Thomas Edison’s Failed Invention

Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” One has to admire Thomas Edison if not be inspired by him. He was an American inventor and businessman. He invented the light bulb, motion picture camera, and stock ticker among other inventions. He never stopped working; he was always creating something because something was always inspiring him to do so.

That is what happened when the stylus of the telegraph caught his eye; as the apparatus transmitted messages the stylus would puncture the paper, leaving a mark of chemical solution underneath. In 1875 he invented the electric pen, the intent was to have it perforate a sheet of paper to make multiple copies; this would eliminate the tedious act of making copies by hand. It was a commercial failure because by then the market had shifted to simpler methods such as the type writer, carbon paper and the mimeograph.

Then one day along came Samuel O’Reilly an Irish immigrant who was walking down the streets of New York, passed by a window display of the electrical pen, and had an idea. What if he could use the electrical pen for his own purpose?

In 1891 he patented the electric pen as the tattoo machine used today. He was already an established tattoo artist in New York, but with the tattoo machine he was able to create faster and cleaner lines. He even took in an apprentice to teach them how to use the machine. There have been very few changes added to the machine since Edison’s original idea. As Edison once said, “Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.”  M. Stieg