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A Moment of Silence for a Man of Sound

Innovation, Innovative Inventions, Inventor Stories, Patents


Amar Bose, the founder and chairman of the privately-held company, Bose Corporation, passed away on July 12, 2013. Dr. Bose focused relentlessly on acoustic engineering innovation, creating speakers that earned a reputation for creating concert-hall-quality audio in the home, car and auditoriums.

Amar Gopal Bose was born on November 2, 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, Noni Gopal Bose, was a Bengali freedom fighter who was studying physics at Calcutta University when he was arrested and imprisoned for his opposition to British rule in India. He escaped and fled to the United States in 1920, where he married an American schoolteacher.

Bose first displayed his entrepreneurial skills and his interest in electronic innovation at the age of 13, when he enlisted friends as co-workers and began repairing radio sets and model trains for Philadelphia repair shops to earn pocket money. During World War II, his father’s import business struggled. Bose’s electronics repairs helped support the family, and after graduating high school, Bose enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in the early 1950s, Bose spent a year in Eindhoven, Netherlands, in the research labs at NV Philips Electronics; and a year as a Fulbright research student in New Delhi, India, where he met his future wife, whom he later divorced. He then completed his PhD in Electrical Engineering from M.I.T., writing a thesis on non-linear systems, under the supervision of Norbert Wiener and Yuk-Wing Lee.

Following graduation, Bose became an Assistant Professor at M.I.T.  While teaching, he bought a luxurious stereo speaker system, but was disappointed to find that the speakers, with extraordinary technical specifications, were unsuccessful in reproducing the realism of a live performance. This eventually motivated his extensive speaker technology research, focusing on key weaknesses, like the inability to reproduce the realism of a live performance, in the high-end speaker systems available at the time. He found that 80% of the sound received in a concert hall was indirect, which meant  that it bounced off walls and ceilings before reaching the audience. This realization, and the basic theories of physics, formed the foundation of his research.

In the early 1960s, his research led him to invent a stereo loudspeaker that would dominantly reflect the sound at the surrounding walls, rather than directly at the listener, in an attempt to recreate the concert hall experience.  This new type of stereo speaker was based on psychoacoustics, the study of sound perception. Bose’s early patents won him great respect within the industry; but he needed capital in order to do further research and begin production. Then, in 1964, his mentor and advisor at M.I.T., Dr. Y. W. Lee, helped Bose financially found his company to pursue long-term research in acoustics. The Bose Corporation initially pursued military contracts, but Bose’s dream was to produce a new generation of stereo speakers.

Though his first speakers fell short of expectations, Bose’s pursuit never wavered. In 1968, he introduced the Bose 901 Direct/Reflecting speaker system (1971), which became a best seller for more than 25 years.  This invention rooted Bose as a frontrunner in a highly competitive audio components market. Unlike conventional loudspeakers, which radiated sound only forward, the 901’s used the theory of psychoacoustics by blending reflected sound with direct sound.  This focus on psychoacoustics later became a trademark of his company’s audio products.

Bose was granted significant patents in many fields that continue to be important to the Bose Corporation: loud speaker design and non-linear, two-state modulated, Class-D, power processing. The Bose Corporation now produces products for users, homes, vehicles, and professional audio, as well as continues its ongoing research in acoustics and other fields. In a 2004 interview in Popular Science magazine, Bose said, “I would have been fired a hundred times at a company run by MBAs. But, I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.”

In addition to running his company, Bose remained a professor at M.I.T. until 2001. In 2011, he donated a majority of the company’s non-voting shares to M.I.T., on the condition that the shares are never to be sold.

Through all of his research and inventions, Dr. Bose’s greatest innovation might have been combining technology with status. In doing so, his company became more than just a speaker maker, it became a brand name. Bose definitely left a thriving legacy, creating a successful name and earning over two dozen patents. Now, his name is synonymous with high-quality audio systems and speakers for homes, users, auditoriums and automobiles.

