Invented 100 years ago in 1914


1914. A year that resonates across time as almost a living memory, irrespective of the fact that none of us were there. And yet through our families* and our cultures (especially in Europe) we were there.

The War would, by necessity, be the catalyst for a massive surge in invention and innovation. But 1914 offered surprisingly few startling discoveries and inventions. It was a year of quality not quantity. So here are seven of the years most interesting inventions and firsts, the spectre of War of course still dominates.

To begin with, let’s start with the humble Traffic Cone, which was invented in 1914 by Charles P. Rudabaker, made from concrete, for use on the streets of New York. It wasn’t until 1961 that the stackable PVC cones were created (in the UK by David Morgan in Oxford.)

Charlie Chaplin made his film début in February the comedy short Making a Living.

The Panama Canal, the 48 mile ship canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean officially opened on August 15, 1914. It had taken 33 years and cost, in today’s money, nearly $9 billion, shifting 204,900,000 m3  (Over 25 times more earth than in the Channel Tunnel) and had a loss of life of over 5000 people (mainly due to disease).

Fighter Plane

The Vickers FB5 Gunbus

American Frank Shuman invented a process for making two types of Safety Glass: laminated (where two layers of glass are separated by a plastic coating) and wire mesh glass (where a mesh of wire is embedded in the glass). Safety glass was not immediately adopted by car manufacturers, but laminated glass was used in the eyepieces of gas masks during World War I from 1915.

The first Fighter Plane, described as a two-seater aircraft with sufficient lift to carry a machine gun and its operator as well as the pilot (as opposed to an aircraft where the pilot fired a revolver at his enemy), first flew in 1914. The first fighter was the British biplane Vickers F.B.5 Gunbus of 1914. It first flew on 17 July 1914 and was powered by a single 100 hp (75 kW) Gnome Monosoupape nine-cylinder rotary engine driving a two-bladed propeller, capable of 100 mph. It was built with a wooden frame, covered with fabric. A total of 224 were produced, 119 in Britain by Vickers, 99 in France and six in Denmark.

blood transfusion

The first safe, successful blood transfusion

On June 28 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria triggered the war that would become the First World War. The term was first used in September 1914 by the German philosopher Ernst Haeckel, who claimed that “there is no doubt that the course and character of the feared ‘European War’ … will become the first world war in the full sense of the word.” More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilised. 17 million were killed and 20 million were wounded. Dubbed as ‘The war to end all wars’ it became instead the first modern war and led to the invention of almost all of the accruements of death on a massive scale as well as the technology to defend against them.

But the most important invention of the year, that went almost uncelebrated at the time, must be responsible responsible for saving the lives of many millions of people. After the invention of the blood anticoagulant a few years earlier, the first non-direct Blood Transfusion was performed on March 27, 1914 by the Belgian doctor Albert Hustin.

* My Granddad was 18 when he went off to fight at the start of the war.

 

Other articles of interest:

Invented 50 years ago in 1963

Invented 100 years ago in 1913

Invented 100 years ago in 1912

 

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How to spot the real Father Christmas


Father Christmas original historicalOther children had other questions: how does he get around everyone in just one night? how can he carry all those presents? Where does he live (is it the North Pole)? The question I posed as a six year old was a simple one and was perhaps more pertinent: how could he get into our house when we didn’t have a chimney? The answer provided by my Dad was just as simple: he has a magic key. I was satisfied.

But more interestingly than that, I remain satisfied. That answer is more profound that at first glance. Firstly it completely and utterly answers the question. Secondly, although it appears to raise further questions (how does the key work? where did he get it? does it work for all houses?) it renders those questions redundant because their answers are located in the first answer: it is magic. The nature of magic is that it is magic and is therefore indivisible. It is a closed loop that logic cannot break into.

But here’s another question. Pondered by many, but whispered oh so quietly, as perhaps the undesired answer is already known. But let’s ask it openly and attempt to answer it.

Is Father Christmas real?

Real, unreal; these are modern words that polarise a greater truth that exists somewhere in between. But even truth is contextual. In our ever increasing literal world where things must be concrete, they must be pinpointed and we must be certain, do we throw out a closer more relevant truth of unknowing; they grey area of multiple truths all being correct at once? Like Heisenberg, who showed we can’t know both position and momentum, the more we are certain of one, the more the other slips away, so is it with myth.

Myth does not mean ‘untrue’ as dull literalist dogmatics would have you believe. It means ‘very true’ as if there is another dimension to truth, at right angles to all the facts, that makes a myth more true than fact.

In mathematics we use the square root of minus one, called the number i, as the imaginary impossible number. It can’t exist unless you imagine it. (Try it on any literal dogmatic unimaginative calculator if you need proof). And yet, if we include this imaginary number in various equations, it can help solve them. You can’t solve certain quantum mechanics problems without it. These problems are real world ones too, found in electrical engineering and computing. Without the imaginary number you wouldn’t be reading this on a computer.

