Home > Uncategorized > I Wish I Were Six Again; Innovation Angst Didn’t Suck Then.

I Wish I Were Six Again; Innovation Angst Didn’t Suck Then.

I want tell you a little secret.  I want to be the next Ron Popeil.  I don’t care to be the first, just the first to realize a vision regarding something I verbalize.  I think I actually have a reasonable track record to warrant my lofty aspirations:

*When I was six growing up on a sheep farm in New Zealand, I grabbed an air mail envelope, drew a picture accompanied by some text and sent it off addressed to some generic address at the Pentagon in the U.S.  The drawing was an idea I had for what is now called a Thrust Vectoring Nozzle on jet aircraft.  I also paired that with oil injection into the manifold to produce enormous amounts of black smoke  to enable evasive action.  I figured I’d go for a two-fer.

* When I was 17 I wrote a similar letter complete with diagrams to Shimano because I was so damned tired of the crappy braking system on my off-road bicycle and suggested a hub-centric disk brake system for bicycles.

* In 1996, after forming my first startup and angel funding, my father-in-law and I architected an ASIC-based firewall appliance that would run Check Point firewall-1 code (ported) to a platform that had no OS and provided extremely high levels of performance with offload NPU’s and high-speed memory for state-table synchronization in clusters.  We took it to Check Point. They laughed.  6 months later they did a deal with Ascom Timeplex…

* In 2001 I built a prototype of an, um, entertainment system that involved 3D goggles, VRML, a nintendo power glove and, er, adult entertainment via a network-based  pay-per-play service

* Oh, the hits just-a-kept-on-comin’…

Somewhere between then and now, despite helping raise millions in VC funding for other people’s ideas, I stopped verbalizing my own and that makes me sad.

Where and when I can, I’m going to verbalize some of the ideas buried in my brain.  I have hundreds of them.  One day I hope one of them make someone else say “HEY! I thought of that!”  I’m an idea guy.  I want a T-Shirt that says that.

You have anything you’ve “invented” that’s showed up sometime later?


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  1. July 15th, 2009 at 18:59 | #1

    I truly get the ||rle thought it happens everyday to me rediscovering my thoughts/ideas through other people :-) for example I have been thinking of this since I was introduced to online world of phishing and virtulization say since 2006 of making secure transactions using a sandbox vm and I see this paper by guys from Parc labs( (http://www.parc.com/publication/1932/practical-uses-of-virtual-machines-for-protection-of-sensitive-user-data.html) ) and symantec goes one step furthur implementing it .. (http://www.itworld.com/security/60758/symantec-gets-good-vibes-virtualized-browser)leaves me a feeling of "been there done that mode"

    /me Fail :-)


  2. July 15th, 2009 at 23:08 | #2

    I've got a friend from WV who, in the mid 80s, created a tape adapter without ever seeing one. I figure they existed before he made his, but still pretty neat.

  3. July 15th, 2009 at 23:58 | #3

    In 1995 I argued with my brother-in-law that his person-to-person sales business would move to the web. He laughed. You can see what happened here: quixtar.com

    In 1998 I predicted that Google Beta with a simple box in the middle of a mostly blank page would be the next big thing. All my friends who used Yahoo laughed. Everyone knew that portals were the futiure.

    I get it. I'm an idea guy too. Just don't do much with them.

    One more idea. DVD and BlueRay are still born. The future of HD video delivery is broadband and SD card (supermarket kiosks, bring your own 8GB card or rent one for an extra $2). I predict we'll be able to watch a movie in the comfort of our home theatre the same week a movie is release in the theatres. And we'll pay more for the privelege.

  4. July 16th, 2009 at 00:41 | #4

    True Story.

    In 1994 when I was working at the UN IAEA in Austria (and we all had Internet addressable IPs and no one knew what a firewall was, oh it was good to be naive) the web was just starting to get some attention and had me pretty excited. I had installed NCSA HTTPd and was running a web site for a few months when it dawned on me: We could use this web thing to share documents and ideas around the office, not just with total strangers on the Internet. I created a bunch of pages with links to all our internal documents and all sorts of other useful information for our users and our group and showed it to my boss and a few others. I called it the "Internal Internet".