 

Copyright Davison 2013

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amar_Bose
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/13/business/amar-g-bose-acoustic-engineer-and-inventor-dies-at-83.html?_r=0
http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/bose.html

Images:

http://www.csmonitor.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/content/2013/12-07-2013-amar-bose.jpeg/16357113-1-eng-US/12-07-2013-amar-bose.jpeg_full_380.jpg
http://estima.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/screen-shot-2013-07-13-at-11-33-43-pm.png
http://cdn-static.cnet.co.uk/i/c/blg/cat/gadgets/amar-bose.jpg
http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-BQoLfT22JNk/Tg2hZ_kC4NI/AAAAAAAAASo/rs36cileqS4/s1600/bose_logo.jpg

https://bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/467/467.F2d.304.71-2207.920.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game That Ties You Up in Knots

Inventions, Inventor Stories

Thanks to the creativity and innovative spirit of Charles Foley, the co-inventor of Twister, who passed away earlier this month, millions of people have had the curse and delight of attempting to contort themselves into awkward and uncomfortable positions while playing the sometimes controversial board game. With the slogan “The Game That Ties You Up in Knots,” Twister was the first game to use humans as board pieces.

Reyn Guyer, Reynolds Guyer House of Design’s chief executive officer, said that he designed a game called King’s Footsie — a Twister-esque game that was originally intended as a promotion for children’s shoe polish. He pitched the idea to 3M, but the company declined.

Charles Foley and Neil Rabens were then hired to refine the concept. Rabens said that he initially devised a game called Pretzel, in which people made “goofy moves” on a grid, but did not intertwine. Foley, whom Rabens described as the “idea man,” altered the concept to create the Twister we all know today.

Twister co-inventors Charles Foley (left) and Neil Rabens (right)

It encompassed Foley’s four requisites for a participatory game, needing a bit of skill and a bit of chance, allowing you to stick it to an opponent and being entertaining to watch. The game was licensed to Milton Bradley, who took Twister to Sears, the largest toy seller at the time.  Twister immediately drew criticism from some who called it “sex in a box.” Deeming the game too risky and too risqué, Milton Bradley decided to pull the game right before Christmas.

However, the company had already engaged a public relations firm that had landed Twister on “The Tonight Show.”  The game quickly became a sensation after Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor played. Gabor appeared moral in her blonde up-do and modest in a white dress, giving the game more innocence.

Twister became a top seller and brought Foley a level of fame. The patent was issued to him and Rabens for the apparatus for playing a game wherein the players constitute the game pieces.

“What makes the Twister game timeless is the fact that it’s always been about showing off your free spirit and just having some laugh-out-loud, out-of-your-seat fun,” said a spokesman from game-maker Hasbro, Inc. “The game’s popularity continues today as young fans still have fun getting tied up in knots.”

Although Twister was the most popular of his 97 patented inventions, co-inventor of the game Charles “Chuck” Foley had been inventing all of his life and had many innovative inventions. On July 1, 2013, at the age of 82, Foley passed away from Alzheimer’s disease complications.

Foley had started inventing at an early age and when he was 9, he invented a locking system for his grandfather’s farm, to keep the cattle from escaping the pen. As a young man, he worked as a salesman, served in the Michigan Air National Guard and worked on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company, before taking a job at Lakeside Toys in Minneapolis. Over the years, Foley invented dozens of other toys and games, such as designs for plastic toy handcuffs and safety-tipped darts. He also invented a product called un-du, a liquid adhesive remover. Un-Du was named “Best New Product of the Year” in the 1993 School Home Office Products show in Chicago.

“He was extremely passionate about what he did,” said his son, Mark. “He had great vision. His motto was ‘I want to invent something that should be in every home and every commercial environment imaginable.’ ”

Thanks to creative and innovative people like Foley, we are able to enjoy embarrassing ourselves in the fun that Twister provokes—if only we could all live like Mark said his father did:

“He never stopped having fun. He tried to think like young people thought. He never wanted to grow up, and he always maintained his enthusiasm for seeing things through the eyes of a child.”

 

Copyright Davison 2013


Sources:

http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=Bng68x9h

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/214841111.html

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-07-11/entertainment/40512481_1_reyn-guyer-mark-foley-charles-f

Images:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/cooltools_legacy/archives/undu_web.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twister_(game)

http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-07-11/entertainment/40512481_1_reyn-guyer-mark-foley-charles-f

 

Cup of Noodles Inventor

Inventor Stories

Chances are that if you raid the pantry (or mini fridge / desk drawer) of any college student, office worker or, shall we say, “cooking-impaired” individual, you will find one common item in stock…we are talking about RAMEN! Although most people only think of ramen noodles as a quick and easy lunch, this microwave meal is actually the creation of a celebrated inventor, and the significance of these noodles goes far beyond their convenience.

