Sunday, November 1, 2015

Did you really build it yourself.....maybe not

How the Government Created Your Cell Phone

Steve Jobs is just one example of the startup mythology that surrounds Silicon Valley–we credit the private sector for the innovation and growth in our economy. But University of Sussex economist Mariana Mazzucato’s book The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths argues that it is the government, not venture capitalists and tech visionaries, that is the hero. “Every major technological change in recent years traces most of its funding back to the state,” says Mazzucato. Even early-stage private-sector VCs come in after the big breakthroughs have been made.
The book recounts how the parts of the smartphone that make it smart–GPS, touchscreens, the Internet–were advanced by the Defense Department. Tesla’s batteries came out of a Department of Energy grant. Google’s search algorithm was boosted by a National Science Foundation innovation. Many new drugs have come out of NIH research.
How much the private sector owes to government will be a hot-button issue in 2016. But Mazzucato says there’s a better model: Israel and Finland retain equity in firms that come out of basic government research. And the U.S. government in the past has dictated that companies reinvest money in Main Street rather than give it to Wall Street. That’s how Bell Labs was born, after the federal government pressured AT&T to reinvest profits in innovation. We got the C++ programming language and cell-phone calling technology, among many other advances, out of that. Not a bad precedent.

Other government funded inventions.

Microwave ovens
The Jeep ( developed with government funding as an all weather all terrain recon vehicle in WW2)
Duct tape ( Developed as a seal for ammo cases by the US Army)
Epipen  ( Developed by the DoD so soldiers could self medicate quickly during a chemical weapons attack)
Freeze Drying ( Developed in WW2 to preserve medical supplies that needed refrigeration)
Computers (ENIAC developed by the government)
The Internet (ARAPANET developed by the military to tie multiple computers into a single network)
Infant Formula
Bar codes and scanners
Goodyear Tires ( Government grant to develop a rubberized coating for landing rovers on Mars went into making Goodyear Tires some of the longest lasting)
The micro chip
touch screens
Vaccines for Hepatitis A and B and HPV ( researched and developed at the National Institutes of health)
Wind Turbines
Fire resistant clothing
Aero dynamic semi trucks
internet security (Symantech/ Norton started with a government grant)
development of the Interstate Highway system ( invented by Germany but Eisenhower was so impressed that it was the key goal of his administration.)
the cell phone (see above)
GOOGLE. Don't believe me then google it!

We the people have funded research and development of some of the worlds greatest innovations. Inventions that were then patented to those people or companies for whom the money for research was given- some of the same people who today feel it is their right to hide the profits from these inventions offshore to avoid repaying the government of the people for past help in the early development of their products. Maybe our good friend Israel got it right on this one-the government retains equity rights in all government funded inventions.


  1. Another big one is funding of residency programs for doctors. Also, our emergency system today is built on many lessons learned on the battlefield.

  2. Oh you misguided disciple of big government. Sometime the mind boggles at the creative ways sociofascists rationalize the government monolith that they love, support and find every creative ways to expand... with other people’s money and ingenuity.

    While you are correct that most things that exist today were built off the back of someone else’s idea or inventions, the idea that it was government that created all of this wonderful technology is bunk. It should first be quite clear that enterprise was necessary before government even had the ability to finance anything. No enterprise, no tax base, no government. That’s pretty simple stuff.

    Next is what we created government for. Well for the 150 years previous to FDR’s New Deal court stacking precedent creation of “if you can call it a tax, you can have and do anything you want”, enumerated powers where the proper reading of the constitution. Only by manipulation of people did the power hungry crony elite subvert necessary and proper to ... well ... anything. Times, they are achangin I suspect.

    People want to give government much too much credit for being responsible for all of Americas creativity and innovation. While, as Bill Gates points out, the government has been the cornerstone of much progress sense WWII, we must consider how much it took away from private enterprise through monopoly privilege. For instance, did AT&T advance or hinder communications development given that after its monopoly was broken data transmission speeded up over 170time in just ten years. Had the government not held on to rocket and space technology for so long, perhaps there would already be a permanent base on the moon . And less not forget the nuclear monopoly... The government stuck with regular nuclear power because a by-product was plutonium. Developed and dropped at the same time was thorium technology. Much cleaner... impossible to chain react and abundant fuel.. but alas... no plutonium.

