20 February 2009
The invention: An ultrafast passenger railroad system capable of moving passengers at speeds double or triple those of ordinary trains. The people behind the invention: Ikeda Hayato (1899-1965), Japanese prime minister from 1960 to 1964, who pushed for the expansion of public expenditures Shinji Sogo (1901-1971), the president of the Japanese National Railways, the “father of the bullet train” Building a Faster Train By 1900, Japan had a world-class railway system, a logical result of the country’s dense population and the needs of its modernizing economy. After 1907, the government controlled the system through the Japanese National Railways (JNR). In 1938, JNR engineers first suggested the idea of a train that would travel 125 miles per hour from Tokyo to the southern city of Shimonoseki. Construction of a rapid train began in 1940 but was soon stopped because of World War II. The 311-mile railway between Tokyo and Osaka, the Tokaido Line, has always been the major line in Japan. By 1957, a business express along the line operated at an average speed of 57 miles per hour, but the double-track line was rapidly reaching its transport capacity. The JNR established two investigative committees to explore alternative solutions. In 1958, the second committee recommended the construction of a high-speed railroad on a separate double track, to be completed in time for the Tokyo Olympics of 1964. The Railway Technical Institute of the JNR concluded that it was feasible to design a line that would operate at an average speed of about 130 miles per hour, cutting time for travel between Tokyo and Osaka from six hours to three hours. By 1962, about 17 miles of the proposed line were completed for test purposes. During the next two years, prototype trains were tested to correct flaws and make improvements in the design. The entire project was completed on schedule in July, 1964, with total construction costs of more than $1 billion, double the original estimates. The Speeding Bullet Service on the Shinkansen, or New Trunk Line, began on October 1, 1964, ten days before the opening of the Olympic Games. Commonly called the “bullet train” because of its shape and speed, the Shinkansen was an instant success with the public, both in Japan and abroad. As promised, the time required to travel between Tokyo and Osaka was cut in half. Initially, the system provided daily services of sixty trains consisting of twelve cars each, but the number of scheduled trains was almost doubled by the end of the year. The Shinkansen was able to operate at its unprecedented speed because it was designed and operated as an integrated system, making use of countless technological and scientific developments. Tracks followed the standard gauge of 56.5 inches, rather than the more narrow gauge common in Japan. For extra strength, heavy welded rails were attached directly onto reinforced concrete slabs. The minimum radius of a curve was 8,200 feet, except where sharper curves were mandated by topography. In many ways similar to modern airplanes, the railway cars were made airtight in order to prevent ear discomfort caused by changes in pressure when trains enter tunnels. The Shinkansen trains were powered by electric traction motors, with four 185-kilowatt motors on each car—one motor attached to each axle. This design had several advantages: It provided an even distribution of axle load for reducing strain on the tracks; it allowed the application of dynamic brakes (where the motor was used for braking) on all axles; and it prevented the failure of one or two units from interrupting operation of the entire train. The 25,000-volt electrical current was carried by trolley wire to the cars, where it was rectified into a pulsating current to drive the motors. The Shinkansen system established a casualty-free record because of its maintenance policies combined with its computerized Centralized Traffic Control system. The control room at Tokyo Station was designed to maintain timely information about the location of all trains and the condition of all routes. Although train operators had some discretion in determining speed, automatic brakes also operated to ensure a safe distance between trains. At least once each month, cars were thoroughly inspected; every ten days, an inspection train examined the conditions of tracks, communication equipment, and electrical systems. Impact Public usage of the Tokyo-Osaka bullet train increased steadily because of the system’s high speed, comfort, punctuality, and superb safety record. Businesspeople were especially happy that the rapid service allowed them to make the round-trip without the necessity of an overnight stay, and continuing modernization soon allowed nonstop trains to make a one-way trip in two and one-half hours, requiring speeds of 160 miles per hour in some stretches. By the early 1970’s, the line was transporting a daily average of 339,000 passengers in 240 trains, meaning that a train departed from Tokyo about every ten minutes The popularity of the Shinkansen system quickly resulted in demands for its extension into other densely populated regions. In 1972, a 100-mile stretch between Osaka and Okayama was opened for service. By 1975, the line was further extended to Hakata on the island of Kyushu, passing through the Kammon undersea tunnel. The cost of this 244-mile stretch was almost $2.5 billion. In 1982, lines were completed from Tokyo to Niigata and from Tokyo to Morioka. By 1993, the system had grown to 1,134 miles of track. Since high usage made the system extremely profitable, the sale of the JNR to private companies in 1987 did not appear to produce adverse consequences. The economic success of the Shinkansen had a revolutionary effect on thinking about the possibilities of modern rail transportation, leading one authority to conclude that the line acted as “a savior of the declining railroad industry.” Several other industrial countries were stimulated to undertake large-scale railway projects; France, especially, followed Japan’s example by constructing highspeed electric railroads from Paris to Nice and to Lyon. By the mid- 1980’s, there were experiments with high-speed trains based on magnetic levitation and other radical innovations, but it was not clear whether such designs would be able to compete with the Shinkansen model.
