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Edison’s Phonograph

More than any other fruit of Edison’s fertile brain, this one was not merely useful but magical

3 min read
Photo-illustration: Stuart Bradford
Photo-illustration: Stuart Bradford

When Thomas Edison died in 1931, at 84, he held nearly 1,100 patents in the United States and more than 2,300 patents worldwide. By far the most famous one was his patent for the lightbulb, but he came up neither with the idea of an evacuated glass container nor with the use of an incandescing filament. More fundamental was Edison’s conception, entirely de novo, of the complete system of electricity generation, transmission, and conversion, which he put into operation first in London and in lower Manhattan in 1882.

But for sheer originality bordering on the magical, nothing compares to Edison’s U.S. Patent No. 200,521, issued on 19 February 1878, for the first-ever way to hear recorded sound.

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Who Really Invented the Thumb Drive?

Thumb drive, USB drive, memory stick: Whatever you call it, it’s the brainchild of an unsung Singapore inventor

11 min read
Three monolithic thumb drives stand in a white landscape with blue sky and clouds behind them.
Maurizio Di Iorio
Blue

In 2000, at a trade fair in Germany, an obscure Singapore company called Trek 2000 unveiled a solid-state memory chip encased in plastic and attached to a Universal Serial Bus (USB) connector. The gadget, roughly the size of a pack of chewing gum, held 8 megabytes of data and required no external power source, drawing power directly from a computer when connected. It was called the ThumbDrive.

That device, now known by a variety of names—including memory stick, USB stick, flash drive, as well as thumb drive—changed the way computer files are stored and transferred. Today it is familiar worldwide.

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