Taiwanese born inventor and entrepreneur, Momofuku Ando was living in post-WWII Japan—a time when the country was facing hard times and suffering from a massive food shortage.  Ando could   not understand why the Japanese government was encouraging citizens to eat bread instead of the traditional noodles that had always been the dietary staple of the country.   The government    explained that the noodle producers were simply too small to supply a nationwide shortage.  Ando realized that a quality, easily prepared noodle product could feed the masses and, being an    inventor, saw the shortage as an opportunity. He immediately began working to innovate the production process. Ando invented a method of drying and flash-frying noodles, allowing them to be  ready to eat in just minutes when covered with boiling water. In turn, he created the world’s first instant noodles.  He decided the flavor the noodles with chicken broth, and introduced Chikin Ramen  in 1958. However, Ando was far from done. In 1971, he invented his most successful product, Cup Noodles.  The revolutionary method or preparation exploded overseas, and as production  increased, prices dropped. Ando was able to open numerous production facilities and, eventually, he introduced the variety of flavors we know today, such as beef, shrimp and spicy.

Ando was honored by the Japanese government with numerous medals. In 1999, the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum opened in Ikeda, Osaka.  In January of 2007, Momofuku Ando Day was established in the United States, celebrating the inventor of what has become a staple food for disaster victims and those on a tight budget, as well as for college students and those in need of a quick and easy meal. Momofuku Ando Day is also a day to fundraise in order to help those in need and to call attention to poverty and hunger through ramen or food donations to food banks and soup kitchens.  Check out the video of the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum:

 

Today, people consume over 86 billion servings of ramen noodles each year, and it is no surprise that some individuals have gotten pretty creative with their ramen recipes! There are recipes for ramen French toast, ramen cole slaw, even ramen burritos! In fact, there is even a ramen cookbook, Ramen to the Rescue, with over 120 recipes!

 

 

Copyright Davison.com 2013

 

Info Sources:
http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/ando.html
http://www.theramenrater.com/2012/01/16/the-ramen-rater-momofuku-ando-day-january-19th-2012/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momofuku_Ando
http://www.nissinfoods.com/about.php

 

Image Sources:
collegebound.net

bp.blogspot.com

outblush.com

 

Inventor Monday: Elmer Sperry

Inventions, Inventor Monday, Inventor Stories

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of a very important inventor in American history, but a man that most people probably never heard of—Elmer Ambrose Sperry.  Sperry was a prolific inventor, creating advanced compasses and gyroscopes for the United States Navy to stabilize ships, airplanes and aerial torpedoes. He also invented the gyrocompass and advanced targeting controls for accurately controlling naval bombardments. He spent 50 years of his life creating and innovating, and at the time of his death on June 16, 1930, had filed for almost 400 patents. To put that into perspective, the incredibly prolific inventor Thomas Edison filed for about 200 in his lifetime. So let’s learn a little more about Elmer Sperry, the man who is remembered by many as the ‘father of modern navigation technology.’

Sperry was born in upstate New York in 1860.  He seemed to have a natural gift for inventing. The story goes that he invented a horseradish grater to help his grandmother in the kitchen when he was only six years old. He was educated at the State Normal and Training School followed by two years at Cornell University where he became interested in dynamos. He left college early and moved to Chicago to start his own company; the Sperry Electric Company which made dynamos and arc lamps. This would be the first of eight companies Sperry would start over his lifetime.

In 1890, a man named G.M. Hopkins invented the first electric gyroscope, which is basically a disk mounted on a base in such a way that it remains in a fixed position despite the movements of its base.  Sperry saw that this device might be used to replace magnetic compasses, which didn’t work well for navigation on steel ships because of the magnetic interference of the metal. After years of experimentation, Sperry created a functional gyrocompass system, a navigation device impervious to magnetic fluctuations caused by the ship itself.

By 1908, Sperry had patented his gyrocompass and founded the Sperry Gyroscope Company in Brooklyn, New York. By 1911, the US Navy installed the gyrocompass in one of its ships and by the start of World War I, the Navy was using the device in all of its ships. In another invention for the war effort, Sperry created a device he called ‘Metal Mike,’ the first gyroscope-guided autopilot steering system designed to keep a ship on a set course without human monitoring. In 1915, he also introduced high-intensity arc lamps used as a searchlight, by both the Army and Navy.

