Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Delayed Innovation

 

Sometimes the best thing that can happen to an inventor is for him to be ignored.

Take for example German archery enthusiast Jörg Sprave. He pitched his bow designs to manufacturers for years. None purchased his plans. But Sprave did not idly wait for broader success. He continued to iterate until building something he wished he had thought of years ago. 

There are many examples of engineers, artists, and other creators who benefited from a period of obscurity. Rather than share their first ideas, they could share their best ideas. 

Which innovators or inventions spring to your mind?

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  1. The Reticulator Member

    When semi-automatic crossbows are banned, only criminals will have semi-automatic crossbows.

    • #1
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:15 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  2. iWe Reagan
    iWe Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    In my own life, many inventions were mere stepping stones, and earlier “success” would have led to certain long-term failure.

    • #2
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:49 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. ctlaw Coolidge

    Aaron Miller:

    There are many examples of engineers, artists, and other creators who benefited from a period of obscurity. Rather than share their first ideas, they could share their best ideas. 

    But he did share his first ideas. The negative feedback likely caused him to improve. Similarly, by sharing them, one of his viewers came up with the 3D-printed configuration.

    Those who seek obscurity and do not take external input are often nutjobs who hinder their progress. Consider Robert Goddard and the Wright Brothers. After their initial successes, they failed to capitalize because they were so secrecy-obsessed. 

    • #3
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:53 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  4. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jorg seems like one happy guy. He clearly enjoys doing this.

    The closest example I can think of is Charles (“Chuck”) Moore, the inventor of the FORTH computer language. It is a stack based system and you program by defining a series of “words” or functions which can be called sequentially, passing data on the stack. This means that the program can read like sentences in the language of the application.

    It was initially his own personal language and as he moved from job to job, he brought it with him. In the early days, he was very protective of his rights. Because of this, it is a very consistent language and very easy to port from system to system.

    Eventually (say, late 70’s and early 80’s) , he relaxed his protection and it became a hobbyist tool and was also picked up for small scale industrial systems. For about 10 years, I used it as an employee or consultant on projects ranging from industrial temperature control systems, to satellite data collection and control, green-house environment monitoring and control and the control of a pneumatic Nautilus-like exercise machine.

    One of its main advantages was the ability to get a lot done in the minimal hardware at the time – the industrial temperature control system used a 6502 chip with a very limited memory. These days, minimal hardware is a thing of the past, so I don’t think FORTH is used very much.

    Moore was what I think you could call a quirky guy. He invented a keyboard that you held in the palm of your hands with a button for each finger, including the thumb. The only problem was that you typed by forming the HEX code for each character. It sounds like more trouble than its worth, but he was pretty fast.

    He started a company “Computer Cowboys” to develop his own chip which ran FORTH natively. In order to do that, he of course invented his own system for doing the PC design. One of its unique features was a simulation where the operation could be traced in slow motion watching the colors change on the traces on the screen. This helped debug any timing problems.

    • #4
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:58 AM PST
    • 13 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    I love watching Jörg. He has so much fun.

    • #5
    • December 2, 2019, at 8:58 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  6. PHCheese Member

    Hell with the bow, can the laugh.

    • #6
    • December 2, 2019, at 9:18 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  7. Locke On Member

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Moore was what I think you could call a quirky guy. He invented a keyboard that you held in the palm of your hands with a button for each finger, including the thumb. The only problem was that you typed by forming the HEX code for each character. It sounds like more trouble than its worth, but he was pretty fast.

    Called a keyset or chorded keyboard. Moore wasn’t the first – the design was introduced by Doug Engelbart in 1968. Definitely for a trained operator.

    • #7
    • December 2, 2019, at 11:07 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  8. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Jorg seems like one happy guy. He clearly enjoys doing this.

    The closest example I can think of is Charles (“Chuck”) Moore, the inventor of the FORTH computer language. It is a stack based system and you program by defining a series of “words” or functions which can be called sequentially, passing data on the stack. This means that the program can read like sentences in the language of the application.

    It was initially his own personal language and as he moved from job to job, he brought it with him. In the early days, he was very protective of his rights. Because of this, it is a very consistent language and very easy to port from system to system.

    Eventually (say, late 70’s and early 80’s) , he relaxed his protection and it became a hobbyist tool and was also picked up for small scale industrial systems. For about 10 years, I used it as an employee or consultant on projects ranging from industrial temperature control systems, to satellite data collection and control, green-house environment monitoring and control and the control of a pneumatic Nautilus-like exercise machine.

    One of its main advantages was the ability to get a lot done in the minimal hardware at the time – the industrial temperature control system used a 6502 chip with a very limited memory. These days, minimal hardware is a thing of the past, so I don’t think FORTH is used very much.

    Moore was what I think you could call a quirky guy. He invented a keyboard that you held in the palm of your hands with a button for each finger, including the thumb. The only problem was that you typed by forming the HEX code for each character. It sounds like more trouble than its worth, but he was pretty fast.

    He started a company “Computer Cowboys” to develop his own chip which ran FORTH natively. In order to do that, he of course invented his own system for doing the PC design. One of its unique features was a simulation where the operation could be traced in slow motion watching the colors change on the traces on the screen. This helped debug any timing problems.

    This sounds so wonderful. Despite living in Silicon valley for four long years, 1981 to 1985, I am not sure I ever heard of FORTH.

    I love the concluding two sentences of your piece. That is so amazing.

     

    • #8
    • December 2, 2019, at 1:29 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. The Reticulator Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    This sounds so wonderful. Despite living in Silicon valley for four long years, 1981 to 1985, I am not sure I ever heard of FORTH.