So is the number i real or unreal? Real or unreal is the wrong question as i exists, even if it is imaginary and it has a real impact on the world. So even though it’s a dumb question, we have to say i is real.

So let’s return to the original question. Is Father Christmas real or unreal? Bear in mind that he is of similar substance to i. He has the same characteristics: he has a real impact on the world; he explains certain phenomena; he is needed to complete certain functions; he is the square root of minus one.

He is by the literal terminology, real.

So where can we find him?

Father Christmas original historicalAny old fat man in a red suit and fake beard is unlikely to be the real thing. A simple test that drawn upon history is this: is he wearing a hooded cloak? If not, and bears a bobble cap instead, he’s a Coke drinking imposter who’s probably in the payola of the neo-capitalist branding conspiracy to brainwash children. It was Haddon Sundblom, who drew the red-suited fat elf for the Coca-Cola company from 1931 to 1964. Sundblom said he was inspired by Swedish tomte, mythical little creatures with red caps and long white beards but his images owe a lot more to Thomas Nast’s 1863 drawing.

The real Father Christmas may not always be dressed in red (sometimes blue, sometimes green) and may have a holly wreath on his head if his hood is not up.

It was the New York Gazette which, in 1773, gave him to joke moniker of St. A Claus (based on the Dutch ‘Sinterklaas’ which became ‘Santa Claus’) a name which even Clement Moore rejected in his 1821 poem, sticking with St. Nicholas, the name of the 3rd century bishop who gave presents to the destitute. It was Moore who popularised reindeer as the preferred mode of transport. Prior to that, Father Christmas would more likely arrive on horseback.

But his origins are more mysterious and ancient. Originally he was the god Saturn, whose festival, Saturania was celebrated on December 23rd in the Greco-Roman world from pre-history to the arrival of Christmas in the fourth century AD. Saturn, now a fallen god, bowed to the greater authority of Jesus and swore to no longer demand child sacrifice. It is an irony that it was originally the children who were gifts for him rather than him bringing gifts to them.

In his new fallen role and new allegiance, Saturn even turned up at the nativity as one of the ‘wise men’ from the East, bearing gifts for the infant Saviour. Thus the pagan festival and the Christian one unite.

So be careful if you stay up late on the night of the 24th, you may just catch a glimpse of an anthropomorphism of one of the few ancient primal forces still left in the world.

Oh, and the answers to those other questions? If you really don’t want to know, look away now.

How can he carry all those presents? He carries only what is needed for each home with each trip.

Where does he live (is it the North Pole)? The North Pole is a literal version of the farthest place we can think of. Nobody ever said what it was the North Pole of…

How does he get around everyone in just one night? He does them all simultaneously. Since the number i can be all it needs to be at once, so can he. It’s also easy that he only needs to be where an imaginator resides and can easily be personified by them, they become him and do his work for him, as him.

Well, you did ask.

More clues here:
http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/xmas/pages/english.htm

and a history here:
http://www.christmasarchives.org/santa.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia

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The wonder of the Short Story


short stories science fiction ghostI’ve always preferred short stories to novels. There are two reasons I think. One is that it’s so exciting to discover the one (or sometimes two) really big ideas that a short story can present that really make you stop and think. The other is that if the story’s boring you can safely skip it and jump onto the next one.

I’ve published my first collection of short stories. My intention is to ask the question, ‘What if?’, to take a situation and give it just one or two big ideas, like an extra twist, at right angles to reality, to make characters twitch and a situation unfold. That, for me, is the essence of science fiction: to make just one or two changes to the universe we know about and see where those changes could lead.

It’s a mixture of science fiction and ghost stories. Much as I love the clichéd paraphernalia of film and television science fiction; the cheeky or dangerous robots, the spaceships, the starships and the bolt cruisers, the bug-eyed monsters and the cyborgs, and as much as I expected myself to, I found I wasn’t really including them in my stories.

It comes in part from the thing that non-science fiction fans hate the most; that the technobabble gets in the way of the story, or is a substitution for it. I know what they mean, and I agree.

Godstow nunneryFor me, in writing these stories, I had the further thought of where my imagination might be sourced. I wanted to make sure my invented worlds were as original and believable as possible and did not want to adopt or ride on the back on any pre-existing science fiction methodology. By that I mean how some authors adopt the short hand or methods of another writer. It’s easy to do, but if I’m going to write about visiting other worlds, I don’t want to rely on hyperdrives or warp drives, teleports or transporters, have evil empires or benevolent federations without good reason, independently arrived at. That’s why most of my stories have to be drawn from something I know something about, which admittedly isn’t that much. Some things are harder to avoid. If you’re writing about robots, you’re going to bump into Asimov who’s already been down that road. If you go to Mars, you’ll probably find Ray Bradbury, and if you start exploring subterranean crypts, H.P. Lovecraft will lock the door behind you.

