10. Microsoft Solitaire
Wes Cherry, the man behind the wildly popular computer game ‘Microsoft Solitaire’, never made any money with his invention. Cherry designed the game in the summer of 1989. It is based on the card game of the same name, which was designed by Susan Kare. Microsoft first added the game in 1990, when Windows 3.0 was released. The game was intended to help users get used to mouse controls, such as the drag-and-drop technique, which is necessary for moving the cards.
9. Magnetic strip on credit cards
In 1968 Ron Klein designed the magnetic stripe on credit cards. Klein was director of the company Engeneering at Utronics Systems Corp (later GT&T Financial Data Services) in 1964. This company had a large number of retail companies as customers. Each month they received a list of thousands of account numbers from these companies. The seller then had to go through the complete list every time a credit card was used to check whether the credit card number was correct.
This was a very time consuming process. So Klein came up with the idea of storing the list in a memory with a keyboard, on which the seller could type in the credit card number. Then he devised coded holes on the card, which represented the number. His last idea was to use magnetic tapes (which was a new technology at the time), that could read the card’s memory. He submitted his total idea to a credit card manufacturer and the latter subsequently earned big money with it. If only he knew how easy a applying for a credit card in 2020 is…
8. Three-point seat belts
The three-point seat belt was designed by Nils Bohlin, who worked at Volvo. It was introduced in 1959. The first car to be equipped with it was a Volvo PV 544 and the first car to get it as standard equipment was a Volvo 122. After this development, Volvo, owner of the company, made the design public. All car manufacturers were allowed to take over the three-point seat belt from him for free. He didn’t want a patent, because he wanted as many people as possible to use it, to save human lives.
7. Karaoke Machine
It is not that popular in the Netherlands, but in many Asian countries it is indispensable in everyday life. They even make festive use of it on buses. This is about the Karaoke Machine. Its inventor, Daisuke Inoue, was the manager of a band that provided background music in clubs, where businessmen used to sing on stage. He got the idea of karaoke (meaning “empty orchestra”) when he was unable to serve one of his customers. He made a recording of the music and sent the customer the tape.
This gave him the idea to develop a machine with tapes and amplifiers together with his friends. In 1971 he rented out 11 of these karaoke machines to various clubs in Kobe with great success. The Karaoke Machine soon became an integral part of Japan and other Asian countries. Although Daisuke Inoue did not patent his invention and thus never made any money from it, he did win the Ig Nobel Prize in 2004. This is a variant of the Nobel Prize, which is given to people of unusual or trivial scientific achievement.
John Walker designed the matches as we know them today in the early 19th century, of course a very useful invention at the time. He didn’t want a patent so everyone could benefit from it. Walker owned a small pharmacy and drug store. In his spare time, he thought about making it easier to get fire for everyday use.
He was amazed that there were already many chemical formulas that produced explosive fires, while it was not yet possible to create a small fire to slowly burn a piece of wood. Walker began experimenting with combinations of different chemical formulas. A wooden stick dipped in a certain combination suddenly caught fire. On this basis he realized matches, coated with sulphur, which, by contact with sulphide of antimony,
Almost everyone has played this computer game, the game with the moldable figures looking for a place: Tetris. The design comes from Aleksey Pajitnov. This is a Russian computer engineer and computer game developer. He has been a big fan of all kinds of puzzles since childhood. He developed Tetris in 1984, but the rights were owned by his employer, the Soviet government, until 1996. Until then, he earned nothing from it. In 1991 Pajinov moved to the United States, where in 1996 he founded the ‘Tetris Company’ together with Henk Rogers.
4. Polio Vaccine
If the inventor of the Polio vaccine had patented it, it would have made him a whopping $7 billion, but Jonas Salk didn’t. He believed (thank God) that it is your duty to put public health first. During a project in 1948, where Salk wanted to determine the number of different types of Polio viruses, Salk saw an opportunity to expand this project towards the development of a vaccine. For the next seven years, he worked on developing the vaccine. In 1955 he successfully conducted a trial in which 1.8 million schoolchildren took part. When the vaccine was made public, Jonas Salk was given the name “miracle worker.” When asked who holds the patent for the Polio vaccine, his answer is: ‘Everyone! There is no patent.
3. Fidget Spinner
Poor Catherine Hettinger couldn’t afford the $400 annual tax, so the patent on the Fidget Spinner expired in 2005 and she didn’t capitalize on the spinning toy’s popularity. A chemical engineer in training, Hettinger developed the Fidget Spinner to distract children and promote peace after a visit to Israel. Since then, the toy has become wildly popular all over the world. It is claimed to have a therapeutic effect on children with ADD, ADHD, anxiety and autism. In contrast, the fad is also seen as something that distracts children from their work during class hours. Fidget Spinners are now banned in many schools.
Harvey Ball is the developer of the smiley face. After World War II, in 1959, Ball started an advertising agency. One of his customers suffered a downer with an increase in distrust among his employees. There was a negative atmosphere at the company. Ball designed the smiley in less than 10 minutes, and 100 smiley tiles were handed out to employees to make them smile again on the job. The use of the smiley became part of the company’s friendship campaign. They became very popular in a very short time. Ball never copyrighted the smiley, making it just $45, the money the company paid him for the job. According to his son, Charles Ball, Harvey has never regretted his decision: “Hey,
1. World Wide Web
photo: Paul Clarke
Goedzak Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, made his idea public without patent or right. He gave it to everyone. Berners-Lee ran a division of a computer systems development company. There he gained experience with computer networks. In 1989 he connected hypertext to the internet. This made the World Wide Web possible. After this he founded a company, the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium). Despite never making tons of money from his invention, he was knighted and promoted from Officer of the Order of the British Empire to Knight Commander of the British Empire.
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