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How searching through patents led to the invention of the magnetic tape drive

Posted by Diego Fonstad
Diego Fonstad
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on Monday, 14 February 2011
in The Mother of Invention

Teachable Moment: The Lemelson-MIT Program on invention focuses on promoting invention but I really like the story of how Lemelson himself invented the mechanism that became ubiquitous in the Sony Walkman because he wanted to devise a better way to search patents. 

From the bio on the web site: "Lemelson first struck on the idea of using magnetic tape to store images when he and his wife were doing a manual search at the United States Patent Office. Frustrated by the daunting task, Lemelson began to think of ways to mechanize the system.

The result was his video filing system, for which he filed a patent application in 1955. The video filing system relied on magnetic or videotape reels to record documents, with the capability of being read from stop-frame images on a television monitor. Lemelson also devised a mechanism to operate the tape, which later became the primary component of audiocassette and videocassette recorders. In 1974, Lemelson licensed his patent for a miniature cassette tape drive to Sony, who later incorporated it into their Sony Walkman®, paving the way for a new generation of portable technologies."

References: http://web.mit.edu/invent/w-lemelsonbio.html

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