    Everyone I showed it to however responded by saying "Why would we ever want to do that? Isn't it easier if I just call you instead to get that info?"


  5. EY
    July 16th, 2009 at 02:15 | #5

    Spouse and I generally have trouble deciding on a place for dinner. "Chinese?" "No, I had Chinese last week; besides, you don't like my favorite place." "Pizza? No, I'm pizza-ed out." It generally goes on like that for some time. We jokingly decided that we should create the Wheel of Dinner that you'd spin when a conversation like this got stuck in stall mode and we'd place our dinner in the hands of Fate. No matter where it landed, no matter if you had that for lunch or were being wishy-washy, that's where we'd go. We had the idea some 10+ years ago, but we never did build our creation.

    One day, I'm talking to a friend about it (as we're trying to solve our own meal dilemma) and he says "Oh, yeah, there's an iPhone app for that". Of course there is. Grrrr.

  6. July 16th, 2009 at 03:02 | #6

    In the late 80's I designed and built a sort of 'distributed network computing' batch processing system that allowed a stack of 'n' 286's to share the workload of the non-multitasking DOS computers that our registrars and business offices used for student records, finance, purchasing, etc.

    Example: the registrar needed to print a transcript, but that took 2 minutes, (these were 286's and 386's on Arcnet) and because DOS couldn't multitask, the registrar couldn't do anything else for 2 minutes. The system I wrote had the registrars desktop check to see if there were any 'workers' available, if so, it would offload the transcript to a job queue. One of the stack of 'worker' 286's would grab the job, run it, and dump the output to someplace useful (like a printer).

    It could have any reasonable number of workers, so during busy times, (semester start/end) we added 'worker' PC's as necessary to handle the load, and we'd remove workers and return them to the classroom/lab after the peak tapered off.

    The whole thing, including the student records, grading, finance and purchasing system, was written in (don't laugh….) Borland Paradox. The job queue was a single table. The user computers would insert jobs into the table and Paradox's built in record locking was used to keep the 'workers' from stomping on each other.

    But then QEMM386 came along and made it all irrelevant.

  7. Andrew Yeomans
    July 16th, 2009 at 03:13 | #7

    Chris, I know the feeling. Seems to be quite a common occurrence, for example the stories of the near-simultaneous invention of the telephone and light-bulb.

    My most visible pre-invention is of Google PageRank – you can check out my patent, assigned to IBM, number GB2331166 (filed Nov 1997) = US6182065 (Apr 1998) which pre-dates Larry Page's US6285999 (Jan 1998). [Use gb.espacenet.com or your favourite patent engine to see the full text.]

  8. windexh8er
    July 16th, 2009 at 03:32 | #8

    @Khürt Williams

    Sounds more like visionary than "ideas guy". :) Maybe you should be (are?) an analyst?

  9. July 17th, 2009 at 10:20 | #9

    I loved throwing rocks as a kid. So much so, after all vacant house windows were gone, I wondered how I could actually make a living at it. Me and my pet rock sat there together and pondered the notion. Nothing ever came me…

  10. Lou Steinberg
    July 20th, 2009 at 17:37 | #10

    A couple of ideas I wished I'd run with in my youth.

    First was at the age of 7 when I too wrote the DoD with an idea, using electromagnetism to disrupt communications systems. Still have the form letter they sent back. Lots of patents out there now. It was unique enough that someone used the concept to build a hearing aid jammer pointed at a crotchety history teacher in my middle school. They never found the guy ;-)

    Second was around 1988, when I was working on the NSFNet backbone for IBM. I was an SGMP (yup, there was such a thing before SNMP) and SNMP guy. I needed a way to remotely monitor stats on our NSS nodes when they, um, "misbehaved". I put a token ring card in promiscuous mode, captured packets, and instrumented the results via SNMP. Later added ethernet, but the Internet backbone routers post Darpanet used token ring…hey, it was IBM. Called it the Layer One Monitor. IBM wanted to productize it, DOE wanted to buy it, but IBM had different divisions responsible for LANs and SNMP.