I first started creating stories in the playground with my friend Barry. Aged eight, we became fascinated by the idea of creating a whole world-view within which to set a franchise of stories (although we’d never use or even know those words), like Flash Gordon, Star Wars and Star Trek. Barry knew about the military, so he added the workings and politics of army know-how. I was interested in spaceship and robot design and we both loved the psychological weirdness of Sapphire and Steel. Together we invented motivated villains and evil races. We concocted a reason how the Earth in the near future could engage in interstellar travel by having a ‘wormhole’ appear in the orbit of Jupiter. (We didn’t call it a wormhole, it was a ‘Time/Space Tunnel or Portal’). The playground stories became comic strips and then written down tales as we became older and the stories more sophisticated. We’d created a structure that, if published today, would seem similar to Star Trek Deep Space Nine, although our vision was created fourteen years earlier.

The WallThe stories I’ve collected in The Voice in the Light are about the thoughts that occupy my conscious and subconscious mind: the nature of dreams, of faith, of history, time, and the nature of light. They’re inspired by the kind of writers I’ve enjoyed, that some might call classic science fiction; Brian Aldiss, John Wyndam, Frank Herbert and Larry Niven, forgotten authors like Paul Capon and more recent deities like Douglas Adams and Philip Pullman.

Some of these stories were written over the last year, some a decade earlier, and a few over twenty-five years ago, although I’m not going to reveal which is which. You can try to guess.

Each story comes with an illustration I’ve done (in pen and ink).

The book is available in paperback and on Kindle at a very reasonably low price.

My only wish is that you enjoy reading the 18 stories as much as I enjoyed writing them, and perhaps one or more of them does make you stop and ponder and think, ‘that’s interesting. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder…’

ink drawingHere’s a description of the kind of stories you’ll find…

• A boy seeks solace from his imaginary friend from another dimension…

• A robotic experiment goes disastrously wrong. But why is a psychic detective called in?

• Imagine being able to create extra time to spend as you wish. What would you do with it?…

• A machine that allows you to ‘see’ into the past…

• In a distant future, our cities are avoided as cursed tombs of a doomed race…

• A student joke with a ouija board unlocks a dark past and a prediction is made as to who will die first…

• A boy enters a secret world to enlist magical creatures to help him do his homework…

Get your copy in paperback or Kindle.

 

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

To listen my radio show show iTunes here. If you enjoy it, please do give us a rating.

Book Ayd to run an Innovation Ideastorm Masterclass in your organisation.

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Are you Extraordinary?


Extraordinary SpeakersI believe what makes us extraordinary, in whatever field we work in, is not the accolades, awards or achievements, but the character, the personality and the way we have coped with adversity in our unique ways.

It’s to this end that a colleague and I have set up a new iTunes radio show called ‘Extraordinary Speakers’.

It’s hosted by me and BBC tv and radio journalist Jeremy Nicholas with a different guest in each show.

It’s full of tips and advice from professional speakers to professional speakers but the anecdotes, stories and tips are relevant for anyone working in a entrepreneurial or expert based business.

I think the show is unique in this field due to its style of a group of speakers late at night in a hotel during a conference swapping stories of gigs around the world.

It’s full of funny, heartwarming and inspirational stories as well as the downright disasters. This is a warts and all look at the world of the speaker. You’ll learn lots and you’ll laugh even more.

One of the questions we posed in the first show was about firsts: What was the first album you bought with your own money?

I put it to you that the one you answer with is not the one you usually say. You usually bend the truth and give a better answer to make you look cool.

So it turns out there are two answers to the question: the one you say, and the real, probably embarrassing one.

It’s true when we ask each other, “how’s business?”. There’s the public relations answer and then there’s the truth.

kwackers

This is our metaphor for the show. We want our guests to give us their real truth to our questions, not the usual self promotional answers which although may make the speaker appear ‘cool’ or successful, it doesn’t help the rest of us, or make for a good show.

We believe that it’s these answers that actually make us extraordinary, not the press release answers, not the one sheet descriptions, not the website copy, but the idiosyncrasies, the failures that led to the major rethinks, the real personality behind the Fonzy-like photo on the business card.

And that’s why I’m telling you that my first LP, spent with my own £2.50 (it was a double album) was well spent in 1976 on the Animal Kwackers.

What about you?

To listen to the show on iTunes click here. If you enjoy it, please do give us a rating.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to run an Innovation Ideastorm Masterclass in your organisation.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

I don’t believe in Experts


expert, thought leader, expert success, entrepreneur revolutionHave you ever met someone who had a particular faith, let’s say an evangelical Christian, or whatever, and then one day, something happened? Perhaps a particular set of incidents conspired to create a new realisation that knocked the legs from under their faith. Suddenly they found themselves no longer believing. Suddenly they had to modify their identity in light of this loss of certainty.It must be devastating and yet liberating. It must be embarrassing and yet empowering. To realise that many of the precepts that your day-to-day life depended on now have no meaning, or a totally different meaning. It must be unnerving and exciting. (Just for the record, it may be a similar process going the other way, from being agnostic to believer in something, I imagine).But I’m not talking about religion here. But the metaphor is apt. The preoccupation I’d like to discuss with you is not organised traditional religion, although it shares may of the motifs of a religion. I have lost faith in the Cult of the Expert.

