Start Something with a Good Idea!


This is the 38th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.

The guy sitting in a shack in the valley may look up at the big house on the hill and wonder how the other people got there.
They probably got there with an idea and the guts to see it through.
Some of our nation’s best ideas have come from people of modest means and education.
Spend some time each day thinking about something that will find a ready market.
Remember, someone had to invent the paper clip, contact lenses, and the clothespin.
So start thinking.
Your clothespin may be waiting around the corner.

I remember when I first read this ad 35 years ago I decided to heed its advice and spend some time each day thinking about new ideas. Here are some of the ideas I came up with between 1980-1985 :

  • a device slightly taller than a deck of cards but much thinner from which you could make video phone calls or send typed messages to anyone in the world, look up anything you wanted in Encyclopedia Brittanica, take photos and have the photos developed in less than an hour, record videos, use for driving directions, look up sports scores, and check stock quotes. All of these features would be accessed by simply touching the screen.
  • a car that could drive itself.
  • a TV that was less than two inches thick and 60 inches wide.
  • an airplane about the size of a shoebox that could be remotely controlled and used for deliveries.
  • a Dick Tracy type watch that could be used to make phone calls, send messages, and measure my heart rate.
  • a service where people could watch any movie they wanted from the comfort of their home by just ordering the movie directly from their TV
  • a handheld device on which I could order any book I wanted to read, and be reading it in less than a minute.
  • a way to periodically post pictures and updates about what we were up to, and checking out what others were up to on a shared platform; would be great for keeping up with friends and family

I guess I should have also followed the second part of Mr. Gray’s advice, which was having the guts to see these ideas through.

I think it’s time for some brainstorming again…


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