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Published March 13, 2009, 09:47 PM

Dreaming of a robot snowblower - the next city invention

WORTHINGTON — Spring is within our reach. Six days. First day of spring. I would like to put thoughts of winter behind me, but they keep pressing close. I have told people I have seldom been so bothered by any winter. I thought winter’s first eight months clicked by quite fast, but these last six months have really dragged.

By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Spring is within our reach. Six days. First day of spring.

I would like to put thoughts of winter behind me, but they keep pressing close. I have told people I have seldom been so bothered by any winter. I thought winter’s first eight months clicked by quite fast, but these last six months have really dragged.

A thing I would like to see is an invention, a robot snow blower. You could sit by your window with a remote and guide the blower up and down the driveway. Make it push ahead. Make it back up. 

Turn it on, turn it off.

I know. It might be possible to contrive such a thing, but it would cost an arm and a leg and maybe an ear besides. This is the time for a robot blower, however. The big plus of hard times always has been low prices —

“Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot. Twelve Full Ounces, That’s a Lot!” Price: Five cents. 

Maybe the cost of a robot snow blower could be pegged at $4.95. Pick it up with your economic stimulus check.

In the time of the last big economic blowout — the 1930s — people talked of three ways to riches. How to be a millionaire.

The first way was an inheritance. If Grandpa farmed an 80 and Dad was selling used cars, the prospect for wealth via inheritance was faint, however.

Second way to riches was find oil on your property. No one will bet a nickel this is a bright prospect. Although, I did read something a while ago — I wish I had saved this — one geologist believes there is oil under all the earth. He talked of cracks and chasms in the granite layer undergirding us.

The third way to riches was an invention. Invent something everyone wants — well, think zipper. By this time next year you might lay out $100,000 and pick up a mortgaged million-dollar house, paid in full.

We don’t hear much of inventions now. I suppose this is because we are in an electronic/technological world. While it still was a mechanical world, many people had ideas for arranging wheels and gears and nuts and bolts to create a Get Rich Machine.

The U.S. Patent Office has all patents ever granted on The Web. I came on these one day — oh, millions of them. I was astonished by the patents granted local residents in time gone by —

Henry Rust, Worthington, Corn-Gathering Machine, 1912.

Christ Zimmerman, Worthington, Power Transmission for Automobiles, 1912.

Charles B. Loveless, Worthington, Chimney Improvement, 1894.

Swan P. Walgren, Worthington, Land-Roller, 1908. Walgren, “a subject of the King of Sweden who has declared his intention to become a citizen of the United States … invents a roller by which dry land may be rolled so hard a crust is formed … to prevent soil and seed from getting blown away by the wind…” 

Bernard F. Koepsell, Worthington, Combined Perch and Nest House (for chickens), 1924.

On and on. You would be amazed. Go to the library and ask them to google “patents” for you. It is an hour’s entertainment.

These are not all dreams from a time long gone. Check Bedford Industries of Worthington. What fertile imaginations those people are demonstrating. Patents include —

A Method and Apparatus for Forming Reclosable Packages. Merchandise Marking Tag with Stub Nose. Slidably Fastenable Tag. Wireless Polymeric Twist Tie. Locking Tag for Banded Merchandise. Container Reclosing Apparatus and Method. Adjustable Advertising Band.

It would be captivating to interview some of these latter-day inventors. They all are from this area. The Founder himself, Robert B. Ludlow, is among those on the patent list. Lloyd Tinklenberg’s name recurs. Gary L. Lowe. John B. Lindquist. Debra K. Houseman. Brian D. Larsen. Michael P. Feltman. 

Walter Saur is the inventor of the “Applicator Head … Which Accumulates, Feeds, Cuts and Presents a Pre-Selected Length of Ribbon-Like Material.” This is getting back to the ties for bread wrappers.

So times are tough. Sit back. Start thinking. Oh, think harder. Remember Ralph Waldo Emerson from high school American Lit classes:

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” 

Or maybe market a better bed bug battler.

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.

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