In my model there are perhaps four types of businesses; those that are so large that they are a system, those that are so small that they are a family and those two that are an individual who operates as either a skilled freelance tradesperson selling action, or as a consultant selling ideas.*

So to make it clear, a large corporate company like Tesco or IBM operates as a system where individuals have their tasks but are unlikely to have overarching big-picture roles and are probably siloed into departments or divisions (let’s call them type A).

A small business like an engineering firm or accountancy company operates as a family as everyone knows everyone (lets call them type B).

A freelance tradesperson is a plumber or graphic designer or even a marketeer or business analyst. They do things for the other two types of businesses (let’s call them type C).

It’s that final category where the ambiguous role exists; the individuals who are ‘Experts’ (type D).

It’s been said, by Malcolm Gladwell, that an Expert can be defined as someone who has done constructive, consistent practice or work in a particular area for around 10,000 hours. (I’ve explored this myth here). The ‘Cult of the Expert’ would use this evidence to label Gladwell as a type D ‘expert’, in light of him having written the book Outliers, as an ‘Expert in Experts’. This is my loss of faith. I say he is not an Expert. He is a journalist and author. His expertise makes him a type C. He may be paid to deliver talks. In that role he is a type C, paid to share his experiences that people may learn from, but more likely he has added a new form of type C to his portfolio, that of an entertainer.

At this point let me explain that I’ve been running my type C business for 12 years. I’ve been selling my services as graphic artist, publisher and professional speaker and trainer in creativity and innovation. Perhaps there was a while when I though I might be a type D Expert. But no, I am not.

I’m proposing that Experts do not exist except in the egos of people who believe they are, or have convinced other people that they are.

If you’re a disciple of the Cult of the Expert, you may not agree at this point, or I may not have explained my thoughts clearly enough. So I’ll try harder.

Let’s imagine you are a dentist. You are not an ‘Expert’, you are a dentist. You are not even an ‘expert dentist’, you are a dentist. You might be a good or not-so-good dentist, but you are still a dentist. Your expertise is dentistry. But you are not an expert.

The Cult of the Expert would claim you are an Expert and should write a book, create a training programme and range of products to sell to others, your followers, who are not Experts, to help them become like you, an Expert. But you are not an Expert, you are a dentist. You either operate in a type B or type C business model.

In other words, to move to type D means that you are actually leaving your expertise behind to become a mediocre trainer, internet marketeer or author. If you excel at any of these new models then you have become a new type C business person; you are now a dentist and an author, trainer or internet marketeer. You have new expertise, but you are still not an Expert.

The Cult of the Expert suggests that expertise exists in isolation from actually doing something. It’s a subtle difference between the person who has expertise in an area that they have practiced and delivered and then also have the expertise to explain and train some element of that expertise or experience. This is the concept of putting a type C business person on a pedestal (or putting themselves on that pedestal) as an ‘Expert’.

Confused? Consider this. A teacher has expertise in a subject and in the teaching of that subject. They are not an Expert, they are a teacher as as such command a certain salary. Likewise a trainer gets paid a market value fee for showing someone how to do something. Then there’s a motivational speaker, who has a story to tell and some experience or expertise to share. They command a certain fee (usually a lot more than a teacher). The fee is often proportional to how famous or how wealthy they are. This is where the Cult of the Expert kicks in. It is in effect similar to the Cult of Celebrity. People will pay more for the Expert because they believe some of their magic celebrity, charisma or money making power will rub off on them.

So if I’m not an Expert, who and what am I? I have experience in a few areas that others don’t and I believe I can explain them well. I deliver my knowledge as a facilitative trainer and as an entertaining speaker. If I was lucky enough to be on tv or to suddenly make a large amount of money (in any field) then I would be a celebrity and could command higher fees. But my new celebrity status would not have increased my experience or knowledge in any way, even though I would the be hailed as an Expert.

Likewise having written a number of books has not increased my expertise in any way but has given the illusion that I am perhaps a Expert in the Cult. But I am not. My books may be interesting, entertaining and educational but they do not add to my expertise (other than I am now an ‘author’). They are marketing tools that promote what I do and what I know. They do not make me an Expert, or to give the Cult its other name, they do not make me a Thought Leader. I do not want to scrabble to compete with other so-called thought leaders to compete with their thoughts to get in ‘the lead’. I have ideas, I may have even thought of something new, something before anyone else has thought of it. That’s nice (but unlikely) and it gives me something new to explain or train. But it doesn’t make me a leader. Neither do I want to have a bunch of disciples, following my so-called thought leadership.