Through World War I and into World War II, Sperry’s company expanded as military demand for its technological devices climbed. Sperry also applied the gyroscope to airplanes for the Air Force. He invented more devices for aircraft, creating one to give fliers ‘artificial horizons’ which enabled them to fly in heavy cloud cover. His company also created innovative radar systems, and introduced automated take-off and landing systems.

In addition to all of the marvelous inventions Elmer Sperry created for naval and aerial navigation, he invented and patented a wide range of devices for civilian use too, such as new types of street lighting, electric trolley cars, an electric automobile, new mining machinery, railroad safety devices, and even a lighting system for motion picture projection. But it’s for his contributions to modern navigation that he will always be remembered, especially by those involved in naval navigation. In fact, the Navy held him in such high regard that after his death, they named a Fulton-class submarine tender, the USS Sperry, after him. Pretty high praise indeed.

 

Copyright Davison 2013

Photos

http://www.sperryflight.com/i/elmer2.gif
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/66/Algonquin_gyro_compass2.jpg/220px-Algonquin_gyro_compass2.jpg
http://www.navypictures.net/images/products/secondary/844.jpg

Sources

http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/searchlight.aspx
http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/1012.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_Ambrose_Sperry
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/theymadeamerica/whomade/sperry_hi.html
http://www.nndb.com/people/933/000167432/

 

How’s That Created Thursday: Twister Caps

How's That Made Thursday, Inventor Stories, Product News

Undoubtedly, you’ve gone to the bathroom countless times.  We’d even venture to guess that, while there, you never gave a thought to how the toilet holds fast to the floor… but, we’re betting you’re glad that it does.

Now, many historians give all the credit to the man who invented the toilet.  Rumors have swirled that it was Thomas Crapper (not a pun); but, the first toilet actually dates back to around 1596 with Sir John Harrington.

Other than total necessity and obvious convenience, what made that flushing toilet “stick” – in place that is?

Just look down the next time you’re in the bathroom.  Do you see dingy, exposed bolts at the base of the toilet bowl?  Perhaps a disheveled cap that may be half on the bolt, but barely covers it?  Or, do you see a neat, barely noticeable cap that securely covers that ever-important bolt?

Enter Gary and Ruth Frazer, the masterminds behind Twister Caps, the “why didn’t anyone think of that before” answer to exposed or clumsily-covered toilet bolts.

Like most people, the Frazer’s didn’t think much of their existing toilet caps, until they saw their son’s dog running around with one in his mouth.  It was then that they came up with the idea for Twister Caps, a threaded, screw-on toilet bolt cap that fits all toilets – thanks to careful engineering.

The Davison team helped the Frazer’s invent the cosmetically-appealing cap that’s made of high-impact plastic, threaded on the inside and is very affordable.

Twister Caps easily screw onto 1/4″ or 5/16 ” toilet bolts.  Injection molding is the manufacturing process that creates the mass-produced Twister caps affordably.


While the thought process behind Twister Caps and their installation may be quite simple, a lot of work went into creating those convenient toilet caps so they would fit every toilet.

And, thanks to Twister Caps’ unique threading, they won’t easily lift off.  Their success, however… has skyrocketed!

Millions of Twister Caps have sold nationwide at stores like Ace’s, Lowe’s and Home Depot.

So, thank you, Gary and Ruth Frazer, for noticing something so small that many of us just flushed it out of our minds.  Way to make a splash!

A typical project does not get a royalty agreement, sell in stores or generate a profit.

How’s That Made Thursday: Pugz Shoes

How's That Made Thursday, Hugs Pet Products, Inventor Stories

April showers bring… wet, muddy streets and paths that make taking our precious pets out for a walk a little challenging and messy. But, Fido needs to go outside – no matter what the weather is doing.

Today, we’re stepping into a new pet invention that has made walking in rain, snow, sleet or any other condition a little more comfortable for our four-legged friends.  Let’s venture through how Pugz Shoes were made.

It all started with Kay Thompson, who loved taking her two Shelties, Rough Spot and Autumn Angel, out for their daily walks.  But, Michigan winters were hard on her pups’ paws.  Not only were conditions wet and cold, but the chemicals that were used to treat roads and sidewalks were also damaging.

Kay set out to solve the problem of soggy, soaked paws.

Providing warmth and protection, Pugz are made of a breathable faux leather and faux wool that keep paws clean and dry.  Their soft, cushioned soles also comfort paws and protect hardwood floors from scratch marks.

