If there was a nasty smell of rotten eggs coming from your neighbor’s apartment, you would probably complain. If you learned it was from your neighbor using the stove to melt pure crystalline sulfur onto to a plate of zinc, you may go right to your landlord. If you find out it’s because your neighbor is very frustrated with his job copying law books by hand in the New York Public, you may contact mental health authorities. Luckily for us and our economy, no one stopped Chester Carlson.
Good news! It’s people like Chester with dreams and ideas that will get our economy booming, rather than governments and big companies. These individuals are guided by passionate delusions, asking nothing of governments and ignoring the discouraging feedback from big companies.
In October of 1938, Chester produced the worlds’ first photocopy of a paper with the words: ”10-22-38 Astoria”.
For the next 8 years of his life, Chester was turned down 20 times for funding. The naysayers included the U.S. Government (U.S. Navy), IBM and Eastman Kodak. They didn’t see the viability of photocopy technology. Eventually Chester’s invention was purchased and built by the Haloid Company, later renamed Xerox.
This same story plays out every day in the Silicon Valley. Steve Woznaik, a Hewlett Packard engineer, presented a working personal computer to his employer that he developed while moonlighting with Atari engineer Steve Jobs. Once HP passed, Wozniak sold his scientific calculator and Jobs sold his VW bus to purchase parts to assemble the first Apple computers in Jobs’ garage.
When someone is passionate about an idea that we don’t understand, should we tell them they’re wrong? Alexander Graham Bell, like Chester, enjoyed writings of German physicists. Bell misinterpreted Herman von Helmholtz’s book thinking that vowel sounds could travel through wires. Lucky for us, the misinformed Bell became obsessed with this concept and convinced his father-in-law to fund a project to prove it. Ten years after Bell’s misinterpretation, the ‘a” vowel sound was transmitted when Bell shouted “Watson, come here…” in the mouthpiece of the first telephone.
Big companies and governments are best when efficiency (this does sound odd) and economies of scale can lead to lower cost and better outcomes. They are not good with breakthrough innovation that can launch the next surge of prosperity.
In just 35 years after shipping the world’s first copy machine, Xerox adopted the same big company strategic vision paralysis of IBM, Eastman Kodak and the US government, which inspired their inception. Xerox did maintain their innovative lineage by inventing things in their PARC research facility, yet lacked the foresight to commercialize them. Luckily for us, they showed their inventions, the mouse and graphical user interface, to Steve Jobs. Soon after, Apple put these inventions in people’s homes with the first MacIntosh PC. The first commercially available computer mouse replaced the keyboard arrows in navigation and graphical icons. Words were now written in a new variety of fonts instead of traditional typeset characters.
Chester Carlson, Bell, Wozniak and Jobs ignored the discouraging feedback from big companies, did not wait for a tax cut or a government program. They pursued their dreams and ideas that lifted all of our prosperity levels, not to mention create all of those jobs at Xerox, AT&T and Apple. They gave us photocopies, telephones, the personal computer and all of the devices that begin with the letter “i”.
While you may be frustrated by government or big companies, remember, it is people with passions that will deliver the coming great prosperity. Steve Wozniak simply wanted to prove to the Homebrew Computer Club that he could build a computer in the same way some of us want to win a game of scrabble. Prosperity begins with a dream or an idea. The good news is our prosperous future is coming from those outside of Washington, DC and corporate board rooms. It’s from people busy pursuing their personal passions with smelly kitchens, language translation issues or trying to sell their prized VW buses.
We have already seen what governments and big companies can do for our economy. So please pursue your dreams and ideas. It is up to you to get our economy booming again.
Posted: Friday, June 22nd, 2012 @ 3:38 pm