- Venture Capital
“There have been many fine scientists desperately trying to become poor businessmen.” Georges Doriot Venture Capital pools resources and spreads risk and reward across multiple companies. This simplifies early-stage investing and makes early-stage investing more convenient for both investors and entrepreneurs. Background General Georges Doriot is the “father of venture capital.” In 1946, he created … Continue reading "Venture Capital"
- Cable Television
Cable television brings television channels to customers without antennas. Later versions bring more channels than analog antennas provided. Walson owned a small company, Service Electric, located in a mountainous region in Pennsylvania. Frustrated that buyers of his televisions could not receive a signal he climbed a mountain and installed an antenna at the top. Eventually, … Continue reading "Cable Television"
- Mass-Scale Desalination
Reverse osmosis enables large-scale desalination of seawater, efficiently transforming it into drinking water. People have been trying to desalinate seawater into drinking water for millennia. Firstly, Aristotle and other ancient Greeks unsuccessfully attempted to desalinate seawater. Eventually, by the 16th century, ship-based evaporation desalination systems created potable water. In time, by 1955, the first multi-stage … Continue reading "Mass-Scale Desalination"
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI allows physicians to see and diagnose soft tissue without surgery. Background MRI is one of these cases where everybody argues somebody else invented it for patent priority. However, courts and historians find that physician Raymond Damadian was first to make an MRI that scans people (prior MRI’s would scan small pieces of organic material). … Continue reading "Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)"
- Electric Arc Welding
Electric arc welding lowered the price of joining metal pieces, eventually enabling the construction of much larger structures. Russians love to build giant things, bolshoya as they say in Russian. Therefore, it makes sense that it was a Russian, Benardos Nikolai Nikolaevic, who realized in 1881 that two metal pieces can be tightly joined together … Continue reading "Electric Arc Welding"
- Graphic User Interface
Computers “must be learnable in private… Kindness should be an integral part.” Alan Kay The Graphic User Interface (GUI) consists of windows, folders, icons, mice, etc… It enables ordinary people to use computers. Xerox PARC’s GUI vastly simplified computer use and increased productivity by making computers easy and fun to use. Like the internet itself, … Continue reading "Graphic User Interface"
- Social Network
When they’re not rigging elections, sowing discord, or amplifying hate social networks are a fun, simple, and convenient way to stay in touch. However, they suffer serious privacy issues under current implementations. Electronic social networks, in various forms, are older than Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. The first online bulletin-board enabling people to chat and hang … Continue reading "Social Network"
- Stock Index
Stock indexes set objective benchmarks for how a stock should perform against peers. Reduces the risk of stock investing. Farmer turned reporter turned media mogul Charles Dow, with reporter Edward Jones, launched a stock newsletter in 1883. Titled the Customers’ Afternoon Letter, they tracked issues affecting the stock market. Dow’s letter gained a reputation for … Continue reading "Stock Index"
- Mass Manufactured Soft Drinks
Background John “Doc” Pemberton was an Atlanta chemist. After the Civil War he, like many chemists of the time, used coca-derived “wine” as a prescription for various ailments, real and imagined. Some of the wines contained distilled coca leaves, which cocaine is made from. Others contained the less expensive already distilled cocaine. Cocaine during this … Continue reading "Mass Manufactured Soft Drinks"
- Branch Banking
Branch banking allows ordinary people to utilize banks and theoretically makes banks safer since larger banks are less prone to catastrophic losses than smaller banks. Amadeo Pietro “A.P.” Giannini started life as a fruit wholesaler. He built and sold a large business, decided he was too young to retire, then innovated an entirely new type … Continue reading "Branch Banking"
- Facsimile (FAX) Machine
Alexander Bain created a telegraph that transmitted light and dark dots that were reproduced on the other side, the fax machine, long before the telephone. Early faxes were popular with newspapers due to their ability to quickly transmit crude images. Countless modifications and improvements followed over the years. Despite the obvious differences in the innovation, … Continue reading "Facsimile (FAX) Machine"
- Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS uses satellites to compute positioning in 3D space, allowing automatic mapping and advanced navigation. The Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite on October 4, 1957. Sputnik did nothing but send out radio pings audible on radio receivers on earth. Conveniently, they launched the satellite to fly over then arch-enemy the United States. As scientists … Continue reading "Global Positioning System (GPS)"
- Breach Loaded Firearms
Flintlock guns required the user to pour gunpowder into the barrel of the weapon, stamp it down, add a bullet, then carefully pick the whole thing up and fire it. By the time all that finished, soldiers could be chased down and stabbed with a knife. Breach-loading firearms opened the rifle near the back. They … Continue reading "Breach Loaded Firearms"
- Portland Cement
1843 Joseph AspdinWilliam AspdinWilliam Beverley Portland cement is modern cement. It’s admittedly dull — unless being used on dilapidated ships by mobsters for shoes — but extremely useful with more mainstream uses. Portland cement is used to make buildings, stadiums, stairs, sidewalks, foundations, and shares the unfortunate honor of being the enabler of brutalist architecture. … Continue reading "Portland Cement"
- Credit Reporting
Accurate credit reporting vastly lowered the risk of lending and, with it, the cost of capital. Lewis Tappan Tappan was a strident Christian who did not believe in credit. His brother and he went bankrupt, twice. Tappan and brothers were busybodies, known to snoop and report on New York City gaming houses, brothels, and other … Continue reading "Credit Reporting"