Chester Carlson's working career began
early in life, as he became his family's main provider before he
started high school. A few years later, Carlson was working as a
patent clerk for Bell Labs in New York when inspiration struck.
Tired of having to manually retype
patent descriptions and redraw patent drawings whenever copies were
needed, he set out to devise a method of making photocopies. Carlson
patented his method in 1937. It took 22 years for him to become an
overnight success, after teaming up with a small paper manufacturing
company named Haloid. The product became known as the Model 914, and
Haloid soon changed its name to Xerox.
Where would some of America's
largest office products companies like Staples and Kinko's be
without Chester Carlson's invention? They would be nonexistent.
Despite all of Carlson's success, he
was rejected at first.
IBM, Kodak, General Electric and
nearly 20 other companies rejected his idea.
The precursor to Monopoly was a 1904
game called "The Landlord's Game," which taught people the
unfairness of realty and tax systems. Soon people were customizing
the game to reflect their own neighborhoods. After Charles Darrow of
Germantown, Pa., played one of these games at a friend's house, he
changed the game to what became Monopoly and began manufacturing the
games himself and selling them for $4 apiece.
Despite all of Darrow's success, he
was rejected at first.
Parker Brothers rejected it in a big
way, citing 52 fundamental flaws. So Darrow did what any determined
inventor would do -- he continued selling the game himself. When
Parker Brothers saw the success he was having during the Christmas
season of 1934, they agreed to buy the rights from him.
North Carolina native Caleb Bradham
created Pepsi in 1893, although it wasn't originally called Pepsi.
He named it after himself and called it "Brad's Drink." He poured a
sample of his mixture into a beaker and gave it to his assistant to
taste it. When Bradham saw his assistant's face light up upon
tasting it, he knew he had created a winner. He later renamed
it Pepsi Cola, after its two main ingredients: pepsin and the cola
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in this article]
Pepsi Cola was successful until
sugar prices went bad in 1923. Eight years later, the Loft Candy
Company purchased a bankrupt Pepsi Cola Company.
Despite all of Pepsi's early
success, it was rejected at first.
When the Loft Candy Company
struggled with Pepsi just like its founder did, they offered to sell
it to Coca-Cola. Unfortunately for Coca-Cola, they rejected it
without even making a bid.
So the common theme here is… ?
That's right; each invention was
rejected before the world figured out what a great invention it was.
You can't really blame the companies
that rejected them, though. Chester Carlson's Xerox technology, with
terms like "electrostatics" and "photoconductivity," was so new and
so different from anything that had ever been created that no one
else understood it.
Monopoly made Charles Darrow the
world's first millionaire board game inventor, even though he wasn't
the person who designed the original version of the game.
Pepsi, on the other hand, was just
one of many cola companies of that era, and its early bankruptcy
made it less than an ideal prospect.
From the Department of Useless
Trivia, Pepsi spawned the first advertising jingle in history.
Called "Nickel Nickel," it referred to both the quantity and the
price. The jingle then became a hit record.
Who was it who made the quote at the
beginning of this column?
Former IBM chairman Thomas Watson,
in 1943. And despite all of his success, his comment was rejected at
Invention Mysteries is written each week by Paul Niemann. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2004