Finally, Pugz are designed with an adjustable hook-and-loop strap that ensures a secure fit on any pet.

Pugz are now available in sizes extra small through large and they come in fashionable boot or tennis shoe designs.  They’ve sold in retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, SkyMall and many others.

Now that you know how Pugz Shoes are made, see how their worn.

A typical project does not get a royalty agreement, sell in stores or generate a profit.

Inventor Monday: Eadward Muybridge

Innovation, Inventions, Inventor Monday, Inventor Stories

If you asked a person on the street who the “father of the motion picture” was, they would probably say Thomas Edison, and they would be somewhat right. Edison did invent a way of recording successive images in a single camera and paved the way for the modern film industry as we know it today. But if you asked a person familiar with film history who the “father of the motion picture” was, they would say Eadweard Muybridge, and they would be very right.

Eadweard Muybridge was a brilliant and eccentric English photographer who used photography to study motion, and gained worldwide fame photographing animal and human movements imperceptible to the human eye. Born in Kingston, England in 1830, he immigrated to the United States during the “49er” gold rush in California, where he worked as a publisher’s agent for the London Printing and Publishing Company. He traveled back to England at one point and there learned photography, and by the time he returned to San Francisco in 1867, he was a professional photographer. With his highly proficient technical skills and an artist’s eye; he soon gained notoriety with his large photographs of Yosemite Valley, California; pre-dating Ansel Adams’ famous photographs of the park by over 50 years.

But what really makes Muybridge remarkable is his pioneering work on capturing motion with still-photograph cameras. This started when, in 1872, the former governor of California Leland Stanford hired Muybridge for some photographic studies. There was a lot of debate among the elite horse owners of the time whether or not all four feet of a horse were ever off the ground at the same time while running. Since the human eye was not fast enough to perceive the action of the horse’s legs, Stanford hired Muybridge to photograph a horse running to see if he could capture its movement.

Muybridge began experimenting with an array of cameras photographing a galloping horse in a sequence of shots. His initial efforts did show that the horse’s legs were all off the ground for a micro second, but he knew he could do better and spent the next few years perfecting his stop-motion photography. In 1878 he created a “movie” called The Horse in Motion, which feature Stanford’s thoroughbred Sallie Gardner running at a track in Palo Alto, CA. To achieve this, he placed numerous large glass-plate cameras in a line along the edge of the track; the shutter of each was triggered by a thin string as the horse galloped passed. He copied the images in the form of silhouettes onto a disc to be viewed in a machine he invented, called a zoopraxiscope, which projected a series of images in successive phases of movement. Voila, the “motion picture” was born.

By 1880, Muybridge moved East and began work at the University of Pennsylvania, producing thousands of photographs of humans and animals in motion. He photographed animals from the Philadelphia Zoo to study their movement, and also used sets of cameras to photograph people in a studio against a measured grid background in a variety of action sequences, including walking up or down stairs, dancing, carrying buckets of water, or doing gymnastics.

In many of his “films,” his models were either nude or very lightly clothed. This was done for scientific and artistic reasons; as he put it, to improve how we understand the mechanics of human motion. He is credited with filming the first kiss ever recorded in motion. Surprisingly, he is said to have chosen to photograph the kiss with two women because, in the context of Victorian culture, this was more likely to be seen as innocent. For this reason, many of Muybridge’s photos showing interactions between what might be expected to be men and women use women for both roles.

Muybridge died in 1904, spending the remaining years of his life publishing books featuring his motion photographs and touring both Europe and North America, presenting his photographic “movies.” At one point, he had a visit with Thomas Edison, and though we can’t say for sure, Muybridge possibly inspired Edison with his phenomenal motion pictures to go on and invent the movie camera. So maybe we should call them the “Father and Step-Father of the motion picture.”

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_film

http://www.muybridge.org/

http://americanhistory.si.edu/muybridge/

http://www.biography.com/people/eadweard-muybridge-9419513

 

Photo source:

http://www.tfaoi.com/cm/5cm/5cm118.jpg

http://0.tqn.com/d/inventors/1/0/B/0/1/muybridge.jpg

http://s3.amazonaws.com/auteurs_production/post_images/1447/090810muybridge718.jpg?1283965849

Travel Wednesday: Visit Rochester, New York – Home of the Family Photo, and So Much More!