The invention: An early nonvolatile medium for storing information on computers. The person behind the invention: Andrew H. Bobeck (1926- ), a Bell Telephone Laboratories scientist Magnetic Technology The fanfare over the commercial prospects of magnetic bubbles was begun on August 8, 1969, by a report appearing in both The New York Times and TheWall Street Journal. The early 1970’s would see the anticipation mount (at least in the computer world) with each prediction of the benefits of this revolution in information storage technology. Although it was not disclosed to the public until August of 1969, magnetic bubble technology had held the interest of a small group of researchers around the world for many years. The organization that probably can claim the greatest research advances with respect to computer applications of magnetic bubbles is Bell Telephone Laboratories (later part of American Telephone and Telegraph). Basic research into the properties of certain ferrimagnetic materials started at Bell Laboratories shortly after the end of World War II (1939-1945). Ferrimagnetic substances are typically magnetic iron oxides. Research into the properties of these and related compounds accelerated after the discovery of ferrimagnetic garnets in 1956 (these are a class of ferrimagnetic oxide materials that have the crystal structure of garnet). Ferrimagnetism is similar to ferromagnetism, the phenomenon that accounts for the strong attraction of one magnetized body for another. The ferromagnetic materials most suited for bubble memories contain, in addition to iron, the element yttrium or a metal from the rare earth series. It was a fruitful collaboration between scientist and engineer, between pure and applied science, that produced this promising breakthrough in data storage technology. In 1966, Bell Laboratories scientist Andrew H. Bobeck and his coworkers were the first to realize the data storage potential offered by the strange behavior of thin slices of magnetic iron oxides under an applied magnetic field. The first U.S. patent for a memory device using magnetic bubbles was filed by Bobeck in the fall of 1966 and issued on August 5, 1969. Bubbles Full of Memories The three basic functional elements of a computer are the central processing unit, the input/output unit, and memory. Most implementations of semiconductor memory require a constant power source to retain the stored data. If the power is turned off, all stored data are lost. Memory with this characteristic is called “volatile.” Disks and tapes, which are typically used for secondary memory, are “nonvolatile.” Nonvolatile memory relies on the orientation of magnetic domains, rather than on electrical currents, to sustain its existence. One can visualize by analogy how this will work by taking a group of permanent bar magnets that are labeled withNfor north at one end and S for south at the other. If an arrow is painted starting from the north end with the tip at the south end on each magnet, an orientation can then be assigned to a magnetic domain (here one whole bar magnet). Data are “stored” with these bar magnets by arranging them in rows, some pointing up, some pointing down. Different arrangements translate to different data. In the binary world of the computer, all information is represented by two states. A stored data item (known as a “bit,” or binary digit) is either on or off, up or down, true or false, depending on the physical representation. The “on” state is commonly labeled with the number 1 and the “off” state with the number 0. This is the principle behind magnetic disk and tape data storage. Now imagine a thin slice of a certain type of magnetic material in the shape of a 3-by-5-inch index card. Under a microscope, using a special source of light, one can see through this thin slice in many regions of the surface. Darker, snakelike regions can also be seen, representing domains of an opposite orientation (polarity) to the transparent regions. If a weak external magnetic field is then applied by placing a permanent magnet of the same shape as the card on the underside of the slice, a strange thing happens to the dark serpentine pattern—the long domains shrink and eventually contract into “bubbles,” tiny magnetized spots. Viewed from the side of the slice, the bubbles are cylindrically shaped domains having a polarity opposite to that of the material on which they rest. The presence or absence of a bubble indicates either a 0 or a 1 bit. Data bits are stored by moving the bubbles in the thin film. As long as the field is applied by the permanent magnet substrate, the data will be retained. The bubble is thus a nonvolatile medium for data storage.Consequences Magnetic bubble memory created quite a stir in 1969 with its splashy public introduction. Most of the manufacturers of computer chips immediately instituted bubble memory development projects. Texas Instruments, Philips, Hitachi, Motorola, Fujitsu, and International Business Machines (IBM) joined the race with Bell Laboratories to mass-produce bubble memory chips. Texas Instruments became the first major chip manufacturer to mass-produce bubble