backyard." You didn't create the bird yourself, God did that. You just found it.
material patents, were restricted only to the specific implementation presented and could be bypassed by relatively trivial alternate implementations that would be less of a problem,
Any patent that can be easily bypassed is a poor patent. Design patents are meant to be easily bypassed, utility patents are not.
But they are instead routinely granted not for the implementation, but for the final observable result, and thus preclude any possibility of alternate implementations, stalling virtually all competitive technological progress
The whole point of a patent is to stop alternate implementations temporarily so the owner of the patent can make handsome monopoly profits, which in turn provides incentive for other inventors to file for patents. No profits means no patents and therefore no innovation. But you're right, that patents should be limited to methods that achieve a result, not the result itself, generally speaking. But what about such patents where the result itself is truly innovative (eg: a new GUI widget) but the method to create the result is trivial. In such cases, the end result should get patent protection.
Software in and of itself is nothing but written mathematics.
False, software uses mathematics and is more than math. Software is a real machine built from 1s and 0s; math is a set of abstract concepts. Software requires hardware to execute it. Math is abstract and can be applied in numerous scenarios, not just hardware.
Math-like languages are used in many fields. Does this mean none of the products they create are patentable? For eg, all modern digital circuits are designed using VHDL/Verilog. VHDL's syntax resembles Ada/Pascal while Verilog's resembles C. Are you implying none of the digital hardware sold today is patentable because it's math?
A machine built using plastic and metals is patentable and a digital circuit using gates (machine) is patentable. However, according to the FSF and OSS supporters, the same machine built using software pieces is somehow not patentable. That's just complete rubbish. Machines can perform actual tasks. Whereas, discoveries like math, are abstract and cannot do anything.
I'll never understand why it was all the rage...
You'll understand why if you play one of the clones (use 'flappy' as search term in your app store) like 'iron pants'.
Hint: it's really hard to get even a score of '1' (pass a pipe without crashing). Raging after a few losses is quite common.
In summary, all types of free software (like BSD) and commercial software should be able to link to GPLed code without affecting their license. They should also be able to redistribute the GPL code provided it is used as-is and not modified (or the modifications published).
Which was -
Bringing highly useful and fun-to-use technologies in well-designed (albeit expensive) packages - Mac OS and the iPhone. What type of phones were Nokia, Motorola, Blackberry and Samsung selling before Apple reinvented the mobile phone? Pre-iPhones were crappy, slow, plastic case phones with tiny screens and very tiny buttons that make even the simplest task look like trying to program a VCR.
Also, Apple was dying before Jobs saved it by introducing OS X. The man had great taste in design.