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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Journals, Big Ideas, and the Answer to a Trivia Question:

From time to time we discuss Journals and Big Ideas on this blog. This is a brief story about both.

If we had been around on this week in 1877, we might have heard a young journal writer and great thinker announce his first major invention had come “off the pages of his notebook” and into reality. The American inventor Thomas A. Edison announces his invention of the phonograph, a way to record and play back sound.

Edison stumbled on one of his great inventions--the phonograph--while working on a way to record telephone communication at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His work led him to experiment with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, which, to his surprise, played back the short song he had recorded, The first recorded song? (answer below). Public demonstrations of the phonograph made the Yankee inventor world famous, and he was dubbed the "Wizard of Menlo Park."

Edison, who acquired an astounding 1,093 patents in his 84 years, died in 1931.

Today, Thanks to the tireless work of the Thomas A. Edison Papers at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the daily record of Edison's extraordinary life and achievements is coming to light (pardon the pun). There, they have over five million pages of documents chronicling one of the most creative technical innovators in the history of the world.

In addition to being highly creative, Edison also had a lot of other great Knight-like qualities: He was a savvy businessman and shrewd manager with enormous talent for transferring technology from laboratory to market. He designed economic considerations into nearly all of his inventions and recognized the critical role that promotion and hustle play in a product’s success. His insight sets a powerful, instructive model for corporate leaders even today.

So, fellow Knights, What will you invent with your life today?

It's time to get out those Moleskines (or whatever journal you use) and start creating. Be savvy. Be a shrewd manager of resources. Promote and Hustle.

The first recorded song? A) "MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB".

Sir Bowie “off to put an old Harry Chapin album on our phonograph” of Greenbriar


  1. I was just thinking about ole Thomas just the other day when I drove by an old brick Electrical station in Ohio with "EDISON ELECTRIC" painted on it in big white wash letters.

    Without recorded sound, electricity and telecommunications the profession I have chosen to utilize my creativity in wouldn't even exist! Not to mention the choices I make to entertain myself after promoting and hustling all day!

    Ole Thomas is indeed a good role model for using our creative think! He posted a quote in several places in his laboratory from Sir Joshua Reynold's, "There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking." However, in the drink and be merry department Edison would not have fit in very well with us Errant Knights, being how he never liked being merry but always worked and the only thing he was fond of drinking was milk.

    Being a Deist, he would have fit in well with us spiritually. He once said, "Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages."

    Sir Hook I Like to Think But I Need to Drink and Be Merry Too of Warrick

  2. Memo to self...must get a big biography book of Edison out of the Library. He is one of those guys i keep saying i'll read up on and never do.

    Is it true that Henry Ford bought up the Edison building and moved it all to Detroit?? or is that a myth?

  3. I know that there are many Edison Museums and National Historic Sites.

    You might be thinking of Ford's Greenfield Village which Ford named The Edison Institute, after his good friend.

    I think that Edison's Menlo Park lab and the Wright Brother's shop are a couple of building there (out of 100s).

    Sir Bowie