    Private enterprise shouldn’t be beholden just because it answers the questions someone pays them to answer or provides a product that someone needs. Just because congress and its entire staff need toilet paper, I don’t think the American public or government is owed gratitude just because taxpayers actually feed congress requiring them to use toilet paper.

    Now for a few things on your list:

    The Jeep: The American Bantum, originally the Austin 7 manufactured by a British company was presented to the US quartermaster corp.(they sought out the government to show them a possible solution) 2 vehicles were loaned for evaluation in late 1939 and 2 more in spring of 1940 and the evaluation was flawless. With minor alteration the deal was inked in July of 1940... The jeep, an off the shelf product, was born. The 4wd technology was developed by Porsche for an Austrian trunk maker Jacob Lohner in 1900... without which jeep would have been useless. No government research.. no development.

    Capacitive sensing began its life with the Theremin musical instrument in 1920... Touch sensing Resistive sensing did begin its life with the British Government in 1965 for radar and air traffic control.

    Zoltán Lajos Bay a Hungarian physicist developed the first microwave tube as well as tungsten lamps, an improvement on regular incandescent and received a US patient for the first electo luminescent light sources... the forerunner of the LED. Of course the predecessor to the microwave was primitive radio transmission devices created by Hertz in 1887.

    Wilfred Sweeny (1926–2011), the DuPont scientist responsible for discoveries leading to Nomex fire proof fabric... this was as a direct result of three race car crashes in 1964. Earlier ‘fire suits’ developed for fire-fighters and pilots was made of asbestos. Now if you want to credit the government for widespread use of asbestos... ok but even at that, asbestos was known and mined some 4000 years ago.


  3. Wind Turbines... really? How about Persia in 200 bc or all manner of windmills that sawed wood, milled grain and ran fabric looms and pumped water.... was putting an electric generator on the back of a fan such a leap that the US government had to fund it?... and if it was the US government, how come we are paying for the overpriced electric today?

    So Good Year has been developing tires and tire technology since 1839 and because they found a solution for NASA, all of a sudden government is responsible for our ability to ride around on rubber? By the way... Porsche back around 1900 built the first car propelled by four independent wheel motors... a design adapted to the lunar rover.

    In an attempt to improve the quality of manufactured baby foods, in 1867, Justus von Liebig developed the world's first commercial infant formula, Liebig's Soluble Food for Babies. The success of this product quickly gave rise to competitors such as Mellin's Food, Ridge's Food for Infants and Nestlé's Milk.

    The idea for what became duct tape came from Vesta Stoudt, an ordinance-factory worker and mother of two Navy sailors, who worried that problems with ammunition box seals would cost soldiers precious time in battle. She wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943 with the idea to seal the boxes with a fabric tape, which she had tested at her factory. DOD liked the idea but adapted the tape which had to be cut with scissors to a fabric which could be torn by hand...

    There is no real invention of a freeze-dryer. It appears to have evolved with time from a laboratory instrument that was referred to by Benedict and Manning (1905) as a "chemical pump". Shackell took the basic design of Benedict and Manning and used an electrically driven vacuum pump instead of the displacement of the air with ethyl ether to produce the necessary vacuum. It was Shackell who first realized that the material had to be frozen before commencing the drying process - hence freeze-drying.

    Freeze drying was indeed used during wwII but to preserve blood serum and then other medical bio products not food... The Swedish had perfected freeze drying of biological specimens in the 1930’s and the first experiments in freeze drying body organs occurred in 1890. Andes Peruvians had developed techniques that extracted moisture from food by freezing in the centuries ago. Freeze drying food did not start until after the war and was adapted for the military in the form of food for astronauts and MRE’s for soldiers... During the war C and K rations were the staple. MRE’s by the way are considered dehydrated foods and not necessarily freeze dried.

