Category Archives: Innovation

Yesterday’s Futures of Work

A number of this week’s milestones in the history of technology connect accidental inventors and the impact of their inventions on work and workers. On March 11, 1811, the first Luddite attack in which knitting frames were actually smashed occurred in … Continue reading

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A Brief Visual History of American Innovations

    In a series of papers studying the history of American innovation, Packalen and Bhattacharya indexed every one-word, two-word, and three-word phrase that appeared in more than 4 million patent texts in the last 175 years. To focus their … Continue reading

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Debugging the Origin of the Term “Bug”

Alexander Magoun and Paul Israel write in The Institute: The use of “bug” to describe a flaw in the design or operation of a technical system dates back to Thomas Edison. He coined the phrase 140 years ago to describe … Continue reading

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Bob Metcalfe Gave Birth to the Ethernet 40 Years Ago

Forty years ago today (May 22, 1973), twenty-seven-year-old Bob Metcalfe turned on his IBM Selectric, “pulled out a wad of Ko-Rec-Type, snapped on an Orator ball, and banged out the memo inventing Ethernet,” as he recalled in Internet Collapses, at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center … Continue reading

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What’s the Greatest Invention of the 20th Century?

Today in 1827, English pharmacist John Walker sold the first friction matches, which he called “Friction Light,” from his pharmacy in Stockton on Tees. The previous year, Walker discovered through lucky accident that a stick coated with chemicals burst into flame when scraped across … Continue reading

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Phototransistor Invented

Today in 1950, the invention of the phototransistor was announced by Bell Telephone Laboratories.  This was a transistor operated by light rather than electric current, invented by Dr. John Northrup Shive. Last year,, Bob Metcalfe reviewed a new history of Bell Labs, The Idea … Continue reading

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The Homebrew Club and the Birth of Apple

Today in 1975, the Homebrew Computer Club met for the first time. Wikipedia: “Several very high-profile hackers and IT entrepreneurs emerged from its ranks, including the founders of Apple Inc. The short-lived newsletter they published was instrumental in creating the technological … Continue reading

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