memories in the mid-to-late 1970’s. By 1990, however, almost all the research into magnetic bubble technology had shifted to Japan. Hitachi and Fujitsu began to invest heavily in this area. Mass production proved to be the most difficult task. Although the materials it uses are different, the process of producing magnetic bubble memory chips is similar to the process applied in producing semiconductor-based chips such as those used for random access memory (RAM). It is for this reason that major semiconductor manufacturers and computer companies initially invested in this technology. Lower fabrication yields and reliability issues plagued early production runs, however, and, although these problems have mostly been solved, gains in the performance characteristics of competing conventional memories have limited the impact that magnetic bubble technology has had on the marketplace. The materials used for magnetic bubble memories are costlier and possess more complicated structures than those used for semiconductor or disk memory. Speed and cost of materials are not the only bases for comparison. It is possible to perform some elementary logic with magnetic bubbles. Conventional semiconductor-based memory offers storage only. The capability of performing logic with magnetic bubbles puts bubble technology far ahead of other magnetic technologies with respect to functional versatility. Asmall niche market for bubble memory developed in the 1980’s. Magnetic bubble memory can be found in intelligent terminals, desktop computers, embedded systems, test equipment, and similar microcomputer- based systems.
The invention: The first inexpensive and easy-to-use camera available to the general public, the Brownie revolutionized photography by making it possible for every person to become a photographer. The people behind the invention: George Eastman (1854-1932), founder of the Eastman Kodak Company Frank A. Brownell, a camera maker for the Kodak Company who designed the Brownie Henry M. Reichenbach, a chemist who worked with Eastman to develop flexible film William H. Walker, a Rochester camera manufacturer who collaborated with Eastman A New Way to Take Pictures In early February of 1900, the first shipments of a new small box camera called the Brownie reached Kodak dealers in the United States and England. George Eastman, eager to put photography within the reach of everyone, had directed Frank Brownell to design a small camera that could be manufactured inexpensively but that would still take good photographs. Advertisements for the Brownie proclaimed that everyone— even children—could take good pictures with the camera. The Brownie was aimed directly at the children’s market, a fact indicated by its box, which was decorated with drawings of imaginary elves called “Brownies” created by the Canadian illustrator Palmer Cox. Moreover, the camera cost only one dollar. The Brownie was made of jute board and wood, with a hinged back fastened by a sliding catch. It had an inexpensive two-piece glass lens and a simple rotary shutter that allowed both timed and instantaneous exposures to be made. With a lens aperture of approximately f14 and a shutter speed of approximately 1/50 of a second, the Brownie was certainly capable of taking acceptable snapshots. It had no viewfinder; however, an optional clip-on reflecting viewfinder was available. The camera came loaded with a six-exposure roll of Kodak film that produced square negatives 2.5 inches on a side. This film could be developed, printed, and mounted for forty cents, and a new roll could be purchased for fifteen cents. George Eastman’s first career choice had been banking, but when he failed to receive a promotion he thought he deserved, he decided to devote himself to his hobby, photography. Having worked with a rigorous wet-plate process, he knew why there were few amateur photographers at the time—the whole process, from plate preparation to printing, was too expensive and too much trouble. Even so, he had already begun to think about the commercial possibilities of photography; after reading of British experiments with dry-plate technology, he set up a small chemical laboratory and came up with a process of his own. The Eastman Dry Plate Company became one of the most successful producers of gelatin dry plates. Dry-plate photography had attracted more amateurs, but it was still a complicated and expensive hobby. Eastman realized that the number of photographers would have to increase considerably if the market for cameras and supplies were to have any potential. In the early 1880’s, Eastman first formulated the policies that would make the Eastman Kodak Company so successful in years to come: mass production, low prices, foreign and domestic distribution, and selling through extensive advertising and by demonstration. In his efforts to expand the amateur market, Eastman first tackled the problem of the glass-plate negative, which was heavy, fragile, and expensive to make. By 1884, his experiments with paper negatives had been successful enough that he changed the name of his company to The Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company. Since flexible roll film needed some sort of device to hold it steady in the camera’s focal plane, Eastman collaborated with William Walker to develop the Eastman-Walker roll-holder. Eastman’s pioneering manufacture and use of roll films led to the appearance on the market in the 1880’s of a wide array of hand cameras from a number of different companies. Such cameras were called “detective cameras” because they were small and could be used surreptitiously. The most famous of these, introduced by Eastman in 1888, was named the “Kodak”—a word he coined to be terse, distinctive, and easily