Inventing Inventions

| By Editorial Staff

The Origins of These Ideas Are Nothing Short of Amazing

InvInvManWe know. We know. We here at Spellbound can get a little intense over our mission to save the world one idea at a time. We thought you might welcome a short break from our regular programming to hear some interesting ideas that we might just have to talk about the next time we meet.

Accidental Invention

Back in the 1930s Ruth Graves Wakefield owned the Toll House Inn near Whitman, Massachusetts. One night, Ruth decided to bake a batch of a her Chocolate Butter Drop Do cookies – a local favorite. Putting the ingredients together, Ruth realized that she didn’t have any baker’s chocolate. Looking for a substitute, she remembered a block of Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate that Andrew Nestlé had given her. To her surprise, instead of the chocolate behaving like baker’s chocolate and melting throughout the cookie dough, the pieces kept their form. The delicious cookie with the gooey chocolate chips inside was born.

In 1964, a shipment of chicken wings instead of the order of chicken parts was accidentally delivered to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. To make do, cook Teressa Bellissimo coated the wings in her own special sauce. She added sides of bleu cheese and celery that she had on hand, and served the dish to her son and his friends. They loved them, and the Buffalo wing was born. More than 50 years later, the Anchor is still serving wings with Teressa’s secret sauce.

In 1917, Admiral John Fisher wrote in a letter to Winston Churchill, “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis— O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)” What would we do without that acronym?

Timing is Everything

The computer mouse is an invention that never made the inventor rich. Its designer, Douglas Fuller, was too far ahead of his time. His patent expired before it became useful as an accessory for a device called the computer.

InvInvATRay Tomlinson saved the “@” sign. In the early 1970s “@” was on the brink of elimination from the typewriter keyboard. Tomlinson, a programmer in charge of implementing an email system on the ARPANET (one of the technical foundations of the internet), got the idea of using that neglected symbol into the code used to send the first email on that system.

At the beginning of World War II, Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil invented spread spectrum communications in the hopes that it would help defeat the Germans. Today, this method of giving radio signals a broader range of transmission (that made them more difficult to detect) is known as the forerunner of CDMA cell phone technology.

The Necessity of Invention

High heels were originally designed for soldiers in the 1500s. They needed a way to keep their feet in their stirrups while riding on horseback.

InvInvMapp2Mapmakers prevent illegal reproduction of their work by including a bit of incorrect information in their maps. The fake information is called a “copyright trap” or a “map trap.” It often takes the form of a fake street name, while some mapmakers prefer to sign their work with initials hidden in places like the corner of a city park.

InvInvFireHydOne We’ll Never Know Where it Came From

It looks like the origins of the design for a fire hydrant will never be known. It’s believed that the patent for the fire hydrant burned in a fire.

What if your company has already designed fantastic inventions or developed some excellent ideas that have yet to be noticed? There is nothing worse than a brilliant idea that languishes in obscurity. Hang in there. We humans are known to be resistant to change.  Back in 1876, the telegraph company, Western Union, dismissed the telephone as having no value. In this century, the magazine published by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers declared that “telepresence robots that cost as much as a car” aren’t viable. As usual, innovation and ingenuity are improving design and lowering costs. Now, many agree that a new standard in business hardware is on its way.

The message: look at your ideas from as many angles as possible. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Encourage honest feedback from your employees. Assemble focus groups. Get the opinion of a harsh critic or two. Look for trends. Don’t summarily dismiss any feedback.

Most of all, don’t give up.