This Amazon Isn’t a Jungle
Most of us know the story of the humble beginnings of Amazon, but for those who don’t, Jeff Bezos didn’t start with his billions. The world’s most prominent online marketplace began in Mr. Bezos’s tiny garage in Bellevue, Washington.
As Jeff’s business activities grew, the need to house a host of servers to respond to traffic increased. Ultimately it got to the point that he and his wife couldn’t turn on a hairdryer or vacuum cleaner in the house without blowing a fuse.
Nowadays, Amazon sports a net worth of 1.4 trillion dollars and nine hundred and fifty thousand employees. Suffice it to say that none of them work out of Jeff’s garage now.
When it comes to firearms, you may be thinking about the last from-the-ground-up rifle you built in your garage. Yes, you took great care to pick just the right barrel and AR15 upper receiver and replaced all the stock items in your lower receiver with match-grade firing assemblies.
You may or may not know this, but the most powerful sniper rifle in the U.S. military was conceived and built with hand-machined parts in a garage. The M82, a fifty-caliber sniper’s rifle, was designed by a photographer named Ronnie Barret. What’s even more interesting about the M82 is that Ronnie had no gunsmithing experience at all.
Ronnie presumably got his inspiration for the M82 by photographing a river patrol boat similar to the types used during the war in Vietnam. It’s anyone’s guess how someone could design a powerful and effective sniper rifle with no previous experience and hand-machine all the parts to put together the most powerful sniper rifle used today.
Still, despite the humble beginnings of being created in Ronnie Barrett’s garage, the M82 was instantly well received and used by the U.S. Military and NATO and non-NATO countries alike.
Before the days of podcasts and TED talks, if someone wanted listening entertainment, they would tune in to their favorite radio station. However, the first radio station, which would motivate hundreds of others to follow, had its humble origin in a garage. Frank Conrad, known as the Father of Radio Broadcasting, and an electrical engineer by trade, built a transmitter in his home and began airing weekly broadcasts from the second story of his garage behind the house.
This groundbreaking technological adventure opened the door for thousands of other stations to begin airing news and music. Frank’s initial weekly broadcasts became the forerunner of KRDA, a popular radio station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Metallically Speaking Of Course
Used the world over in airports and buildings for security, most of us don’t give a second thought when passing through a metal detector.
Thanks to the late-night ministrations in the Palo Alto garage of Dr. Gerhard Fisher and four of his colleagues, the Metallascope, the predecessor of all modern-day metal detectors, was born in 1931.
The beginning product consisted of two wooden boxes shrouded with copper coils and loaded with vacuum tubes. Still, eventually, it would morph into something more manageable for the weekend hobbyist searching for buried treasure and easily installed as an effective airport security device.
The Need for Speed
Craig Breedlove didn’t just like to drive fast; he wanted his car to be the fastest in the world. Instead of trying out what was on the market in his day, Mr. Breedlove immediately went to his garage and built his very own car over the next four years.
The result of Mr. Breedlove’s four years of labor became The Spirt of America, a car using jet propulsion to send it hurtling down the track. Of course, the first few attempts of speeding across the salt flats didn’t produce what Craig hoped for, so he went back to his garage and made several adjustments.
Navigating his invention across the salt flats at dizzying speeds, Craig Breedlove and his garage-built Spirit of America made history by being the first person ever to clock overland speeds of between four and six hundred miles per hour.
Put It on Mute
Not all garage inventions have a happy ending. While the technology of a speakerphone is standard this day and age, back in 1948, it certainly wasn’t. Back in those days, the telephone came in basic black and required a finger to dial the number. That is, until Walter L. Shaw, a telecommunication engineer for AT&T, spent several months nestled in his garage until he perfected a working example of the speakerphone.
Here’s where the story gets a little sad. Walter knew he had a blockbuster prototype to give his company a competitive edge, so he presented it to his employer. His bosses immediately fell in love with the speakerphone.
The problem started when AT&T insisted that he sign over his rights to the technology, which was something Mr. Shaw vehemently refused to do. Taking his prototype with him, Walter left AT&T and tried to make it on his own.
Unfortunately for Walter, it took significant amounts of capital, and the only way he could get that much money was to go back to AT&T and try to bargain, which Mr. Shaw refused to do.
Instead, Walter turned to peddle his technology to a more nefarious source of money known as the Mafia. Sure enough, Mr. Walter L. Shaw, the inventor of the modern-day speakerphone, ended up behind bars.
Not The First
Who doesn’t think about Steve Jobs and Bill Gates when it comes to creating the first Apple Computer or personal computer running MSDOS in their respective garages? If you do, then you haven’t heard of the KENBAK-1 computer.
In 1971 five years before the Apple 1 hit the market and four years before the creation of Microsoft, John Blankenbaker built the KENBAK-1 in his garage and tried to market it to schools.
The selling price of the KENBAK-1 was $750.00, and John hoped to market his invention to schools to introduce students to the world of bits and bytes and computer programming.
Unfortunately for John, he was trying to market his product and build it with a marketing and production team of one. Over two years, John was only able to sell forty of the KENBAK-1, and he halted production of the first personal computer in history in 1973.