pronounced in any language. This camera’s simplicity of operation was appealing to the general public and stimulated the growth of amateur photography. The Camera The Kodak was a box about seven inches long and four inches wide, with a one-speed shutter and a fixed-focus lens that produced reasonably sharp pictures. It came loaded with enough roll film to make one hundred exposures. The camera’s initial price of twentyfive dollars included the cost of processing the first roll of film; the camera also came with a leather case and strap. After the film was exposed, the camera was mailed, unopened, to the company’s plant in Rochester, New York, where the developing and printing were done. For an additional ten dollars, the camera was reloaded and sent back to the customer. The Kodak was advertised in mass-market publications, rather than in specialized photographic journals, with the slogan: “You press the button, we do the rest.”With his introduction of a camera that was easy to use and a service that eliminated the need to know anything about processing negatives, Eastman revolutionized the photographic market. Thousands of people no longer depended upon professional photographers for their portraits but instead learned to make their own. In 1892, the Eastman Dry Plate and Film Company became the Eastman Kodak Company, and by the mid- 1890’s, one hundred thousand Kodak cameras had been manufactured and sold, half of them in Europe by Kodak Limited. Having popularized photography with the first Kodak, in 1900 Eastman turned his attention to the children’s market with the introduction of the Brownie. The first five thousand cameras sent to dealers were sold immediately; by the end of the following year, almost a quarter of a million had been sold. The Kodak Company organized Brownie camera clubs and held competitions specifically for young photographers. The Brownie came with an instruction booklet that gave children simple directions for taking successful pictures, and “The Brownie Boy,” an appealing youngster who loved photography, became a standard feature of Kodak’s advertisements. Impact Eastman followed the success of the first Brownie by introducing several additional models between 1901 and 1917. Each was a more elaborate version of the original. These Brownie box cameras were on the market until the early 1930’s, and their success inspired other companies to manufacture box cameras of their own. In 1906, the Ansco company produced the Buster Brown camera in three sizes that corresponded to Kodak’s Brownie camera range; in 1910 and 1914, Ansco made three more versions. The Seneca company’s Scout box camera, in three sizes, appeared in 1913, and Sears Roebuck’s Kewpie cameras, in five sizes, were sold beginning in 1916. In England, the Houghtons company introduced its first Scout camera in 1901, followed by another series of four box cameras in 1910 sold under the Ensign trademark. Other English manufacturers of box cameras included the James Sinclair company, with its Traveller Una of 1909, and the Thornton-Pickard company, with a Filma camera marketed in four sizes in 1912. After World War I ended, several series of box cameras were manufactured in Germany by companies that had formerly concentrated on more advanced and expensive cameras. The success of box cameras in other countries, led by Kodak’s Brownie, undoubtedly prompted this trend in the German photographic industry. The Ernemann Film K series of cameras in three sizes, introduced in 1919, and the all-metal Trapp LittleWonder of 1922 are examples of popular German box cameras. In the early 1920’s, camera manufacturers began making boxcamera bodies from metal rather than from wood and cardboard. Machine-formed metal was less expensive than the traditional handworked materials. In 1924, Kodak’s two most popular Brownie sizes appeared with aluminum bodies. In 1928, Kodak Limited of England added two important new features to the Brownie—a built-in portrait lens, which could be brought in front of the taking lens by pressing a lever, and camera bodies in a range of seven different fashion colors. The Beau Brownie cameras, made in 1930, were the most popular of all the colored box cameras. The work ofWalter Dorwin Teague, a leading American designer, these cameras had an Art Deco geometric pattern on the front panel, which was enameled in a color matching the leatherette covering of the camera body. Several other companies, including Ansco, again followed Kodak’s lead and introduced their own lines of colored cameras. In the 1930’s, several new box cameras with interesting features appeared, many manufactured by leading film companies. In France, the Lumiere Company advertised a series of box cameras—the Luxbox, Scoutbox, and Lumibox—that ranged from a basic camera to one with an adjustable lens and shutter. In 1933, the German Agfa company restyled its entire range of box cameras, and in 1939, the Italian Ferrania company entered the market with box cameras in two sizes. In 1932, Kodak redesigned its Brownie series to take the new 620 roll film, which it had just introduced. This film and the new Six-20 Brownies inspired other companies to experiment with variations of their own; some box cameras, such as the Certo Double-box, the Coronet Every Distance, and the Ensign E-20 cameras, offered a choice of two picture formats. Another new trend was a move toward smaller-format cameras using standard 127 roll film. In 1934, Kodak marketed the small Baby Brownie. Designed by Teague and made from molded black plastic, this little camera with a folding viewfinder sold for only one dollar—the price of the original Brownie in 1900. The Baby Brownie, the first Kodak camera made of molded plastic, heralded the move to the use