Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thanks Bill Gates, for Inventing the Computer

Ask people who invented the light bulb and most will reply with the name of Thomas Edison. It has been forgotten that Edison actually made a living buying patents from other inventors. The gas bulb / carbon filament design was invented by Canadians and sold to Edison who commercialized it. There were also electric light bulbs being designed with varying degrees of success by dozens of other people over a century before Edison even came on the scene.

Many people and most Americans think that Henry Ford invented the car. Not even close. He fought for 8 years all the way to the supreme court to avoid paying royalties on a patent owned by George Selden. There are dozens of automakers of note before Ford but his innovations in mass production techniques helped him to sell millions of cars.

Guglielmo Marconi's reputation has coasted for decades on the adulation for being the person who invented Radio but only now Nikola Tesla and others are starting to get their due in popular culture.

Through self-promotion, guile, or sheer momentum, combined with a popular laziness for historical understanding, the people who eventually win over a technology market often come to be considered the inventors of that technology. So it is not that surprising for me to have had been engaged in conversations in which Bill Gates was praised for inventing separately the computer as well as the internet.

I'm hoping this one won't stick. Perhaps the very nature of computing technology will preclude this. One of the benefits of this technology is that it allows for dissenting opinions to be aired and permanent records to be kept. One need only search the internets to find that Bill Gates did not, I repeat did not invent the computer. This technology also gives hope to the legacies of the thousands of forgotten pioneers who's reputations were overshadowed by more entrepreneurial self-promoters like Edison, Ford, Marconi and Gates.


Lisa said...

Right. Everybody knows it was Al Gore who invented the internets.

JakeJakob said...

Poor Al Gore.