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Now Why Didn't I Think Of That?

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

The DriveWrite Archives

Now Why Didn't I Think Of That?

Geoff Maxted
September 29, 2013

Motorway Reflectors
In 1934 a chap called Percy Shaw realised, only after they had been removed, that he had been using the reflective nature of metal tram lines to help him navigate a road at night. He took the original idea of the reflective lens, invented six years earlier for another purpose by Richard Murray, and the cats eye was born. There is still a company bearing Percy’s name today. Oh, to be an inventor.

Some years ago the writer Bill Bryson stated, “… you could stand me on a beach until the end of time and never would it occur to me to make it into windows”. Yes, that’s right, somewhere in the depths of history someone had a light bulb moment - amazingly before the invention of the light bulb - and deduced that if they superheated some silica sand, maybe mixed with a little potash, they could make something that was both hard and translucent and call it glass.

Over the many centuries some thoughtful, clever and industrious people have come up with genius ideas. As you are reading this you probably like cars. Well, for the first vehicle in the sense of the modern automobile as we know it, you’ve got to thank one Karl Benz - and look what happened to him; and that Henry Ford chap. How come Percy Shaw saw the benefits of a demarcation line on a two way road and the rest of us didn’t? Most of the products we buy had to be invented by someone. Where would the world be without WD-40 eh? My house and car would probably fall apart without that and superglue. How much would we enjoy our Sunday morning car cleaning ritual if we didn’t have dirt shifting shampoos and power washers and blokes with car-wash trolleys in supermarket car parks?

Let’s face it, these things aren’t rocket science and yet most people cannot even think of the way to make a better mousetrap. Names that are synonymous with products are littered through the simple everyday things we have around the house - Hoover, Biro, Tupperware, Dyson - yet not one of them is traceable back to you or me. Why is this? Many of us can fix things; some of us can even make things, so why isn’t there a totally unique item with our name on or behind it? No doubt somebody - not us - will come up with the reason why, write a best seller and rake in the proceeds!

In a press article some while back an Audi owner bemoaned the fact that his in-car media screen had lost its anti-glare surface. He was allegedly quoted £1000 by his Audi dealer to put it right, presumably by fitting a new unit. He was subsequently informed that there existed a protection film, specifically available in lots of shapes and sizes to suit many different vehicles, including the Audi, which would do the job without detriment to the colour tones or performance of the screen and was available for around twelve quid. Someone, somewhere, came up with this idea and is probably now well on the way to becoming a millionaire. Now why didn’t I think of that?

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