Inventions, should we even try?
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Having been down that road so many times in my life, I would have to say that is one of the truest statements ever said.
The problem with this is that the system is rigged against you (the inventor.)
Back during the days of VCR’s I was one of those that went to school to learn how they worked, and how to repair them. Back in the day they were $1,200 for the cheapest, and it went up from there.
End of tape sensors back in the early day were accomplished with visible light. Tape makers would have some clear leader spliced on to the tape so when light was visible the machine would know to stop, “whatever function it was doing.”
Later in the years infrared light was used instead of visible, which made troubleshooting much more difficult. As the light was 950nm instead of the 850nm currently used in night vision cameras, there was not even the slight red glow.
I devised a portable infrared detector. When the test button was pushed with the sensor in the path of the infrared light a green LED would illuminate thus telling me that the emitter was not the issue. If no light was visible a red LED would illuminate thus telling me to check the voltages on the emitter “which was a job” and if present, replace the emitter, which was also a job as it was soldered in unlike the bulb which was plugged in.
This was also handy for testing remote controls as they too were using, and still do use 950nm infrared LED’s so you would get a pulsing green LED if the batteries and or remote was functioning.
In short, this was the “cat’s ass” and it was my invention.
So, now that it was built I needed to downsize it into a more portable device, like a pen.
I started the process of downsizing the electronics and was trying to figure out how to get a “housing” created for it when a family member came to visit who is “was” handy and knew certain things that I did not.
Long story short I called it the B.I.R.D. Battery operated Infrared Detector.
Before my “family member came for a visit” I wrote a letter to Sencor, which was a test instrument maker in the day. I did not divulge anything of my idea other than I had one and a working prototype that I would like to discuss with them.
The response went something like this:
Dear Mr. Taylor,
I work in the mail room and it is my job to look for and intercept letters like this and send them back to the sender.
We hire the brightest and best here at Sencor and therefor do not need input from the public as we have the best. If it is a new device that is needed, our engineers will think of it and create it and we will market it. If we don’t create it, it is not needed. “Damn what hubris!”
Thank you for your time, good day!
It was about this time my “family member came” and I shared my frustration with him. He was very interested and sympathetic. Looked over my invention as well as the schematics etc. and told me he knew some folks and would get back with me.
Of course you know the rest of the story without me typing it but….
Two months to the date of his visit in the back of one of my electronic magazines that I took, was the BIRD complete in a pen enclosure with my wording verbatim!
This family member came into copious amounts of money, and never spoke to me about the invention. Because I could not prove what happened, I did nothing but learned, never share any more inventions with even family as when money is concerned; blood means nothing.
Some of my ideas over the years were too grandiose for me to create a prototype of, and some are as simple as the following:
I am a technician by trade, but an engineer at heart. While working at many companies in my life, I have re-engineered their inventions. Many of those modifications have been incorporated into their products making them better. Working for them however; you get your paycheck, and maybe a pat on the back, and maybe a $200 American Express Check thank you check! Don’t spend it all at one place….
Dyson Vacuums’ is another company that I contacted because their product lacks in certain design areas, and I really thought that they could benefit from my ideas. I am a nice guy, had they treated me with any respect I might have given them the damned ideas.
I wrote them a letter regarding some ideas I had for their product and not unlike the letter from Sencor, they too were rather insulting with their response. They too hire the brightest and best and they certainly don’t need the input from someone who actually bought one and uses it! Yes, they were about that truculent.
While I will not give the ideas for free, if at all, I would tell them that they should have their engineers and or technicians actually use their vacuums, and pay attention to all of the ways that it works. I don’t mean throw some dust on the floor and suck it up, they all do that, actually take the damned thing home and use it! I think I know the secret to why their product “sucks so well,” It starts with management…
The simple fact is that I have several ideas which some I can create myself, and some like the BIRD, I need others to add to the collective, to make it the best.
The problems with inventing are many and they start with “protecting your idea.” You can see that if a family member that you trust will screw you and then pretend that they don’t know you when the money comes in, what would others do?
