It Can Be Done!
Editors note: I first penned these words nearly twenty years ago as my inaugural editorial for Inventors World magazine.
At the time I was a young firebrand who believed passionately in these words.
I'm delighted to say that despite the passing of the years, and the addition of a few wrinkles, I still retain that passion.
For this reason I believe that this article has stood the test of time and is worth re-visiting.
I hope you agree.
Welcome to Inventors World, the exciting new magazine designed to celebrate those brave souls who cannot help but look at something and think “There’s got to be a better way to do that”.
We are, without a doubt, a nation of inventors. More than fifty percent of successful inventions since World War Two began life in the UK – a staggering contribution!
Surprisingly, with our long history of innovation, there is always some stuffed-shirt prepared to stand up and say “That’s it, there’s nothing left to invent”. This statement, in various guises, occurs with monotonous regularity. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In this high-tech world of ours it may appear that there is no room for improvement but one has to remember that at any point in history an inventor is in the same situation.
With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to say that an invention was obvious. The great inventions were, in their day, akin to magic. It was Arthur C Clark who said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.
Despite our wonderful achievements we have a long way to go yet! It astonishes me that powered flight is less than a hundred years old (the 100 year anniversary was in 2003). How we have gone from the flights of the Wright Brothers to the Space Shuttle, in such a short space of time, takes my breath away. This example illustrates an important point – the technology embodied in both craft effectively achieves the same end, however they are worlds apart.
The Wright Brothers did not invent the concept of flight, they took the work of glider pioneers and coupled it with existing engines. There is a huge amount of invention in the Space Shuttle but it is largely incremental improvements to what has gone before.
In the sixties, I grew up enthralled with the space programme. At the time, the Apollo moon landing project pushed technology and invention to the limits and I was a ten year old boy when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon’s surface. On that monumental day, glued to the television, I remember being so proud of our ingenuity and inventiveness. Many people thought that surely this was the pinnacle of our technological achievements – we could go no further. Now. Twenty-five (now forty five) years on, if you look at the capsule it seems so, so…well, old fashioned! You find yourself saying “Did they really go up in that thing?”
Technology is the application of scientific discovery. Today we see new discoveries at an ever increasing rate. For example, it has been said that in the last ten years there have been more advances in the field of medicine than in the whole of preceding human history (and this progress shows no sign of abating).
Not only is the rate of discovery and understanding accelerating but our access to this information is improving all the time. With modern computers (another marvel to wonder at) it is possible to obtain information that previously be beyond the reach of most individuals (at this time the Internet and World Wide Web were new toys!). More importantly, it is possible to cross-reference data in strange new ways. We are developing tools which help us to think laterally – the stamp of the genius inventor. Because of this I believe that we are entering a new golden age of invention.
It is also for this reason that I believe that there is still a place for the private inventor. Invention is essentially the art of identifying problems and solving them – anyone can do this. Inventions are not all high-tech items, they run the gamut from the humble paper clip to modern lasers. It can be argued that a private individual has an advantage over commercial R&D as he, or she, brings no ‘baggage’ to the problem solving process. It is this fresh approach which, if properly used, can be a great asset.
So, to all of you who ‘cock a snook’ at the stuffed-shirts and say “It can be done!” I salute you. Inventors World will tell your stories for the entertainment, education and encouragement of us all.
David Wardell 1995 and 2014.