    I heard product people say things like: "does it need to speak SNMP?" and "does it need to actually capture traffic?" My favorite was "your product would be great if it stopped trying to meet a market need and aligned itself with IBM's org structure". In disgust, I got approval to share the code with folks like UB and Proteon. A year later, the RMON industry took off.

    Third big idea was to predict network failures based on emergence properties in complex systems. Left IBM and started a company to go after that! A couple of more since then, including the one that forms the basis of my current (risk management) company.

    The difference between an "ideas guy" and a founder is one bad day at work.

  11. July 22nd, 2009 at 11:54 | #11

    I've been a proprietary software guy all my life, and I'm just reading 'The Success of Open Source'. I haven't finished. But I also worked at Xerox Systems Group in the 80s. Isn't the GPL and all that supposed to immunize against the loss of intellectual property? Isn't that the whole big idea? Or do we still live in a world where brains are a cheap commodity and the guy with the biggest attorney wins?

    It has always seemed to me that the coolest place in the world to work, where ideas count would be the CIA or NSA, because as I understand it they have license, by law, to reverse engineer any damned thing they please. The guys who work in their basement can put together all of the super devices they please with no concern about patent infringement. Now of course you never get to make any money or share 'your' idea with the world, but…

    Growing up at Xerox, I completely understood e-commerce in 1986. A buddy of mine and I came up with a supply chain style analysis for health care provision efficiency back in 2000. As far as I know such a thing still doesn't exist. I've also got about six different ideas for multitouch systems applications that have not, as far as I could possibly know, seen the light of day.

    I think the world is full of too many literate and intelligent people for our ideas to be monetized. What's needed(?) is something superior to VC financing. Which is to say, there are always a surfeit of good, new ideas, but grave inefficiencies in the resolving the distribution of money and infrastructure suitable for their commercial development. Not to mention sufficient interest in a consuming public, or well-endowed potentate. The wheel is reinvented precisely because you need an automobile to tell people two valleys away that you're inventing the wheel. It's not as if the distribution of brains is so varied.

  12. Andrew Yeomans
    August 12th, 2009 at 00:09 | #12
  13. May 13th, 2011 at 06:26 | #13

    Post MP3, but pre-"iPod", I designed a car audio system to eliminate the need for CDs. It was voice controlled, relational database for searching and tagging at your moods/whims. It needed a ruggedized HardDrive (at the time) – given extreme heat and cold cars face. It could either rip the CD from a single insertion in the CD player – or take USB – or synch over wifi from your driveway to home PC.

    iPods and cars eventually obviated the cool scheme, but my friends and family always remind me "Hey, my car now does what you told me about in 1999 or 2000"

    The only things iPod and the cars haven't yet done was my "Mood" and "stream of consciousness navigation"

    "Mood" I think you should be able to designate a song by "mood" – i.e. This is an ANGRY song for when I want to get my blood pumping – or a MELLOW one for when I want to quiet myself. I do this less easily/elegantly/comprehensively with separate manual playlists… E.g. ANGRY: NIN, TOOL, Korn…

    The "Stream of consciousness" feature was… Let's say you're listening to a playlist, and a Pearl Jam sing comes up from the Singles Soundtrack… You remember that Screaming Trees song is there too, so you want to PIVOT to the Soundtrack to play that ONE song… then Pivot back (or then pivot to another place from there)" Today you can manually stop the playlist, lose the progress, and go find it. I wanted to pivot forward or backward in the playlist and tangents — without losing my playlist progression – if I didn't want to.

  14. May 13th, 2011 at 06:38 | #14

    oh… also, when I was 10, I tried to make a perpetual motion device using angled magnets on the casing rig propelling radial arms in a hub and spoke configuration. My Grandfather (an actual rocket scientist) was half torn between supporting my efforts and telling me it wouldn't work. It didn't work, but I did do several iterations and adaptations to overcome each new issue…

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