Inventions, Inventor Stories, Travel Wednesday

Before people were irritated by digital albums crammed full of ill-prepared dinners and pre-club selfies on Facebook, people were irritated by celluloid-photo ambushes of Grand Canyon vacations and second cousins at dinner parties.

 

Stick it to FB friends and neighbors who over-share by soaking in some real photography, shot on real film, developed by real people. Fans of the golden age of photography can slip away into a celluloid celebration at the George Eastman House in upstate New York.

 

The George Eastman House, which celebrates George Eastman who was almost solely responsible for bringing photography to the mainstream, is the only historic home and garden in the world where one can see first-hand how an American inventor and entrepreneur lived, as well as learn about the history, growth, and development of the industry he created and its impact on the world today.

 

Current exhibitions include Silver and Water by Los Angeles artist Lauren Bon, which consists of 19 amazing vista prints produced around America with her Metabolic Studio Optics Division. The photos are a product of the Liminal Camera, a gigantic pinhole device made out of a shipping container that contains both the camera operators and a processing facility.

 

As you tour Rochester, keep two things in mind: one, the mayor looks exactly like George Eastman; and two, there’s a fantastic amount of things to do and explore in this northern New York hamlet.

 

No city should be explored on an empty liver, which makes visiting the home of Genesee Brewery even more fortuitous. Genesee has been brewing since 1878 (and making manly commercials since 1985) and features a century-old, 9,200 square-foot packaging center that has been transformed into a beer destination, featuring interactive exhibits, multimedia content, gift shop, pilot brewery and pub-style restaurant. To get a craftier beer experience, visit during the city’s annual beer expo in June.

 

When satiated, take in a Rochester Red Wings game, the triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Enjoy America’s past time as you marvel at major league talent at minor league prices. The most expensive ticket at Frontier Field is just under $13, and every Monday features free hot dogs, a snack and a soda for the first 500 children.

 

Round out your visit to Rochester by coming full circle. Head back to the George Eastman House for the 11th annual High Falls Film Festival (April 18 – 20, 2013) and take in some of the best independent films from all over the world.

 

Just because photos can be tedious, doesn’t mean the film medium or one of the greatest American inventors was. So drop those preconceived notions this blog filled you with in the earlier graphs and treat yourself to some beautiful photography and the beautiful people and city of Rochester, N.Y.

 

Sources:

George Eastman Wikipedia page

http://www.kodak.com/ek/US/en/Our_Company/History_of_Kodak/George_Eastman.htm

http://www.eastmanhouse.org/events/detail.php?title=silverwater-02-2013

 

History Tuesday: The History of “Ham” Radio

History Tuesday, Innovation, Inventions, Inventor Stories

Among other things, April is International Amateur Radio month. Amateur radio, often called “ham” radio, is where “hams” (ie, amateur radio enthusiasts) use different types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other radio amateurs for fun, but also for some public services like disasters (it’s said that a Welsh ham radio operator named Artie Moore picked up the distress signals from the Titanic on April 15, 1912). An estimated six million people throughout the world are regularly involved with amateur radio and entire communities have formed worldwide for these “hams” to stay in touch with each other. But how did ham radio start and what exactly is a ham radio?

The birth of amateur radio starts, of course, with the invention of the radio. There are many contributors to the birth of radio; Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian inventor, proved the feasibility of radio communication in Italy in 1895. However, Nikola Tesla was able to transmit signals from New York City to West Point and is credited with the first patent of radio technology. Some argue that these were just wireless transmission of Morse code, and that it was actually Ernst Alexanderson, a General Electric engineer, who built the first true radio which made voice radio broadcasts practical. The first broadcast took place on Christmas Eve, 1906, and was a Christmas story from the Bible while a violin played “Silent Night.”

No matter who gets the credit, one thing is clear; these first radio operators were the pioneers of amateur radio. In fact, by 1909, the first amateur radio club, The Junior Wireless Club, was organized in New York, later changing its name to the Radio Club of America. But, it was the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912 that prompted new international radio laws which also affect amateur radio, including frequency restrictions and operating procedures. That’s because in those early days, everybody occupied any wavelength they wanted, so Government stations, ships, coastal stations and the increasingly numerous amateur operators all competed for time and signal supremacy in each other’s receivers.