    Early developments of the integrated circuit go back to 1949, when German engineer Werner Jacobi of Siemens AG filed a patent for an integrated-circuit-like semiconductor amplifying device[] showing five transistors on a common substrate in a 3-stage amplifier arrangement. Jacobi disclosed small and cheap hearing aids as typical industrial applications of his patent.

    Jack Kilby came up with the idea for the ’micromodule’ which while he was on active duty proposed to the US Army. After Kirby left the Army and joined Texas Instruments, he, not the government, created the first IC in 1958... the first customer was the US Air Force.

    The original concept of the barcode was patented in 1952 by a couple of Drexel students. Their patent was eventually purchased by RCA. Code39 which became a standard was no more than a milspec. Also the evolution of the bar code, the IUID or QR was developed by Toyota for parts tracking.

    As far as I can tell, the original ‘Pagerank’ algorithm used by Google and patented by Larry Page was a project between he and Sergey Brin while at Stanford U and was based on Matrix Theory developed in 1976 by Gabriel Pinski and Francis Narin. No connection that I can find with the government... other than probably the interest of the NSA.

    1. "Thomas Edison, on the other hand, gained his 1,000-plus patents without the help of a government bureaucracy. His first “patron,” you might say, was the inventor Franklin Leonard Pope, who encouraged the young Edison and gave him a place to room and conduct research. (Pope is an example of the risk the best and brightest often take on: He died of electrocution in his home’s basement lab when he was just 54.)

      A list of other larger-than-life (or mythic, as Isaacs would have it) “creative loners” who did their work without government support would be a long one. Let’s start just with the Wright Brothers, Alexander Graham Bell, and Nikola Tesla (a poor Serbian immigrant who raised money from capitalists such as J.P. Morgan)."

    2. Each and everyone TS furthered their ideas to completion with government grants, yes even Sergi and Larry. I never said the government patented any of them although they should have shared in the equity like the government of Israel does. But the government foot the bill or a great deal of it through grants that never have to be paid back.

    3. Percy Spencer invented the first microwave oven after World War II from radar technology developed during the war. Named the "Radarange", it was first sold in 1946. Raytheon later licensed its patents for a home-use microwave oven that was first introduced by Tappan in 1955.

      Radar technology isn't exactly a microwave oven.

      Seems some would give the government credit for everything.

    4. But Louman you cannot have a microwave without Radar technology can you? And who developed radar technology? ah ....................

    5. Heinrich Hertz in Germany calculated that an electric current swinging very rapidly back and forth in a conducting wire would radiate electromagnetic waves into the surrounding space (today we would call such a wire an "antenna"). With such a wire he created (in 1886) and detected such oscillations in his lab, using an electric spark, in which the current oscillates rapidly (that is how lightning creates its characteristic crackling noise on the radio!). Today we call such waves "radio waves". At first however they were "Hertzian waves, " and even today we honor the memory of their discoverer by measuring frequencies in Hertz (Hz), oscillations per second--and at radio frequencies, in megahertz (MHz).

      Watson-Watt was the Scottish physicist who developed the radar locating of aircraft in England. He was born in Brechin, Angus, Scotland, educated at St Andrews University in Scotland, and taught at Dundee University. In 1917, he worked at the British Meteorological Office, where he designed devices to locate thunderstorms. Watson-Watt coined the phrase "ionosphere" in 1926. He was appointed as the director of radio research at the British National Physical Laboratory in 1935, where he completed his research into aircraft locating devices. Watson-Watt's other contributions include a cathode-ray direction finder used to study atmospheric phenomena, research in electromagnetic radiation, and inventions used for flight safety.
      - Radar was patented (British patent) in April, 1935.

  4. "Oh you misguided disciple of big government. Sometime the mind boggles at the creative ways sociofascists rationalize the government monolith that they love, support and find every creative ways to expand... with other people’s money and ingenuity."

    Solid response, it's got some good labels like sociofascists, government monolith, and the tested and true pronouncement that so many live for nothing other than to wake up and find a way to extort money from the super smart and super able in order to create the monolith that rewards slackers. Well done.

