Independent Inventors Have Changed Our World

If I explained to you some of the product and invention ideas I’ve run across in the last year, I’m guessing your reactions to the overwhelming majority of them would be "who would want that?" or "good luck making that."  I have had to train myself to refrain from the impulse judgments that run through my mind when people begin explaining their ideas, because the reality is that it’s extremely difficult to predict what is going to do well and why.  We never turn away a project just because we personally don’t think it will find a market. 

To emphasize the point, I ran across a list put together by Inventors Digest which lists 264 products created by university or independent inventors.  I’ve listed a few I found interesting.  Im sure the creators of the following products met considerable resistance when developing these items.

  • Airbag (Allen Breed)
    • Can you imagine trying to explain this product?  "So let me get this straight, when your car crashes, a bag blows up in your face…?"
  • Apple computer (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak)

    • It’s well known that IBM and the Digital Equipment Corporation (the 2nd largest computer manufacturer in the 1980s) missed the boat on this one. In 1977, Ken Olsen, Founder and CEO of the Digital Equipment Corporation, said "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home". 
  • Dishwasher (Josephine Garis Cochraine)

    • Thanks Josephine.
  • Hula Hoop (Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin, founders of
    the Wham-O Company)

    • Who knew that gyrating at the waist, alone with your clothes on, could be that much fun?
  • Jell-O® (Peter Cooper)

    • If I wasn’t told what this was and walked in a room and saw this on the table, eating it would be the last thing on my mind.  Now, I think of Bill Cosby.
  • Parking meter (Carlton Magee)

    • This might be one product that if Carlton Magee came to me and asked me to work on, I might have to say "no".
  • Safety pin (Walter Hunt)

    • Such a simple and small idea, and ubiquitous in our society.
  • Snowboard (Tim Sims)
    • When these guys developed this product, not many people thought an alternative to skiing was necessary or that this one in particular would be it, if there should be an alternative (some still believe this).  In 2004, the National Sporting Goods Association reported that their are 6.6 million snowboarders.  I am one of them.
  • Water Skis (Ralph Samuelson)
    • I couldn’t find whether the water version or the snow version was invented first.  Either way, one was a derivative application of skis to a new medium.  Placing ideas or products into new contexts can open up a wealth of opportunities.
  • World Wide Web (Tim Berners-Lee)
    • I didn’t know a single person was credited with this.  Along with computers, I believe the societal impact will someday rank up there with the wheel and writing. 

Believe in your idea or product as long as you feel is necessary.