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Independence Day, US patents, and a yellow submarine
July 4, 2016
by Mark Ollig

I admit coming up with a technology column keeping in theme with the celebration of Independence Day was a bit challenging.

“How many tech-related US patents were approved on the fourth of July,” I wondered.

After checking the US Patent Office, I learned there were a few.

“Aerial for Wireless Signaling” is the title of US Patent 793,651, issued July 4, 1905.

The inventor, Reginald A. Fessenden described his patent’s benefits related to “certain improvements in aerials for transmission and receipt of electromagnetic waves over long distances.”

Improvements are obtained by the triangular arrangement of supporting antenna guy wires, and the placement of certain elements (such as porcelain) using Fessenden’s unique design methods.

“Vending-machine” is the title of US Patent 1,189,954 ,granted July 4, 1914.

Its inventor, Alonzo Jacobs states his machine “ . . . comprises a suitable base whose upper portion is formed into a tray compartment, this compartment containing a circular chambered delivery tray similar to the well-known dropping-plate employed in seed-planting machinery.”

So, the next time you use a vending machine and you watch your item drop down into the delivering tray, you can thank Alonzo Jacobs . . . and the seed-planting machine he got the idea from.

Although not issued July 4, I found this next patent (with a Minnesota connection) appropriate for our summer here in the land of 10,000 lakes.

US Patent 2,854,787, was for a self-propelled toy fish, invented by Paul E. Oberg, from Falcon Heights Oct. 7, 1958.

“This invention relates to a novel device for propelling and steering a buoyant object in a liquid medium. More particularly, the invention is concerned with means for propelling toy aquatic creatures,” he described.

Since we’ve had a patent for a self-propelled toy fish, it should not come as an unexpected surprise, within a few years, we would see one for a self-propelled toy whale.

US Patent 2,990,645 titled “Toy Whale” was issued on July 4, 1961, for an electrically powered, self-propelled toy – you guessed it; whale.

Dean A. Polzin invented this animated toy whale, which has the power “to move through the water and to alternately dive and surface while moving through the water,” he described.

In addition to a battery motor inside the hollow body of the toy whale, a hand-crank is used to wind tension cords; the energy released propels the toy whale under and over the water.

Internal spring-actuated counterbalancing methods are used to correct any overbalancing positions of the whale as it traverses the water.

Polzin thoughtfully incorporated a small hole in the toy whale, which shoots water as it rises to the surface, simulating the spouting action of a real whale.

US Patent 1,271,272 titled “Toy Submarine” was granted two days before Independence Day, July 2, 1918.

Speaking of toy submarines, in the mid-1960s, one of my favorite toys was from the TV series “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.”

It was the Seaview submarine made by REMCO.

The Seaview was a 17-inch- long, yellow plastic submarine model designed to be used on land or in the water.

“Yellow Submarine,” coincidently, was the name of a popular 1966 song by the Beatles.

I recall one summer day, when I was probably 7 or 8years old, being at my grandmother’s vacation home on Lake Minnie-Belle, near Litchfield, MN.

I had brought along the Seaview, and looked forward to seeing it in action in a real body of water, instead of the family bathtub.

Standing in the water a few feet from the shoreline, I looked out and envisioned Lake Minnie-Belle as if it were the Pacific Ocean.

The Seaview toy used “elastic motor propulsion” which meant I needed to wind-up the rubber-band located inside the submarine, using the built-in blue plastic crank handle.

I remember gently placing the now “fully-charged” yellow submarine on the water and watching it travel on the “ocean” – just like it did on TV.

Yippee! I remember how excited I was at the time.

By the way, my Seaview came with a gray plastic whale, two scuba divers, and a scary-looking undersea creature (with working claws).

The last time I checked eBay, the exact REMCO Seaview toy model I had was selling for around $500. “New-in-the-box” models were going for an unbelievable $2,300.

My advice to youngsters: Take all your toys with you when you’re old enough to move out of the house.

I wish I still had that 50-year-old yellow Seaview submarine.

US Patent 3,329,109, titled “Automatic program-controlled sewing machine” was issued July 4, 1967, to Benjamin Bloom, James E. Hibbs, and Lawrence A. Portnoff.

“The primary object of the present invention [is] to provide an automated program-controlled sewing machine which is capable of performing either linear or curved stitching operations . . . without requiring guidance on the part of the operator,” stated the description.

Schematic wiring diagrams showing individual electrical connections and component circuitry, as well as the drawings of the physical sewing machine itself, were included in their patent.

This automatic program-controlled sewing machine would be used in the garment-making industry.

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, as of January, there have been 9,226,437 US patents issued since 1836.

You can follow my unpatented tweets from July 4, and every other day of the year, via my @bitsandbytes Twitter handle.


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