of plastic in camera manufacture. Soon many others, such as the Altissa series of box cameras and the Voigtlander Brilliant V/6 camera, were being made from this new material. Later Trends By the late 1930’s, flashbulbs had replaced flash powder for taking pictures in low light; again, the Eastman Kodak Company led the way in introducing this new technology as a feature on the inexpensive box camera. The Falcon Press-Flash, marketed in 1939, was the first mass-produced camera to have flash synchronization and was followed the next year by the Six-20 Flash Brownie, which had a detachable flash gun. In the early 1940’s, other companies, such as Agfa-Ansco, introduced this feature on their own box cameras.In the years after World War II, the box camera evolved into an eye-level camera, making it more convenient to carry and use. Many amateur photographers, however, still had trouble handling paper-backed roll film and were taking their cameras back to dealers to be unloaded and reloaded. Kodak therefore developed a new system of film loading, using the Kodapak cartridge, which could be mass-produced with a high degree of accuracy by precision plastic- molding techniques. To load the camera, the user simply opened the camera back and inserted the cartridge. This new film was introduced in 1963, along with a series of Instamatic cameras designed for its use. Both were immediately successful. The popularity of the film cartridge ended the long history of the simple and inexpensive roll film camera. The last English Brownie was made in 1967, and the series of Brownies made in the United States was discontinued in 1970. Eastman’s original marketing strategy of simplifying photography in order to increase the demand for cameras and film continued, however, with the public’s acceptance of cartridge-loading cameras such as the Instamatic. From the beginning, Eastman had recognized that there were two kinds of photographers other than professionals. The first, he declared, were the true amateurs who devoted time enough to acquire skill in the complex processing procedures of the day. The second were those who merely wanted personal pictures or memorabilia of their everyday lives, families, and travels. The second class, he observed, outnumbered the first by almost ten to one. Thus, it was to this second kind of amateur photographer that Eastman had appealed, both with his first cameras and with his advertising slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest.” Eastman had done much more than simply invent cameras and films; he had invented a system and then developed the means for supporting that system. This is essentially what the Eastman Kodak Company continued to accomplish with the series of Instamatics and other descendants of the original Brownie. In the decade between 1963 and 1973, for example, approximately sixty million Instamatics were sold throughout the world. The research, manufacturing, and marketing activities of the Eastman Kodak Company have been so complex and varied that no one would suggest that the company’s prosperity rests solely on the success of its line of inexpensive cameras and cartridge films, although these have continued to be important to the company. Like Kodak, however, most large companies in the photographic industry have expanded their research to satisfy the ever-growing demand from amateurs. The amateurism that George Eastman recognized and encouraged at the beginning of the twentieth century thus still flourished at its end.
17 February 2009
The invention: The first commercially manufactured solid-body electric guitar, the Broadcaster revolutionized the guitar industry and changed the face of popular music The people behind the invention: Leo Fender (1909-1991), designer of affordable and easily massproduced solid-body electric guitars Les Paul (Lester William Polfuss, 1915- ), a legendary guitarist and designer of solid-body electric guitars Charlie Christian (1919-1942), an influential electric jazz guitarist of the 1930’s Early Electric Guitars It has been estimated that between 1931 and 1937, approximately twenty-seven hundred electric guitars and amplifiers were sold in the United States. The Electro String Instrument Company, run by Adolph Rickenbacker and his designer partners, George Beauchamp and Paul Barth, produced two of the first commercially manufactured electric guitars—the Rickenbacker A-22 and A-25—in 1931. The Rickenbacker models were what are known as “lap steel” or Hawaiian guitars. A Hawaiian guitar is played with the instrument lying flat across a guitarist’s knees. By the mid-1930’s, the Gibson company had introduced an electric Spanish guitar, the ES-150. Legendary jazz guitarist Charlie Christian made this model famous while playing for Benny Goodman’s orchestra. Christian was the first electric guitarist to be heard by a large American audience. He became an inspiration for future electric guitarists, because he proved that the electric guitar could have its own unique solo sound. Along with Christian, the other electric guitar figures who put the instrument on the musical map were blues guitarist T-Bone Walker, guitarist and inventor Les Paul, and engineer and inventor Leo Fender. Early electric guitars were really no more than acoustic guitars, with the addition of one or more pickups, which convert string vibrations to electrical signals that can be played through a speaker. Amplification of a guitar made it a more assertive musical instrument. The electrification of the guitar ultimately would make it more flexible, giving it a more prominent role in popular music. Les Paul, always a compulsive inventor, began experimenting with ways of producing an electric solid-body guitar in the late 1930’s. In 1929, at