    I’m pretty sure it was at my first computer job, at a university computer center, in 1976 or 1977, that there was a nerdy young student worker who was a FORTH evangelist. I don’t know where he picked it up.

    • #9
    • December 2, 2019, at 1:48 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Vectorman Thatcher

    Locke On (View Comment):

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    Moore was what I think you could call a quirky guy. He invented a keyboard that you held in the palm of your hands with a button for each finger, including the thumb. The only problem was that you typed by forming the HEX code for each character. It sounds like more trouble than its worth, but he was pretty fast.

    Called a keyset or chorded keyboard. Moore wasn’t the first – the design was introduced by Doug Engelbart in 1968. Definitely for a trained operator.

    If you watch old movies / TV shows, you’ll see the Stenotype, used to document courtroom testimony, with the modern type invented in 1913.

    • #10
    • December 2, 2019, at 5:38 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Vectorman Thatcher

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    This sounds so wonderful. Despite living in Silicon valley for four long years, 1981 to 1985, I am not sure I ever heard of FORTH.

    I’m pretty sure it was at my first computer job, at a university computer center, in 1976 or 1977, that there was a nerdy young student worker who was a FORTH evangelist. I don’t know where he picked it up.

    Being a Computer Science major, I was exposed to FORTH a little earlier in the 1970’s. Never used it, because computers became faster with more memory.

    • #11
    • December 2, 2019, at 5:49 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    When semi-automatic crossbows are banned, only criminals will have semi-automatic crossbows.

    OK, so it isn’t a crossbow. (I finished watching the video, and while I was at it watched some of his demonetized videos, too.)

    • #12
    • December 2, 2019, at 6:56 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  13. cirby Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    This sounds so wonderful. Despite living in Silicon valley for four long years, 1981 to 1985, I am not sure I ever heard of FORTH.

    In the late 80s, someone made a cut-down and modified version of FORTH for the Apple IIe, called GraFORTH. It was pretty cool, and was optimized for graphics and game programming.

     

    • #13
    • December 3, 2019, at 12:26 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  14. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A follow-up on the business side of invention:

    • #14
    • December 3, 2019, at 1:07 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  15. Locke On Member

    cirby (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    This sounds so wonderful. Despite living in Silicon valley for four long years, 1981 to 1985, I am not sure I ever heard of FORTH.

    In the late 80s, someone made a cut-down and modified version of FORTH for the Apple IIe, called GraFORTH. It was pretty cool, and was optimized for graphics and game programming.

     

    I had a copy back then, and played around with it. Never did anything serious, it was a period when I was messing around with various interpreted/embedded languages on the Apple platform.

    • #15
    • December 3, 2019, at 1:58 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    James Dyson springs to mind. His first invention was the Ballbarrow, in the mid-70s, a wheelbarrow with a ball, instead of a wheel, to give it increased maneuverability. That went nowhere (in every sense of the word), but prefigured his rolling-ball vacuum cleaners of a few decades later.

    His early attempts to sell his vacuum cleaner ideas went nowhere either, so he formed his own company, and the rest is history. I don’t think there’s any doubt his early struggles improved the eventual product, once it got on the market.

    • #16
    • December 3, 2019, at 2:36 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. She Reagan
    She Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Locke On (View Comment):

    cirby (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    This sounds so wonderful. Despite living in Silicon valley for four long years, 1981 to 1985, I am not sure I ever heard of FORTH.

    In the late 80s, someone made a cut-down and modified version of FORTH for the Apple IIe, called GraFORTH. It was pretty cool, and was optimized for graphics and game programming.

     

    I had a copy back then, and played around with it. Never did anything serious, it was a period when I was messing around with various interpreted/embedded languages on the Apple platform.

    Forth Love If Like Then. Or however it might go. It’s been a while.

    • #17
    • December 3, 2019, at 2:39 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    She (View Comment):
    Forth Love If Like Then. Or however it might go. It’s been a while.

    Well, yes there was that aspect of the syntax. I guess it was designed for Yoda before Yoda.

    • #18
    • December 3, 2019, at 3:48 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. cirby Member

    She (View Comment):
    James Dyson springs to mind. His first invention was the Ballbarrow, in the mid-70s, a wheelbarrow with a ball, instead of a wheel, to give it increased maneuverability. That went nowhere (in every sense of the word), but prefigured his rolling-ball vacuum cleaners of a few decades later.

    They’re still making the Ballbarrow, though, so it went at least a little somewhere.

     

    • #19
    • December 3, 2019, at 4:02 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    cirby (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):
    James Dyson springs to mind. His first invention was the Ballbarrow, in the mid-70s, a wheelbarrow with a ball, instead of a wheel, to give it increased maneuverability. That went nowhere (in every sense of the word), but prefigured his rolling-ball vacuum cleaners of a few decades later.

    They’re still making the Ballbarrow, though, so it went at least a little somewhere.

    What do you get if you cross a Ballbarrow and a Dustbuster? 

    • #20
    • December 3, 2019, at 7:26 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  21. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    When semi-automatic crossbows are banned, only criminals will have semi-automatic crossbows.

    OK, so it isn’t a crossbow. (I finished watching the video, and while I was at it watched some of his demonetized videos, too.)

    By the way, the video about a firecracker-powered arrow is one about delayed innovation. His first attempt blew apart. Then he got a welder friend involved. The process requires patience, because firecrackers are legal in Germany only two days a year.

    • #21
    • December 3, 2019, at 9:30 PM PST
    • 2 likes