Governments stepped in to regulate technical and operational characteristics of transmissions and issue individual stations licenses with an identifying call sign. Regulations also designated radio frequency spectrum for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication. For instance, it prohibited amateurs from transmitting over the main commercial and military wavelengths and limited their transmitting signals below a wavelength of 200 meters (or “short waves”).

So today the term “amateur” is used to specify persons interested in radio solely for personal use and without any financial interest. It also distinguishs it from commercial broadcasting, public safety (such as police and fire), or professional two-way radio services (such as maritime, aviation, taxis, etc.). And that term “ham operator” – that was used as a derogatory word by professional radio people to mean “incompetent”, like a ham actor. The funny thing is that the “ham” radio folks took to the name and now love being called “hams” – just not with cheese.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amateur_radio

http://blog.conduit.com/2010/04/08/april-international-amateur-radio-month/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17582767

http://inventors.about.com/od/rstartinventions/a/radio.htm

http://ac6v.com/history.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Act_of_1912

 

 

Accidental Inventions

Inventions, Inventor Stories

Most people think that every device in use today is the brainchild of one or more brilliant inventors who had a great idea and worked diligently to turn that idea into a marketable product. Most of the time, that narrative is true. But, occasionally, a fabulous new product is created by accident. Maybe an unknown chemical got put into a mixture. Maybe it was heated too long, or not enough. Whatever it was, the end result was an amazing invention. Here are few of those lucky mistakes that may not have been the original intent of the inventor, but turned out to be successful!

Post-It Notes –Back in the late 1960’s, a 3M scientist named Spencer Silver was trying to find a stronger adhesive than 3M already made, but ended up with a much weaker one – in fact, you could peel it off once it was put on something. Luckily, he didn’t throw it away but kept it around. About four years later one of Silver’s colleagues at 3M, Arthur Fry, stumbled upon a use for the new adhesive. Turns out that Fry sang in his church choir and liked to put bookmarks in his hymnbook, but the pieces of paper he used as bookmarks always fell out. He remembered Silver’s new adhesive and put a little on the bookmarks. Sure enough, they stuck where he put them and, better yet, he could peel them off without damaging his hymnbook. The Post-It note was born.

• Slinky – In 1943 a US naval engineer named Richard James was working on creating a meter to monitor horsepower on naval battleships. He had set up springs to support and stabilize the new meter when one of the springs fell to the ground and continued bouncing around. He saw how the spring moved and somehow immediately thought that it would make a great kids’ toy. He brought the spring home and showed his wife, who dubbed it “Slinky.” They spent the next two years figuring out the best steel gauge and coil to use for the toy and went on to market it as a toy at Gimbels’ in Philadelphia in 1945. The couple started the James Spring & Wire Company with $500 dollars and began production. Kids have loved Slinkys ever since.

Vulcanized Rubber – This may not sound that cool, but vulcanized rubber has had a tremendous impact on society. Before Charles Goodyear (yes, of car tire fame) figured out his new manufacturing method, rubber was hard to work with and not very stable. The story goes that back in the 1830’s, he spent years trying to figure out a way to stabilize rubber to make it easier to work with and to be resistant to heat and cold. In 1839, he accidentally spilled some India rubber, sulfur and lead on to a hot stove. What resulted was a substance that was hard, but pliable. In fact, the new material had “memory”; it returned to its original shape after being twisted around. His accident led to him to discover the vulcanization process that eventually led to car tires, the rubber band, and many other products.

• Microwave Oven- The microwave was originally intended to be a form of radar to detect German U-Boats and warplanes in World War II. At Raytheon, a big defense contractor even back then, scientists made a new magnetron; a vacuum tube that releases energy (microwaves) to power radar equipment. It worked great. However, the credit for turning that microwave into the oh-so-convenient device in every kitchen actually goes to Percy Spencer. Spencer, a Raytheon scientist, was working on the new microwave emitter when he noticed that a candy bar in his shirt pocket had melted. He realized that the candy bar melted because the microwaves were emitting heat, and thought that maybe this could be a new way to heat food. Sure enough, through a few experiments popping corn (yes, the first microwave popcorn) and other foods, he knew he had stumbled upon a faster way to heat food, and the microwave oven was born. DING!

Of course, the list is much longer than the few examples listed here: Velcro, silly putty, Superglue, Play-Doh, and Teflon, were also “happy accidents.” So the moral of the story is, always be observant and know that even your failures as an inventor may teach you something important. As Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind,” so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the result you had intended.

 

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