the age of thirteen, he had amplified his first acoustic guitar. Another influential inventor of the 1940’s was Paul Bigsby. He built a prototype solid-body guitar for country music star Merle Travis in 1947. It was Leo Fender who revolutionized the electric guitar industry by producing the first commercially viable solid-body electric guitar, the Broadcaster, in 1948.Leo Fender Leo Fender was born in the Anaheim, California, area in 1909. As a teenager, he began to build and repair guitars. By the 1930’s, Fender was building and renting out public address systems for group gatherings. In 1937, after short tenures of employment with the Division of Highways and the U.S. Tire Company, he opened a radio repair company in Fullerton, California. Always looking to expand and invent new and exciting electrical gadgets, Fender and Clayton Orr “Doc” Kauffman started the K & F Company in 1944. Kauffman was a musician and a former employee of the Electro String Instrument Company. The K & F Company lasted until 1946 and produced steel guitars and amplifiers. After that partnership ended, Fender founded the Fender Electric Instruments Company. With the help of George Fullerton, who joined the company in 1948, Fender developed the Fender Broadcaster. The body of the Broadcaster was made of a solid plank of ash wood. The corners of the ash body were rounded. There was a cutaway located under the joint with the solid maple neck, making it easier for the guitarist to access the higher frets. The maple neck was bolted to the body of the guitar, which was unusual, since most guitar necks prior to the Broadcaster had been glued to the body. Frets were positioned directly into designed cuts made in the maple of the neck. The guitar had two pickups. The Fender Electric Instruments Company made fewer than one thousand Broadcasters. In 1950, the name of the guitar was changed from the Broadcaster to the Telecaster, as the Gretsch company had already registered the name Broadcaster for some of its drums and banjos. Fender decided not to fight in court over use of the name. Leo Fender has been called the Henry Ford of the solid-body electric guitar, and the Telecaster became known as the Model T of the industry. The early Telecasters sold for $189.50. Besides being inexpensive, the Telecaster was a very durable instrument. Basically, the Telecaster was a continuation of the Broadcaster. Fender did not file for a patent on its unique bridge pickup until January 13, 1950, and he did not file for a patent on the Telecaster’s unique body shape until April 3, 1951. In the music industry during the late 1940’s, it was important for a company to unveil new instruments at trade shows. At this time, there was only one important trade show, sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants. The Broadcaster was first sprung on the industry at the 1948 trade show in Chicago. The industry had seen nothing like this guitar ever before. This new guitar existed only to be amplified; it was not merely an acoustic guitar that had been converted. Impact The Telecaster, as it would be called after 1950, remained in continuous production for more years than any other guitar of its type and was one of the industry’s best sellers. From the beginning, it looked and sounded unique. The electrified acoustic guitars had a mellow woody tone, whereas the Telecaster had a clean twangy tone. This tone made it popular with country and blues guitarists. The Telecaster could also be played at higher volume than previous electric guitars. Because Leo Fender attempted something revolutionary by introducing an electric solid-body guitar, there was no guarantee that his business venture would succeed. Fender Electric Instruments Company had fifteen employees in 1947. At times, during the early years of the company, it looked as though Fender’s dreams would not come to fruition, but the company persevered and grew. Between 1948 and 1955 with an increase of employees, the company was able to produce ten thousand Broadcaster/Telecaster guitars. Fender had taken a big risk, but it paid off enormously. Between 1958 and the mid-1970’s, Fender produced more than 250,000 Telecasters. Other guitar manufacturers were placed in a position of having to catch up. Fender had succeeded in developing a process by which electric solid-body guitars could be manufactured profitably on a large scale. Early Guitar Pickups The first pickups used on a guitar can be traced back to the 1920’s and the efforts of Lloyd Loar, but there was not strong interest on the part of the American public for the guitar to be amplified. The public did not become intrigued until the 1930’s. Charlie Christian’s electric guitar performances with Benny Goodman woke up the public to the potential of this new and exciting sound. It was not until the 1950’s, though, that the electric guitar became firmly established. Leo Fender was the right man in the right place. He could not have known that his Fender guitars would help to usher in a whole new musical landscape. Since the electric guitar was the newest member of the family of guitars, it took some time for musical audiences to fully appreciate what it could do. The electric solid-body guitar has been called a dangerous, uncivilized instrument. The youth culture of the 1950’s found in this new guitar a voice for their rebellion. Fender unleashed a revolution not only in the construction of a guitar but also in the way popular music would be approached henceforth. Because of the ever-increasing demand for the Fender product, Fender Sales was established as a separate distribution company in 1953 by Don Randall. Fender Electric Instruments Company had fifteen employees in 1947, but by 1955, the company employed fifty