Why am I so against the idea of the Cult (or any ‘cult)? Because having lost faith in the religion of the Cult of the Expert I now believe that it has at its centre an erroneous belief system that is perpetuated by deception. I feel that it has a dark side that sustains it by drawing energy (and money) from its disciples, who, like many religions, are the weakest and most desperate people in any given society or community.

I have woken up to a new dawn in which there are many wonderful talented people with expertise, but there are no Experts. There are plenty of great people who have plenty to say and from who we can learn a great deal, but they should not be worshiped.

In 1970, John Lennon closed his first solo, post-Beatles album with a moving and dramatic song called ‘God’ in which he dismissed everything he had ever believed in and had ever worshiped (including Elvis, Bob Dylan and religious and political figures). In the end he closes with the devastating confession, “I don’t believe in…. Beatles”. In that one line he destroyed the myth that he himself had co-created and that was worshiped by millions. The song ends with, “I just believe in me, Yoko and me. That’s reality”.

The Cult of the Expert is the desire to set up ourselves, or our favorite celebrities, as gods. The world has enough gods already and they don’t seem to do us much good.

As business people or people in business, I believe our role should be to add value, to increase knowledge and understanding for the benefit of ourselves and others in a symbiotic relationship, that benefits the whole. I believe in humility, humanity and the service of others for the greater good.

That belief now rules me out of joining the Cult of the Expert. What about you?

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

* Ok, it’s overly simplistic and there are blurred areas, so feel free to have your own model that’s different. These are my opinions, other opinions are available and encouraged. That is the essence of this article, to think for yourself, but not to conclude those thoughts are better than someone else’s. Just because I’ve lost my faith doesn’t make those that still believe wrong, because that would be an absolute. It’s just that I believe them to be wrong. But just because I believe something doesn’t make it right. I might be wrong thinking that they are wrong. The burden of proof is now on the Experts to prove they exist. 

The story of a long lost friend, found again


Palitoy Talking Dalek

In the attic…

I’ve become obsessed with an idea, or rather a feeling or memory of an emotion. It’s linked directly to an artifact that you probably don’t have the same interest in, let alone have any connection to. But the object isn’t the point of this, the linkages and thoughts that are connected to it are. So for you there may be a similar effect but with a very different artifact. Let’s see.

Five days before my sixth birthday, on Christmas morning, I awoke to find a box in my stocking, left by Father Christmas. It measured 8” x 6” x 6”. It was still dark when my brother and I climbed excitedly into my parent’s bed to open our presents. I unwrapped the box to discover what would be the most treasure toy of my childhood and my most valuable possession until I owned a computer six years later.

I played with the toy constantly until I was around eleven. Then it became an ornament on my windowsill, on display to see every day. Then, when I eventually left home to go to university, never to return, it was packed in a cupboard in a box which a decade later made its way into my loft.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t a fan of Doctor Who. My parents knew I was that Christmas as I opened my presents to reveal The Dr Who Annual 1977 (which I wasn’t capable of reading until a year later) and the joy of joys: a Palitoy Talking Dalek.

Even the box was exciting. It had an illustration of a red Dalek on one side and a silver one on the other side. Mine was silver, with blue spots. There was a little bag in the box that contained the appendages; the eye, gun and sucker-arm. I put it together and put in the two HP7 batteries and pressed the black button on the Dalek’s head. It had four phrases, “Exterminate, Exterminate!”, “What Are Your Orders?”, “You Will Obey!” and “Attack, Attack, Attack!” Later I would discover that these were located on a small vinyl record disc inside the Dalek. David McKiterick took the record out of his bothers Dalek and put one in from a talking doll. So the Dalek said “Mama! Mama!” and some poor unfortunate little girl’s doll said “You Will Obey!”

I made the later, regretful, decision that I didn’t need to keep the Dalek’s box. It got thrown out on Boxing Day. That was the last toy box that I didn’t keep. So with future toys I would be able to keep them in pristine condition, return them to their box and open them up again, re-enacting opening them for the first time. But with my Dalek, the box had gone.

I did see a box, one more time, the following year when we were in Durham’s department store, Doggarts (later to become a branch of Boots). They had Talking Daleks on sale there. I longed to have a red one to compliment mine, but at £5, they were far too expensive. Simon Payne brought his red one to school when we were allowed to bring in a toy one day. I took in some teddy bear. There was no way I was going to risk any damage or loss to my Dalek.

But somehow, even with my due diligence, the sucker-arm was lost. I made a replacement one from a sucker dart from one of those guns that fired suckered darts. I made a replacement arm, gun and eye for Simon Mckiterick’s too. His dad had bought the last Talking Dalek from Doggarts, without the box or appendages. His Dalek didn’t last long, after losing the record, it got totally dismantled. I saw the shoulder section from Sarah Woolfenden’s bedroom window, inexplicably on her garage roof.

The following Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a Doctor Who doll (in the likeness of Tom Baker) and his Tardis, as well as the most prized book of my childhood and beyond; Terry Nation’s Dalek Annual 1978.

