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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Arthur C. Clarke and I have something in common

Clarke never got round to patenting the idea of a geostationary communications satellite.

Years and years and years ago when it was first reported to me that there were many lascivious moving images on the internet I thought, personally I would prefer to spend hours and hours watching cute furry animals. Maybe, I thought, I could set up a “web site” containing short video excerpts of animals, particularly juveniles, behaving in an appealing manner.

It seems someone else has already done this.

What did you never get round to patenting?

21 comments to Arthur C. Clarke and I have something in common

  • Maybe, I thought, I could set up a “web site” containing short video excerpts of animals, particularly juveniles, behaving in an appealing manner.

    Cat Proximity

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Don’t you sometimes wonder how many inventions that could “save the world” are gathering dust on patent office shelves?
    Thorium salt pile reactor as an alternative to uranium, perhaps. Or Magneto-Plasma-Dynamic technology. Ideas whose time has come.

  • John B

    I think kitten was having a great time chasing butterflies and mom said, “cool it kitto,” and after minimal restraint managed to subdue kitten.
    But that’s just me.

    Inventions? Loads of things. But since I tried to bring a water purifier requiring minimal chemicals and only solar energy onto the market, and discovered what a ripoff world we live in (I am ambivalent on IP) I have given up.
    Inventions mouldering on patent office shelves is not an accurate picture.
    Provisional patents lapse after a year or two and there are people who research lapsed patents for ideas.
    I saw one of mine come on the market but then disappear.
    If I were to say: “I hope it bankrupted him”, that would be uncharitable, and so I shall not.
    It seems to me there is little motivation to be inventive.
    I have seen that if it is any good and you manage to lay out the thousands necessary to protect it, normally the big bucks guys will come along and find a way to take it over.

  • The technical term of this is “headsplode cute”

  • I recently invented a sandwich with chicken dippers, lettuce, cheese and mayonaisse. feeling proud of,myself (it was,delicious) I posted it on Facebook.
    A week later Kentucky Fried Chicken started selling essentially the same thing.

  • Stonyground

    The walkman. In the early seventies an uncle gave me a pair of WW2 style headphones, I wired it up to a cassette player, the type with five piano keys on the front. I used to ride my bike with the headphones on and the cassette player in a duffel bag. I must have looked like a right pillock but I was ten years ahead of Sony.

  • You know those ball ponds that kids play in? I invented those in the 70s, when I saw a scene in a film (I think it was “What’s Up, Doc?”) where a load of ping pong balls fall on someone in a confined-ish space. The character in the film didn’t seem too happy about that, but I thought it would be fun to play in, if you put a sort of fence around them all to stop them rolling away. I didn’t think of making them different colours, though. Or of patenting it. Then again, I was about eight.

  • thefrollickingmole

    Back in or around 1984 my father had an idea to create a “webpage’ on this new fangled “internet” thing to enable vehicle dealers/wholesalers to trade stock. At that time the net was about 5 universities/museums and bugger all else.

    About 5 to ten years to early, it is quite possible to be to far in front of the times.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    The long-range jet-pack! Some sheep-lover in New Zealand has just made the first one to run on petrol! I thought of/about that for years!
    Thank god I’m actually working on something else- the self-hooking button. A button with its’ own hook, so you never need to sew it onto anything, and can use it again and again. Nearly got the first all-plastic models working.
    Any other inventors out there?

  • John B

    Nuke. Inventors’s first rule: Never tell anybody anything about your ideas until . . .
    Until what?
    We don’t believe in IP, so that’s no good.
    Until one has developed the product so far that you are about to launch?
    I still have to find a libertarian view point that addresses IP realistically.

    As mentioned I did invent a solar powered water purifer (which had other applications with slight modification) but the whole schlep and expense of trying to get it onto the market without it being lifted by some other more aggressive soul left me completely demoralised. It was simply: What for?
    For the good of the human race? Okay. If that’s your thing.
    I did a provisional patent and had it on two exhibitions, one in South Africa and one in London.

    I must say, when I see them on TV airlifting plane loads of bottled water to disaster zones I cringe.
    But I have wondered if the manufacturers of bottled water (in this instance) are somehow involved.
    I did suggest a simple alternative which went down like a lead balloon.