people. By 1960, the number of employees had risen to more than one hundred. Before Leo Fender sold the company to CBS on January 4, 1965, for $13 million, the company occupied twenty-seven buildings and employed more than five hundred workers. Always interested in finding new ways of designing a more nearly perfect guitar, Leo Fender again came up with a remarkable guitar in 1954, with the Stratocaster. There was talk in the guitar industry that Fender had gone too far with the introduction of the Stratocaster, but it became a huge success because of its versatility. It was the first commercial solid-body electric guitar to have three pickups and a vibrato bar. It was also easier to play than the Telecaster because of its double cutaway, contoured body, and scooped back. The Stratocaster sold for $249.50. Since its introduction, the Stratocaster has undergone some minor changes, but Fender and his staff basically got it right the first time. The Gibson company entered the solid-body market in 1952 with the unveiling of the “Les Paul” model. After the Telecaster, the Les Paul guitar was the next significant solid-body to be introduced. Les Paul was a legendary guitarist who also had been experimenting with electric guitar designs for many years. The Gibson designers came up with a striking model that produced a thick rounded tone. Over the years, the Les Paul model has won a loyal following. The Precision Bass In 1951, Leo Fender introduced another revolutionary guitar, the Precision bass. At a cost of $195.50, the first electric bass would go on to dominate the market. The Fender company has manufactured numerous guitar models over the years, but the three that stand above all others in the field are the Telecaster, the Precision bass, and the Stratocaster. The Telecaster is considered to be more of a workhorse, whereas the Stratocaster is thought of as the thoroughbred of electric guitars. The Precision bass was in its own right a revolutionary guitar. With a styling that had been copied from the Telecaster, the Precision freed musicians from bulky oversized acoustic basses, which were prone to feedback. The name Precision had meaning. Fender’s electric bass made it possible, with its frets, for the precise playing of notes; many acoustic basses were fretless. The original Precision bass model was manufactured from 1951 to 1954. The next version lasted from 1954 until June of 1957. The Precision bass that went into production in June, 1957, with its split humbucking pickup, continued to be the standard electric bass on the market into the 1990’s. By 1964, the Fender Electric Instruments Company had grown enormously. In addition to Leo Fender, a number of crucial people worked for the organization, including George Fullerton and Don Randall. Fred Tavares joined the company’s research and development team in 1953. In May, 1954, Forrest White became Fender’s plant manager. All these individuals played vital roles in the success of Fender, but the driving force behind the scene was always Leo Fender. As Fender’s health deteriorated, Randall commenced negotiations with CBS to sell the Fender company. In January, 1965, CBS bought Fender for $13 million. Eventually, Leo Fender regained his health, and he was hired as a technical adviser by CBS/Fender. He continued in this capacity until 1970. He remained determined to create more guitar designs of note. Although he never again produced anything that could equal his previous success, he never stopped trying to attain a new perfection of guitar design. Fender died on March 21, 1991, in Fullerton, California. He had suffered for years from Parkinson’s disease, and he died of complications from the disease. He is remembered for his Broadcaster/ Telecaster, Precision bass, and Stratocaster, which revolutionized popular music. Because the Fender company was able to mass produce these and other solid-body electric guitars, new styles of music that relied on the sound made by an electric guitar exploded onto the scene. The electric guitar manufacturing business grew rapidly after Fender introduced mass production. Besides American companies, there are guitar companies that have flourished in Europe and Japan. The marriage between rock music and solid-body electric guitars was initiated by the Fender guitars. The Telecaster, Precision bass, and Stratocaster become synonymous with the explosive character of rock and roll music. The multi-billion-dollar music business can point to Fender as the pragmatic visionary who put the solid-body electric guitar into the forefront of the musical scene. His innovative guitars have been used by some of the most important guitarists of the rock era, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. More important, Fender guitars have remained bestsellers with the public worldwide. Amateur musicians purchased them by the thousands for their own entertainment. Owning and playing a Fender guitar, or one of the other electric guitars that followed, allowed these amateurs to feel closer to their musician idols. A large market for sheet music from popular artists also developed. In 1992, Fender was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is one of the few non-musicians ever to be inducted. The sound of an electric guitar is the sound of exuberance, and since the Broadcaster was first unveiled in 1948, that sound has grown to be pervasive and enormously profitable.