It was then that I noticed that something was amiss with my Palitoy Talking Dalek. Namely, it had the wrong number of spots. Looking at the pictures in my Dalek annual it seemed that the number of skirt panels were wrong too. Even though it was, to date, the most accurately reproduced model Dalek, the head was a little too small and squat too. Why did the sucker arm have a central spike and why was it and the eye red? I had suddenly become visual discerning.

The inaccuracy in Doctor Who toys is startling. The Cyberman had a nose. Tom Baker’s face looked exactly like Gareth Hunt from the Avengers (that was because the Tom Baker mould was damaged just before production so they actually did use a Gareth Hunt mould). Later 1980s toys had big errors such as the six-sided Tardis console having five sides, Davros, famous for having just one arm, had two, and the robot dog K9, who everyone could tell you was grey; was green in the toy.

But these things didn’t stop me having fun playing with my Dalek. I painted the eye the correct colours and in 1979 stuck on black stickers on the shoulder slats to match the on-screen look of the Daleks in Destiny of the Daleks.

By 1981 my Dalek would no longer talk. He stood on my windowsill until I went to university  in 1990 and was then packed into a box that sat in a cupboard and then was shipped out to my own house and made it’s way to my loft.

Someone on ebay makes replica arms and boxes. What a crazy and yet genius idea. So now I have the parts to restore my Talking Dalek. But can I get him to talk once again?

I brought him down from the loft, dismantled the mechanism and washed him, taking off the stickers from 1979. His silver grey plastic had a slight golden tinge to it, probably due to exposure to light over the years. The inner mechanism is a tiny record player with a transparent disc that contains the phrases. I cleaned all the parts and removed the dust but nothing happened. I feared the motor had given up the ghost but after attaching the batteries directly to it, it started to spin. It too was probably clogged. I left the battery connected for ten minutes and the motor span faster and faster. Putting the needle back in and assembling the whole thing, I pressed the button.

It was a magic moment as an unearthly voice from the past grated out those famous words. What you need to appreciate is that sound coming from the Talking Dalek is not electronic; we’ve become too familiar with toys that have sampled digital sounds stored on computer chips. This is different. It’s an analogue, organic sound. The whir of the motor and the scratchy, wobbly sound echoing from the tiny disc. The Dalek toy is designed inside as a sound box which echoes and amplifies the sound, reverberating it throughout the inside of the Dalek.

Perhaps that why this was not just my favourite and most treasured toy; it was somehow alive. I wonder how he feels now, working again, being played with again. I wonder how he feels looking up with his red eye into my eyes, to see I’m no longer a five year old boy.

Palitoy Talking Dalek and boxIn February 1977 we sat on my parents bedroom windowsill, looking out into the evening as the snow started to fall. We watched it fall, my Dalek and I. First it covered the black tarmac with a powdery white covering. Within the hour it had hidden all sign of the curb as the pavement and road became a single blanket of white. We watched as the night fell and the street lights came on in the silence that only snow knows. Then it was tea-time. Outside the snow continued to fall and the wind blew drifts over the village.

That’s why there’s a value for me in this adventure. By restoring my Talking Dalek I’ve somehow re-connected, not with a old plastic toy, but with the little boy who used to treasure it. We are the same he and I, separated by a gulf of half a lifetime, of sorrows and joys. I need to remember that we are the same. Whatever trials and tribulations face me today, I owe it to that little boy to not let him down.

I also have children of my own now. There are at the age when they will be forming memories that will define for them their own history of who they are. It’s my job to facilitate and support that process in whatever form it takes. It’s unlikely to be a Talking Dalek that will excite and inspire them. They had fun pushing the button for a while before running off to play some other game.

My Talking Dalek also remind me that we are all unique in our loves, our passions and our journeys. My parents could not have guess the relevance of my Talking Dalek and I may probably never know what memory triggers my own children will find.

So have a think at what connects the dots in your life. Is there an artifact, a sound, a place that connects you to that small child from all those years ago?

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Invented 50 years ago in 1963


As we begin 2013 and we wonder what the year will bring, have a thought for what happened 50 years earlier, in 1963 and consider what a momentous year it was.

There were numerous cultural and artistic milestones, most notably the year marked the beginning of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ with the Beatles first number one single Please Please Me on 22nd February, followed by their first album of the same name, beginning their domination of the singles and album charts for the rest of the decade.

But what inventions were made that year? Was anything invented in 1963 that we still use and perhaps take for granted today? There are actually many more than the ten presented here, but I decided that this selection presents us with an interesting mix that help define 1963 as the dawn of the modern world that we find ourselves in today.

So here are 10 surprising inventions from 1963:

1. The Lava Lamp

Doctor Who and the Daleks lava lamp mathmos

Lava Lamps were seen in the Dalek city in the 1965 film ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’.

The Lava Lamp was invented by British inventor, entrepreneur and eccentric Edward Craven-Walker in 1963 and still manufactured today by his company, Mathmos.