    You highlight a premise that no one would deny, good ideas don't happen just because government funding picks one or two to back. And you also highlight that the entirety of history shows a perpetual leapfrogging of progress when somebody builds on the idea of another. Some can admit they have benefitted greatly from the foundation laid by others, frequently individuals who did not remotely get compensated the way that individuals do today. In today's world, however, in order to denounce the idea that government does anything good, there is a growing body of work trying to dispute an obvious truth that whether planned or not, we have taken some vey large steps forward as a result of government investment of project or another. It's essentially just the mirror image of "You didn't build that". It's an argument than CAN be made, but is far from being absolute.

    I find it ironic and a bit sad that quite a few ideas that have benefitted society have come from investment that was made to help the military function better in it's primary job of killing people on a large scale. Not many seem to have a problem with the funding of that objective, but to serve another purpose of claiming government suckitude, there is a need to deny that whether intentional or not, a robust secondary market developed from the investment.

    None that I know of, on the left, are trying to make a claim that we should have endless funding and endless expansion of government. I certainly don't support that idea. But, I also reject a logic that claims we should pretend government funding has been a failure on every level when clearly it hasn't. Perhaps Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and countless other computer egg heads would have created the internet all by themselves. It's not worth the speculation to me because reality didn't work that way.

  5. At the end of my driveway I have a Federal mailbox. Travel a few feet more and I travel down a township road. A mile or so later I ramble along a county road leading to a Federal interstate highway.

    I have paid taxes on all of these levels for over forty years.

    If I didn't help build these venues who did?

    1. Um, you're kinda veering into making Rick's point William.

    2. Interesting William at the end of my driveway I have a mailbox that I bought and the quasi federal U S postal service fills it full of free market crap daily.
      Otherwise my neighborhood is similar except I hit a city street, a state highway, a US highway then the federal interstate. Just think how depressing and time consuming my 5 mile trip to a good road would be without the government taking tax money and building these things. Would you rather I paid a local contractor to build a cheap version of what we have and pocketing the left over cash. that's what would happen without the government over site. Never underestimate the greed of the people if it weren't for the government of the people controlling the greed.

    3. And William although the government didn't invent the mailbox why do we need them at all? Because from 1865 to 1890 the government decided to increasingly deliver mail to the individual homes instead of you having to run to the (at that time) distance and central post office to get your mail. Damn there you go government involvement in the development of the mailbox in America,- it was originally invented in France by the way because they also carried letters to individuals.
      Also just because it is a crime to tamper with the mail that doesn't give the government the right to own your mailbox so it isn't really a federal one but they control the security for you so you don't have to stand next to it all day waiting on your goodies. Oh and the government doesn't make mailboxes either they only regular the sizes needed. That probably has to do with what they deliver. Although in todays mails mine is sometimes not big enough as the post office has expanded what they will deliver.

    4. Wind turbines?

      Windmills were used in Persia (present-day Iran) as early as 200 B.C.
      The precursor to the wind turbine.

  6. Duct tape:
    Revolite (then a division of Johnson & Johnson) developed an adhesive tape made from a rubber-based adhesive applied to a durable duck cloth backing. This tape resisted water and was used as sealing tape on some ammunition cases during that period

  7. Micro chips?

    The thermionic triode, a vacuum tube invented in 1907, enabled amplified radio technology and long-distance telephony. The triode, however, was a fragile device that consumed a lot of power. Physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld filed a patent for a field-effect transistor (FET) in Canada in 1925, which was intended to be a solid-state replacement for the triode. Lilienfeld also filed identical patents in the United States in 1926 and 1928. However, Lilienfeld did not publish any research articles about his devices nor did his patents cite any specific examples of a working prototype. Because the production of high-quality semiconductor materials was still decades away, Lilienfeld's solid-state amplifier ideas would not have found practical use in the 1920s and 1930s, even if such a device had been built. In 1934, German inventor Oskar Heil patented a similar device.

    Your much beloved governments list of accomplishments is dwindling.

    The calculator?
    Contains transistors. Without the transistor.