Digital Music Is Set Free – Forbes

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This week’s milestones in the history of technology include the theory of the Internet, Thomas Edison’s first patent, transmitting speech on a beam of light, and Napster letting people share music on the Internet.

May 31, 1961

Leonard Kleinrock submits his PhD thesis proposal at MIT, “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets,” establishing, in his words, “the underlying principles of data networks that are the basis of the Internet.” From the citation for the most recent award Kleinrock has received, the Dan David Prize: “Leonard Kleinrock has made seminal research contributions in communication networks, establishing the fundamental principles upon which many of the most important aspects of computer networking and information communications are based. He developed the key mathematical background to packet switching, the fundamental building block of the Internet. Furthermore, his theoretical work on hierarchical routing is now critical to the operation of today’s world-wide Internet.”

June 1, 1869

Thomas Edison of Boston, Massachusetts, is granted his first patent (US No. 90,646) for an “electrographic vote recorder.” Edison wrote in his patent application: “The object of my invention is to produce an apparatus which records and registers in an instant—and with great accuracy—the votes of legislative bodies, thus avoiding loss of valuable time consumed in counting and registering the votes and names, as done in the usual manner.”

A fellow telegrapher named Dewitt Roberts, we learn at The Thomas A. Edison Papers Project, bought an interest in the invention for $100 and took it to Washington, D.C. to exhibit to a committee of Congress. The chairman of the committee, unimpressed with the speed with which the instrument could record votes, told him that “if there is any invention on earth that we don’t want down here, that is it.” The slow pace of roll call voting in Congress and other legislatures enabled members to filibuster legislation or convince others to change their votes. Edison’s vote recorder was never used.

Edison went on to hold 1,093 U.S. patents, many of them commercially successful, such as the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the alkaline storage battery.  In 1929, Edison said: “None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Two years later, inventor and former employee Nikola Tesla had this to say (in the New York Times) the day after Edison died: “If he had a needle to find in a haystack he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be, but would proceed at once, with the feverish diligence of a bee, to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. … I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety percent of his labor.”

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