2. The smiley face

The smiley face was invented in 1963 to motivate bored office workers. Harvey Bell was hired by a State Mutual Life Assurance Company to come up with something to make their unhappy employees a little less grumpy. It was originally just the smile, but he realized people could turn it upside down and make a frown, so he added two dots for eyes.

3. Push-button telephone

The first publicly available push-button telephone was released in 1963, by the Bell System. Dials remained the standard method of entering numbers on telephones for another twenty years.

4. Computer mouse

Doug Engelbart invented the computer ‘mouse’ in 1963 in his research lab at SRI International (then Stanford Research Institute), for which the patent was issued in 1970. he basic idea first came to him while sitting in a conference session on computer graphics in 1961. He wondered what would be an efficient and easy way to control a pointer on a graphic display screen. One idea he had was to use small wheels traversing the tabletop, one turning horizontally, one turning vertically, each transmitting their rotation coordinates for analysis. With the wheels mounted in a small wooden box, and a cable connecting the box to the computer, ‘mouse’ was an obvious name for the new device.

5. Instant coffee

Freeze-dried instant coffee was first introduced by Maxwell House in this year.

6. Weight Watchers

Jean Nidetch founded Weight Watchers. Another sign that 1963 was the dawn of our modern world with its wonders and its side effects following post-war austerity.

7. Hypertext

The word “hypertext”, the idea behind a common text based system for linking computer information that led to the internet, was first coined by Ted Nelson in 1963.

8. The Hang-glider

John Dickenson from Australia, invented the modern hang glider.

9. Cassette tapes

They would become the dominant medium for music and computer data in the the 1980s but were first introduced in 1963 (they had been invented the previous year by Philips). Rumour has it that the first four cassette recorders arriving in the UK were given to the Beatles.

10. Doctor Who and the Daleks

The BBC television programme Doctor Who began on 23rd November, the first episode was delayed due to extended news coverage of the assassination of president Kennedy the day before. The first adventure featuring the Daleks began on 21st December.

Many inventions and discoveries, like those here, often take time to catch on, to be fully realised, or in some cases, their significance is not fully known at the time. It reminds us that if we make a discovery, or invent a new product idea or method, we need to try to take that idea as far as we can, to make sure we’re giving it all it needs to make the biggest impact it deserves.

Click here for a similar list of inventions from 1913, 100 years ago and here for inventions from 1912.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

Invented 100 years ago in 1913


Last year, my most popular blog was a short article on a list of inventions from 1912, one hundred years earlier.

Here’s another list, from 1913, of a collection of everyday things that still have importance today.

Some of these were invented by professional experts, some by ordinary people who saw a way to solve an everyday problem. Some of them were not invented by the person who filed the patent at all but that person who did benefited from the massive sales of the invention: they saw that the invention of someone else was not being utilised and took the initiative.

So here are 10 inventions from 1913:

1. The Bra

The first modern brassiere to receive a patent was the one invented in 1913 by a New York socialite, Mary Phelps Jacob.

2. The Parachute

The parachute was invented in 1913 by Austria-Hungary born Stefan Banic, then living in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

3. Ecstasy

The Merck Chemical Company patented a mind-altering drug, N-methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyphenylisopropylamine, or MDMA, what is now know as ecstasy.

The world’s first ever crossword. Click on the image for the clues.

4. Windscreen Wipers

Windscreen wipers were made standard on all motor cars in 1913. They had been invented and patented by Mary Anderson from New York in 1902.

5. The crossword puzzle

The crossword puzzle was invented on December 13, 1913 by Liverpool born newspaperman Arthur Wynne.

6. Modern X-Ray tube

William D. Coolidge invented the Coolidge tube, an X-ray tube with an improved cathode for use in modern X-ray machines that allowed photography of deep anatomy and tumors. Its basic design is still in use today.

7. Geological Time-Scale

The first geologic time scale was proposed in 1913 by the British geologist Arthur Holmes. He was the first person to realise that the Earth was billions of years old and not millions, as had been previously believed.

8. Brillo Pads

Brillo Pads were patented by lawyer Milton B. Loeb who was approached by a costume jewellery maker who had invented a new way to clean aluminium pans which had just become fashionable. Loeb then set up a company to produce this mixture of soap and metal fibres and called it Brillo.

9. Mass production

Henry Ford installed the first ever production factory conveyer belt in his Ford motor car factory in Highland Park, Michigan. It allowed Ford to produce a complete car every two-and-a-half minutes: mass production was born, making cars far quicker and cheaper to produce.

10. Stainless Steel

Harry Brearley was researching ways to stop excessive wear in rifle barrels for the British Army when he discovered that by adding 10% chromium and 8% nickel to an iron carbon mix. It produced a steel with a bright surface finish which did not tarnish or rust.

Have a think about those three ways I mentioned above in which all of us could invent something this year and change the world. Ask yourself:

  • what in your field of expertise could be made better, quicker, cheaper?
  • what ordinary, everyday problem could you see a simple solution to?
  • what idea that already solves a problem have you come across that hasn’t been given the chance it deserves?

