"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of the opportunity provided to serve self-interest when Al Gore created the internet; and we should also thank Mark Zuckerburg and Jack Dorsey for creating Facebook and Twitter out of the kindness of their big hearts and not the thinness of their small wallets."
-Ben Franklin, Autobiography (1742)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Project Glass and Benjamin Franklin

Our technophile readers will likely recognize the name "Project Glass" as an exciting new concept technology currently being developed by Google. It was recently given a large spotlight at the company's annual I/O event last week.


Project Glass is essentially a new way of viewing and interacting with the web, via a device worn on a person's head in much the same way as a pair of glasses. In some of Google's current prototypes, the device can actually be attached to an existing pair of glasses, basically allowing users to access new information as if were hovering right in front of their eyes.

It's pretty fascinating stuff and if successful stands to potentially affect the course of human history and how we interact with the world around us. Naturally, we at the Lost and Founders take as much interest in the future as we do in the past, and are very excited about the possibilities this new technology holds. However, we do have one gripe with Google and Project Glass, and that is that technically they stole the idea from one Benjamin Franklin.

It is a well-documented fact that the revolutionary Ben Franklin was a prolific inventor. His countless experiments set numerous scientific standards in his time and many of his inventions laid the groundwork for technology we still use today. Google's "Project Glass" so happens to be one of those inventions: a lesser-known design based on Franklin's original bifocals that he once dubbed with the working title of "The Franklin Floaters" (admittedly not his best name).

Franklin's Floaters were a set of bifocal glasses to which were connected thin brass wires that ended in tiny clamps. In Franklin's design one could attach a document to the clamps and read completely hands-free. Granted, there were several flaws in this original design that ultimately kept it from becoming popular - namely that affixing anything heavier than a few sheets of paper would cause the wearer terrible neck pains after just a few hours of use. No less a concern was the fact that it proved difficult to walk down the street with the wearer's view completely obstructed (Editor's Note: This latter issue was eventually remedied by Thomas Edison years later when he attached a small lamp to the Floaters that could pass light through special paper and render it transparent. Although the Floater's still did not catch on, this 2nd generation design was the original head lamp used by miner's).

Despite its flaws, Franklin's Floaters were a revolutionary concept well ahead of their time. Gone were the days of being forced to hold a document while reading, which according to Franklin's early journals proved a huge time saver that directly resulted in the creation of several of his more lasting innovations.

So 5 years from now when everyone is walking around video conferencing each other with their eyes and reading this blog as it floats magically in front of them, all we ask is that you take a moment to consider that there is usually quite a bit of lost history behind all of our modern day miracles. And about 83% of the time that history is in fact Benjamin Franklin.

                                  National Treasure (2004) movie props Ocular Device replica spectacles prop

Happy Early Independence Day America!

- The Lost and Founders

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