A couple of years ago I wrote Apple because they needed to re-design their app so one could re-design the app layout on your phone through the Itunes app on your computer. I wrote them a nice long letter telling them what I needed, why, how it would benefit their customers and ask them to do it. Three months to the date it was done. Do you think I even got a thank you from them? Some employee at apple I am certain read the letter and said, wow, what a great idea and submitted it from him or herself.
I needed it done so it was the most expedient way to get it done. I have written them since on this blog with ideas because let’s face it, they hire the brightest and best and don’t need you or I telling them anything….. Did I mention that I actually met Steve Jobs years ago when I was working on NEXT computers, I wonder if he was British at heart?
Now, let’s revisit the BIRD and let’s say, I wanted to protect the idea.
You go downtown wherever and find a patent attorney, have them sign a non-disclosure so you can talk with him or her and then basically tell them what you are up to.
They either listen intently or they pretend to listen waiting to see if you can fork over a check to retain them. Back when I first checked on this for an idea I had for a security device for all of the world’s airports and government buildings, this is the way it went down.
“I will need a check for $10,000 to start the process.” For any country that you want it protected in other than the US; that is another $3,000. For arguments sake that is 196 countries. So for another $588,000 we stand a pretty good chance of protecting your idea but, we have to catch them stealing your idea and then we have to take them to court and with luck before they saturate the place with a knock off of your idea, maybe we can get the courts to get an injunction and stop them from creating any more widgets (in that country) while they drag it through the courts for years all the while selling the widgets that they have already created or are having created in other countries that you have not caught them doing so yet. You might be able to do your own patent search these days but I would suspect that the attorney will have to do it officially via some flunky intern and charge you as if they personally did it.
Now, maybe you have some appreciation why I have been known to give ideas away, just to get the damned thing out there as the world needs it. I have actually tweeted ideas to the whole Effing world just to get the thing done!
Much like the artist that creates a masterpiece does not get the accolades or the dollars that it is worth, I think the same is true of the inventors. Someone somewhere at some time in the future may benefit from it, but not you, so the question that has to be asked, why?
Farnsworth was screwed by RCA on the Television / video camera and while he had an ok life, RCA got the patent and profited through licensing such inventions. Tesla was a genius but had no business acumen; he too was screwed by the greedy bastards of the world including Edison, and died poor and somewhat nuts!
I hesitate to even mention the vultures that want you to buy their easy patent guide. The simple facts are that a lot of inventions go nowhere. Some might end up on those late night commercials with “but wait” as the tag line but, some people just need to be told the truth. The folks that will take your money to “help you” are in business to “take your money.” Much like the companies that are in business for those that want to write a book. No publisher will touch them “because they suck, or are too much of a risk, or an unknown,” so people spend thousands to self-publish! Some actually promote their books through enough different outlets to break even; but not really. They have failed to include their time and efforts into selling the 500 copies that they had to buy in the first place. The simple facts are inventors, artist and authors are seldom objective when it comes to their project. Much like a mother with the ugliest hair covered baby you ever saw.. She will think how great the baby looks, and the husband and family will cringe and say oh yes, that is the best looking one around. (PS one of the few times it is OK to lie, not only OK but advised! another is “does this dress make me look fat!? Oh Hell No! )
Am I telling you all this to quash your dreams? Hell no! I am telling you this to give you the reader, a dose of reality,the naked truth!
Guess what, this is at no charge!
If you truly want to write there are some great books at Barns and Nobles that walk you through the process. Bottom line, start with short stories and submit them to magazines. After you get paid your $500 per story, and get published a dozen times or so; on your cover page of your manuscript you simply say published in …….
If you get that far by all means purchase the book and follow all of the guidelines including how the manuscript should look. Different publishers have different ideas of how the manuscript should look and how it should be submitted so do your research and edit edit edit…..
Does that guarantee you will get published, shit no. What it does; if the person who opens your manuscript sees “published in and the format looks acceptable…. they might read more than the cover page. Much like writing a good resume or CV, you got about 15 seconds to grab their attention and that includes the time it takes to get it out of the envelope!
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