Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Edison: innovator or not?

While the New York Times made the interesting (and questionable) assertion that Edison had never shown a talent for strategy, and he did not give the subject close study, NBC News on March 14 was quoting Jack Stanley: "Innovation is what Edison was all about."

In the Roger O'Neil piece titled "Is America ready to change its light bulbs?," NBC placed the invention of the lightbulb at the year 1879 when it said in 2007: It's lit our way for 128 years, but an alliance of businesses, energy experts and environmentalists on Wednesday said it's time to dim old Tom Edison's incandescent light bulb and switch by 2016 to a brighter future — to energy efficient fluorescents, halogens and LEDs.

IPBiz notes that in 1879 (the year Edison's basic lightbulb patent application was FILED), Edison had NOT figured out the use of bamboo and carbonized bamboo filaments, so that THERE WAS NO COMMERCIAL EMBODIMENT OF THE EDISON LIGHT BULB IN 1879. There is no disclosure of bamboo in Edison's 1879 patent application.

Of innovation, IPBiz has commented that Edison's light bulb/electric power infrastructure was more about innovation than about pioneering invention. Edison definitely saw the "big picture." However, Edison foresaw a world with DC, rather than AC, and wasted a lot of resources denigrating AC, to no avail. Edison foresaw a vastly changed world, but not quite the world that materialized.

Of the phonograph, Edison was more the step-out inventor (than with the light bulb), but perhaps lost the innovation wars, much later in time, to the Victrola.


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