Is the US a nation of inventors? Does anyone catalog how many new inventions are produced by each country, each year?
I know there are websites that track new Patent filings, but many Patents are filed which never turn into products. So that is not a good measure for what I’m talking about.
Is the US the home of more new products and technology than any other place in the world?
Really. Think about it. The first computer was built in 1946 at the University of Pennsylvania. It cost $500,000 (estimated at $6mil in present value). It took several people to operate and rarely stayed on more that 2 days at a time without failure. The first CNC for metal cutting was created a few short years later with dramatic improvement in the size and cost of the computer hardware needed to implement multi-axis machine control.
The transistor was invented by William Shockley, Brattain at Bell Labs in 1949 made a practical solid state electronic device that could easily replace the vacuum tube in switching and control applications at a tiny fraction of the size, cost and energy consumption. Discrete logic and semiconducting became widespread as the need for computers in the research community and defense applications were in high demand.
The integrated circuit was invented by Jack Kilby at TI in 1958. This was the beginning of the calculator as an inexpensive staple product in American culture, and shortly, worldwide. The calculator became so pervasive and costs fell to the point that where calculators were previously outlawed in engineering schools, they became required for business degrees just a few short years later. Computing power of a pocket calculator of the day was probably close to that of the original Eniac which took up an entire building.
Video cameras, video surveillance, video tape recording, the cathode ray tube for display of video information, the vinyl record audio recording, audio tape recordings, cassette tapes (although some may argue that Phillips in the Netherlands held the original patent for the cassette format), the vacuum tube, the CD, the CNC for metal cutting, are all American inventions. The entire electronics industry was started in the US, silicon growing, wafer processing, computers, hard disk drives, flat panel display technology. All representing huge technological innovation.
We may have invented it, but a large part of the industries that were born here has gone offshore to other countries who either bought licenses or subcontracted the manufacture of products and technology and gradually improved it or lowered the cost to the point where they got ahead of the US. It’s a complicated history, and this short post doesn’t give room (or time) to justice to the subject. But my gut instinct, nationalistic bias included, is that we are a nation with a large proportion of inventive, resourceful people.
We need to recognize it, embrace it, and do business like we know what we’re doing. Government policies notwithstanding.
Filed Under: Mechatronic Tips, Electronics • electrical, Vision • machine vision • cameras + lenses • frame grabbers • optical filters