The invention: A plant that generates electricity from nuclear fission while creating new fuel. The person behind the invention: Walter Henry Zinn (1906-2000), the first director of the Argonne National Laboratory Producing Electricity with More Fuel The discovery of nuclear fission involved both the discovery that the nucleus of a uranium atom would split into two lighter elements when struck by a neutron and the observation that additional neutrons, along with a significant amount of energy, were released at the same time. These neutrons might strike other atoms and cause them to fission (split) also. That, in turn, would release more energy and more neutrons, triggering a chain reaction as the process continued to repeat itself, yielding a continuing supply of heat. Besides the possibility that an explosive weapon could be constructed, early speculation about nuclear fission included its use in the generation of electricity. The occurrence of World War II (1939- 1945) meant that the explosive weapon would be developed first. Both the weapons technology and the basic physics for the electrical reactor had their beginnings in Chicago with the world’s first nuclear chain reaction. The first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction occurred in a laboratory at the University of Chicago on December 2, 1942. It also became apparent at that time that there was more than one way to build a bomb. At this point, two paths were taken: One was to build an atomic bomb with enough fissionable uranium in it to explode when detonated, and another was to generate fissionable plutonium and build a bomb. Energy was released in both methods, but the second method also produced another fissionable substance. The observation that plutonium and energy could be produced together meant that it would be possible to design electric power systems that would produce fissionable plutonium in quantities as large as, or larger than, the amount of fissionable material consumed. This is the breeder concept, the idea that while using up fissionable uranium 235, another fissionable element can be made. The full development of this concept for electric power was delayed until the end of WorldWar II. Electricity from Atomic Energy On August 1, 1946, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established to control the development and explore the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The Argonne National Laboratory was assigned the major responsibilities for pioneering breeder reactor technologies.Walter Henry Zinn was the laboratory’s first director. He led a team that planned a modest facility (Experimental Breeder Reactor I, or EBR-I) for testing the validity of the breeding principle. Planning for this had begun in late 1944 and grew as a natural extension of the physics that developed the plutonium atomic bomb. The conceptual design details for a breeder-electric reactor were reasonably complete by late 1945. On March 1, 1949, the AEC announced the selection of a site in Idaho for the National Reactor Station (later to be named the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, or INEL). Construction at the INEL site in Arco, Idaho, began in October, 1949. Critical mass was reached in August, 1951. (“Critical mass” is the amount and concentration of fissionable material required to produce a self-sustaining chain reaction.) The system was brought to full operating power, 1.1 megawatts of thermal power, on December 19, 1951. The next day, December 20, at 11:00 a.m., steam was directed to a turbine generator. At 1:23 p.m., the generator was connected to the electrical grid at the site, and “electricity flowed from atomic energy,” in the words of Zinn’s console log of that day. Approximately 200 kilowatts of electric power were generated most of the time that the reactor was run. This was enough to satisfy the needs of the EBR-I facilities. The reactor was shut down in 1964 after five years of use primarily as a test facility. It had also produced the first pure plutonium. With the first fuel loading, a conversion ratio of 1.01 was achieved, meaning that more new fuel was generated than was consumed by about 1 percent. When later fuel loadings were made with plutonium, the conversion ratios were more favorable, reaching as high as 1.27. EBR-I was the first reactor to generate its own fuel and the first power reactor to use plutonium for fuel. The use of EBR-I also included pioneering work on fuel recovery and reprocessing. During its five-year lifetime, EBR-I operated with four different fuel loadings, each designed to establish specific benchmarks of breeder technology. This reactor was seen as the first in a series of increasingly large reactors in a program designed to develop breeder technology. The reactor was replaced by EBR-II, which had been proposed in 1953 and was constructed from 1955 to 1964. EBR-II was capable of producing 20 megawatts of electrical power. It was approximately fifty times more powerful than EBR-I but still small compared to light-water commercial reactors of 600 to 1,100 megawatts in use toward the end of the twentieth century. Consequences The potential for peaceful uses of nuclear fission were dramatized with the start-up of EBR-I in 1951: It was the first in the world to produce electricity, while also being the pioneer in a breeder reactor program. The breeder program was not the only reactor program being developed, however, and it eventually gave way to the light-water reactor design for use in the United States. Still, if energy resources fall into short supply, it is likely that the technologies first developed with EBR-I will find new importance. In France and Japan, commercial reactors make use of breeder reactor technology; these reactors require extensive fuel reprocessing. Following the completion of tests with plutonium loading in 1964, EBR-I was shut down and placed in standby status. In 1966, it was declared a national historical landmark under the stewardship of the U.S. Department of the Interior. The facility was opened to the public in June, 1975.