Edison's Vote Recorder

When we think about innovation we think about what we can do to create something new and exciting and hopefully helpful.  But let’s take a look at the other side, how does the innovation look from the side of the consumer or the user?  Edison had experience with this early in his career.  His first patented invention was for an electric vote tabulator.  He was very proud of his invention, but it was never a commercial success.  Why did it not succeed?  Look at this invention from the point of view of the elected officials.  The tabulator would create a record of their votes.  What politician wants this type of accountability?  From this experience Edison decided that he would only make inventions that people would use.

I can remember the first phone I purchased that had the ability to access the internet.  I am sure that the engineer who put this feature on the phone thought this would be innovative, but it was not as useful or beneficial as he thought it would be.  Take a look at this phone on the right, my first internet phone.  I had access to the internet but it was anything but cool or innovative.  It was incredibly slow and expensive.  The cost of the data plan was more than I currently pay for my smart phone.  Also the screen was ridiculously small.  Two quarters covered the entire screen.  And if you tried to read an email, assuming you had not fallen asleep by the time it was downloaded, it was a complete mess.  I tried to play games, but you needed a magnifying glass to see Pac Man.  (I did love this simple phone.   It was small and had great reception.  It was a good solid phone.  I miss the ability to put your phone in your pocket, sit on it, drop it, and not worry about it).

Now compare this with the current range of smart phones.  It has some of the same features, on paper, as my small phone, but now it is a product that can be used.  Also on the older phones  (should we say not smart phones) apps were not even an option.  Today, it is the applications that make the phones so valuable.  In many ways the basic technology has not changed between my early phone and my current phone, but people found a way to make this technology helpful for the user.  That is where innovation actually takes place, changes and improvements that can be used and enjoyed.  So the next time you’re working on a project step to the other side and see how this can really be used.  You will be glad that you did.

To visit an interesting quiz on great and not so great inventions click here.