I Invented ... The Cell Phone
Meet the man who revolutionized communication — and turned the elevator ride into a chance to hear Katie from sales whine about her boyfriend's backne.
Name: Martin Cooper
Invention: The Cell Phone
"I'm pretty sure there were teeth gnashing in the background," says Martin Cooper,former general manager and VP of systems for Motorola, about what he heard on the other end of the first cell phone call in history. For more than a year, Motorola had been racing Bell Labs to produce a mobile device, and in April 1973 it was time for the project's overseer to talk a little smack from his new invention.
"I called my rival at Bell and told him that I was speaking from a busy Manhattan street, on a real cellular," says the 76-year-old San Diego resident.
The 2.5-pound behemoth, christened Dyna-Tac, took years to design, and when it was eventually introduced in '83 as a retail cell phone, it cost $4,000. Hundreds of Motorola engineers worked to create portable antennas, low-current emiconductors and other mini miracles to make Cooper's wireless dream a reality, all in the name of breaking up a monopoly.
"We needed to prove that a company other than Bell could participate in this new industry, and our people did it," says Cooper.
Since his brainchild not only slew a corporate Goliath but wound up in the hands of every creature on earth, he must be wealthier and more revered than Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Carrot Top combined. Right?
"I signed away all my patent rights to Motorola for a dollar when I joined the company and don't get any royalties," Cooper says, without putting a shotgun into his mouth. "But I earned a few dollars with stock options and I still have the $1 check they gave me." That might be worth something on eBay.
|OooOo|| I Invented ... the Computer Mouse
Thanks to Dr. Douglas Engelbart, sports scores, instant messages, driving directions and pornography are all within a click's reach.
Name: Dr. Douglas Engelbart
Invention: The Computer Mouse
Dr. Douglas Engelbart, 80, the inventor of the computer mouse, loathes Steve Jobs. "I'm just so angry with the single button," he says about Apple's early commercialization of the device back in the '80s. "Why would they make it with just one button? More buttons give you more control." While Mac fans will surely disagree, it's hard to defy the logic of a man whose vision single-handedly transformed the way humans interact with machines.
At a time when personal computers were unheard of (and long before Jobs was even born), scientists operated refrigerator-size apparatuses via clunky light pens, which had to be pointed at screens to move a cursor. Engelbart figured there must be a simpler way to negotiate the binary world, and after 12 years of painstaking research and development at Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, Calif., he unveiled an ingenious solution.
The device was encased in wood and employed a sort of wheelbarrow-shaped design instead of a trackball to move the cursor. For this remarkable achievement Engelbart earned … absolutely nothing. At least, not until 1997 when he was awarded the Lemelson-MIT prize, which honors landmark tech accomplishments with a $500,000 check. Today the prolific inventor lives in Fremont, Calif. and spends most of his time at the Bootstrap Institute, a nonprofit organization he founded "to boost mankind's collective capability for coping with complex, urgent problems." Like, maybe, carpal tunnel syndrome?
|OooOo|| I Invented ... The George Foreman Grill
Meet the man who created the indoor grill with patented grease channeling action.
Name: Michael Boehm
Invention: The George Foreman Grill
The loggerheaded take note: George Forman did not create his namesake grill but was asked to endorse it by Michael Boehm, 61, who, while never having had his face pummeled by Muhammad Ali, knew a heavyweight promoter when he saw one. Ali, Joe Namath and even Joe DiMaggio were tapped as potential talking heads for the all-pervading product, originally named the Short Order Grill. But Foreman, "he's kind of nuts, and he loves burgers," Boehm says, explaining his logic for choosing Gorgeous George.
"I found out that he ate them before every fight!" About 70 million units have been sold since 1995, so does that make the Illinois-based innovator a bazillionaire? As a salaried employee of the grill's original manufacturer, Taiwan's Tsann Kuen, Boehm was entitled to a modest semimonthly paycheck—no more, no less. Foreman, on the other hand, received 40 percent of sales in exchange for lending his moniker and eventually sold his name outright for a beefy $127.5 million (plus $10 million in stock options).
Let's hope Boehm—who also invented the Hamilton Beach Steam Grill and Salton Sante Fe Quesadilla Maker—sees a better return on his top-secret, hush-hush Foreman Grill spin-off, a wonder product for the microwave due to debut soon. But if it sells like gangbusters don't expect the laid-back Boehm to enter the limelight.
"I am fine with my anonymity," he says. "What can I say, I just like seeing hungry people satisfied."
|OooOo|| I Invented ... the Apple Logo
In 1977, Rob Janoff was handed a lousy pro bono assignment ... Working for steve jobs.
Name: Rob Janoff
Invention: The Apple Logo
"There were many people who said Apple would go bankrupt if they went ahead with the logo," says Rob Janoff, the graphic designer credited with thinking up the world-famous emblem.
Janoff, 57, first met Jobs while working at Palo Alto, Calif.-based public relations agency Regis McKenna. It was his task to help the sandal-wearing CEO-a good friend of Janoff's boss-market a makeshift wooden box stuffed with wires, an early prototype of the Apple II. "For inspiration, the first thing I did was go to the supermarket, buy a bag of apples and slice them up. I just stared at the wedges for hours," recalls Janoff.
The fruit of his labor: a simple 2-D monochromatic apple, with a healthy bite taken from the right side. Jobs loved the conceit-only he suggested it be more colorful. Janoff's boss disagreed, insisting the logo be made all black to save on printing costs. "But Jobs was resolute, arguing that color was the key to humanizing the company," says Janoff. "So I just put colors where I thought they should be, not even thinking about a prism."
What thanks did Janoff, now the owner of his own Chicago-based graphic design firm, get for all his hard work? "Not even a holiday card."
mene licno ubedlivo najubaj telefoni mi se motorola mada ne zabegvam po mob mnogu
|OooOo|| I Invented ... the Yellow First-Down Line
Meet Marvin White, the mastermind behind the greatest boon to televised sports since slo-mo.
Name: Marvin White
Invention: The Yellow First-Down Line
"Funny thing is, I was never really a sports fanatic," says Marvin White, chief technology officer of Sportvision, the company that changed televised gridiron action forever by creating the indispensable digital yellow first-down marker. "But I understood how important the first down was to the game and could appreciate how hard it was for TV viewers to see."
It was this empathetic connection with football fans that ultimately inspired "1st & Ten," Sportvision's patented innovation. Now a staple of NFL broadcasts, the virtual marker made its debut in 1998 during a forgettable Ravens–Bengals game broadcast on ESPN. It initially cost millions in elaborate video insertion equipment (the same kind of tech used in newscast weather reports) to make the yellow line appear as though it were painted right on the field. "We had a fifty-foot-long truck filled with electronics and a bunch of stressed-out engineers operating everything," recalls White.
Today, the Emmy-winning effect is managed by a single engineer who oversees a rack of electronics no larger than a coffee table—at a cost of only $10,000 per game. But lest you think Sportvision is a one-trick pony, know that its team of engineers is busily developing advancements for other televised sporting events, including NASCAR races. "Soon, fans will be able to ride shotgun with their favorite drivers in highly realistic video game–like simulations," says White. Let's hope the technology gets a warmer welcome than another of the company's innovations: the puck-highlighting FoxTrax system used in NHL broadcasts between 1996 and 1998. "The avid fans didn't like it," says White of the so-called Blue Blob. "They thought it was ruining their sacred sport."