By finding an answer to one of those questions we may yet all be inventors.

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

2012 Ding! in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys have prepared a 2012 annual report for my blog.

This year I posted 64 articles, growing the total archive of this blog to 236 posts.

The blog had 41,000 views in 2012. Weird that it was a round number, and that I was 41 in 2012.

I hope you enjoyed reading my musings in 2012 and that you’ll like what I post in 2013 even more.

My most popular blog was:

Invented 100 years ago in 1912

But my favourite was:

The creative secret of the transition


Click here to see more crazy stats… 

Ayd Instone works with people to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation in their lives, and their business.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com

The eradication of doubt


The Creation of Adam Michelangelo Sistine Chapel God and man

Section from ‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.

Most people find it hard to sell themselves. How often have we come across people (including ourselves) who say ‘I can sell someone/something else, but when it comes to selling myself I can’t do it’. When the spotlight is forced on them by themselves, they’re riddled with self-doubt and lack confidence in themselves and their abilities. It’s interesting to notice what kind of people do find it easy to sell themselves compared with those who don’t, and what it is about themselves that they are actually able to promote.

So why is this and what can we do about it?

In my experience, the main category of people who struggle to sell themselves are the many different types of artists: painters, musicians, designers, dancers, performers and writers, and the thing they struggle selling is their art.

The main category of people who are able to sell themselves don’t have a particular name so let’s call them ‘salespeople’. They have in common a projectable self-belief that is not connected to any product, artifact or art that they have made, but is linked to confidence in something external and/or their ability to deliver a potential service in the future.

So now we can see a clearer difference. The ‘artists’ judge themselves and their self-worth on what they have created in the past, their ‘art’, which as time goes on, has less and less value in their eyes. They then project this lack of self worth, index linked to their fading glories or past failures, into the future. This pressure lowers self confidence in their abilities so much that they fail to be able to communicate the value of their work and fail to sell (or even pick up the phone or knock on the door).

The ‘salesperson’ does not really care about the past. They communicate with people in the present about the future. Their self-belief is index linked to an ideal service they may deliver in the future. This creates an unlimited potential in the future which builds confidence, enabling the person to sell their services.

So in part it’s a difference between products and services. A product already exists and can be judged, but a service has yet to be delivered so might well be perfect.

But there’s something more than that. The product that the artist is talking back is intrinsically linked to them. The salesperson may be able to easily sell someone else’s product precisely because it exists and is tangible. It exists to the salesperson in isolation and therefore can be linked to their own confidence about their own ability to communicate its benefits as a service.

The artist who created the product can’t do this because the product is too close to them, it is still part of them. The very fact that they are an artist means that their own feelings and emotions went into the creation of the art. This is unlike a bricklayer creating a wall to a set plan, possibly laid down by someone else. They might put their all into the construction, and may even be able to describe themselves as a highly skilled artisan or craftsperson,  but when finished, the wall is not art and not linked to the individual in the same way as art. Instead, it’s the product of a service rendered.

So for the artist to sell themselves and their art they have a few stark choices. One is to portray their art as a future service. This is how successful designers learn to think. The other way is to portray their art as products. This is how successful painters learn to think.

But there is another thing to consider and that is the power of a team mind. Obviously it’s easier to sell your product or service when you have a real physical team of people supporting and working with you. But when you’re on your own there is a secret way of being a team too.

Our consciousness gives us the benefit of an internal voice, the voice in our head. It lets us weigh up options and figure things out. It works as a stream of a conversation in which we are both the speaker and the listener. Many people have tried to investigate how and why this works. It’s related to the fact that we actually have two brains, two hemispheres. We often call them ‘right’ and ‘left’ and relation them to the different world views of abstract visual emotional concepts (right side) and logical sequential verbal mechanics (left side).

Another model that takes these basic concepts further is to think of one of our brains (the active dogmatic left side) as the Apprentice or Emissary and the other as the master (the unconscious holistic right side). The conversations we have, happen between these two beings, the Master and the Emissary.

A route to self confidence can begin by accepting this model and listening to the voice of the Master, who always has your best interests at heart, and allowing him/her to guide you to the best decisions. Now you’re working as a team. You’re also creating your art as a team, having internal conversations as a team. Many artists describe the creative process as a collaboration between a part of them carrying out the physical art and another part giving the instruction, often externalised, sometimes described as divine instruction, coming to them. John Lennon described his songwriting process as him as an antenna, picking up signals from a higher source.

If we, as artists, accept this model we may well just find that our internal team will also support us in the selling of our products and services, which, now, are not only our sole and lonely creation. Plus, safe in the knowledge that our Master will not let us down, we can rely on him/her in the future too, so can base our self confidence on that certainty.

This, I believe, is the secret to the curse that stops us selling ourselves and our art. This is the secret to the eradication of doubt.

For more on these ideas, read this excellent book: The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist.

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

For more interesting info see: www.aydinstone.com