    There is the Institute of Inventors, but that is only in South Africa these days, since the death of its founder, Don Pilkington.

  • We don’t believe in IP


  • Steven Rockwell

    How exactly does one patent a concept? I don’t mean an invention or the technical details of how to do whatever, but a somewhat nebulous idea of something to do? Clarke may have come up with the idea of the geostationary satellite, but if he didn’t come up with the actual technical knowhow to make it work or a machine to actually do the work, did he create something actually patentable?

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    You’re right- concepts can’t be patented! And patent offices insist on actual examples, or a model of the idea, before granting patents.
    As for IP, I support it. Inventors go to countries with strong IP. Victorian Britain, the strongest power in Europe, had to copy the stronger American IP system to entice inventors to Britain, or it would have weakened rapidly. History shows that IP works.
    And not everything needs to be patentable. We could honour old Arthur by calling them Clarke-point satellites, couldn’t we? Fame instead of fortune?

  • James Waterton

    When I was about 14, I had a very unSamizdatistically unsound idea for a (what I thought would be) the next generation security camera.

    It was waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1995, and I had decided to take a Media Studies class at school. Amongst other things, we learnt about how video cameras (such as they were back then in the Dark Ages) worked. What I picked up on was how auto-focus worked – infra-red beams hitting targets blah blah. Also, I knew that infra-red could be used to detect movement, as my old grandmama’s house had a security system with infra-red movement sensors. So, I reasoned, what if you put an infra red movement sensor in a security camera? If the camera detected movement, the monitor could show a bright, attention-grabbing filter over the footage. Alternatively, if there was one monitor serving several cameras, vision would only be shown from camera(s) which are detecting movement. This, I reasoned, would be very helpful for a guard viewing a large bank of monitors – they could easily monitor sites where there was movement (ie. stuff was happening) and ignore those where there was none. I thought this would make it easier to detect naughtiness of all kinds.

    I actually did make a feeble attempt to get my idea off the ground. I tried to enlist the help of a genius older brother of a friend of mine to build a prototype for me, but he apparently had better things to do than piss around with his little brother’s friend’s brainfarts. Anyway, so I hit the first hurdle and filed the idea away for later consideration. Actually, I have no idea if such technology existed back then. It possibly did. It’s of no use now, what with today’s cheap and ubiquitous infra-red night vision security cameras which probably detect movement, as well as 20 other things I didn’t think of into the bargain.

    Footnotes to this tale of woe:

    (i) the genius older brother of my friend is now a hardcore electronic engineer – the nerdiest kind of engineer – and making scrillions designing god-knows-what. Curses! He could have definitely built my prototype!

    (ii) if I had have followed through with my idea, my biggest customer probably would have been the British state. I’d have been a billionaire by the time I was 20!

  • James Waterton

    Hrm. Double-negative alert. That should be “Samizdatistically unsound”. Or “unSamizdatistically sound”. Take your pick.

  • Surellin

    Robt. Heinlein invented the waldo and the waterbed and never got around to patenting them either.

    As a child I invented a sausage-cooking device. Pound two nails into a board, wire them up to the house current, impale said sausage on the nails and plug it in. To this day it is the most efficient way to make a sausage explode.

  • Sigivald

    CuteOverload is, unlike YouTube, actually dedicated to “cute furry animals”, both still and video.

    They’ve been around for years now.

    (See also KittenWar, Cats In Sinks, etc.)

  • Kristopher

    Building a GPS into a laptop … specifically using the PCMCIA card slot.

    I couldn’t get some local electronics engineers interested in the idea, and gave it up.

  • John B

    Cool. Very cool!
    What happened to the house current?
    Never tried that but the approach brings back happy memories.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    What I think should be invented, if anyone else wants to try it, is a phone-pouch. We haven’t yet got dick-tracy-type wrist watch phones, so why not a clear plastic pouch that straps to your wrist, so you can carry your current mobile cell phone on your wrist, out of the way, but accessible? Watch on top, phone on the other side?

  • David Gillies

    Web-based email and instant messaging were a couple I came up with in the pub while drunk. Even did a proof-of-concept of the thing next morning (CGI-SMTP gateway and POP3 retrieval) and then forgot about it. This was 1994, so it pre-dated Hotmail.