Many of my fellow engineers have had great ideas and the patents to show for it. With all of our great — and sometimes out-of-the-box crazy creative — ideas, is there anything out there not invented yet or as great as what has already been created?
I look back at the giants such as Franklin, Bell, Edison, Tesla, Ford… These were all amazing inventors. The things they invented changed the world, and our lives, and still changing our lives today.
One question we should ask though: Were the inventions of the telephone, light bulb, automobile, etc., really all that great? These inventions were done at a time when there wasn’t nearly the technology and resources we have today. We look at many of these inventions and take them for granted. Have you ever looked at a piece of technology and thought, “That seems so simple. Why didn’t I think of that?”
Taking this line of thought a bit farther, have the greatest inventions already been created? Is there anything still to come that can change our lives for hundreds of years hence, or are we at a point where all we can do is improve upon existing designs?
I think a tube version of the op-amp came into existence in the 1950s. And a solid state version came into existence in the 1960s. The IC version came along not long after that. Then LEDS, MOSFETs… Is there another great electronic component out there that we have not created or invented yet?
Maybe the government/military is secretly working on designs that are 30 years ahead of what most of us are aware of. Maybe they are working on some crazy things underground somewhere. There may be a day when cars float through the air and televisions can be rolled up like a poster and hung on the wall. Would those really be anything great , or just cool stuff to have around?
I was looking through my old book of ideas and patents. Yes, they represented some clever thinking. Many of them saved money, made the product easier to use, or made it more efficient. But were they life changing? Not really. I'm beginning to think that many of the ideas that were not patented or were completely insane may have been the ones that changed the industry.
Do you think some of the best inventions ever are laying somewhere in a company file cabinet or a garage, but not considered, because they just seem so crazy and stupid? What about the accidental inventions such as the microwave oven or pacemaker?
Have you ever invented something that wasn’t supposed to be, yet went into your product as a different feature? What is left to invent? Are you the next big name?