Monday, January 24, 2011

Nothing is invented

'Everything that can be invented has been invented.'
– Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

Poor Charles – not only did he not actually say the above line (or indeed resign from his job because he thought there were no more patents to be made), but he's been quoted as saying it for the past hundred years or so. And mocked for saying it.

I wish he had said it. I would agree with him. Just about everything produced since 1899 has been a development, not an invention.

TV is just a progression from moving photographs; the internet is just an extension of the telegraph wire; CDs and CD players from records and phonographs; computers from adding machines (just look at the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient computer made between 100 and 150 BCE), etc. In fact, just about everything we think is a new invention was probably originally invented in Victorian times or before.

• I've just discovered Google Patents

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