What Barbie, Bifocals and Barbed Wire Have in Common

We hear a lot about inventors in the technology area who have had phenomenal success at a very young age.  But that doesn’t mean inventors with more mileage under their belts can’t be ultra successful as well.  Some of the most revolutionary or popular products were the work of people who were at least 40 years old.

You have a cell phone, right?  Martin Cooper invented it when he was around 45.

What about TV movies and shows?  Do you “TiVo” them to watch later?   Thank Mike Ramsay who, along with Jim Barton, co-invented this digital video recorder when he was 47.

Are you a fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken?  Colonel Harland Sanders pioneered this “finger lickin’ good” favorite when he was in his 60s.

Do you make sandwiches with Pepperidge Farm bread?  Margaret Rudkin began baking it when she was 40.

Here are a few other items whose creators were 40 or older:

Segway Personal Transporter – Inventor Dean Kamen was around 50 when the public unveiling took place for this self-balancing transportation machine.

Color TV – Invented by Scottish engineer John Logie Baird when he was around 40.

The Barbie doll – Invented by Ruth Handler, a founder of Mattel, Inc., when she was around 43 (Handler named the doll after her daughter).

Barbed wire – Joseph Glidden, an American farmer in his early 60s, invented the most popular type (back in 1873).

George Foreman Grill — Michael Boehm’s invention became a hit once Foreman, a former champion boxer, agreed to be the product spokesperson.  Boehm was around 50 at the time of the grill’s introduction.

The steam engine – Thomas Newcomen developed the first economical version when he was in his 40s.

The Big Bertha golf club – From the Callaway Golf Company, which was founded by Ely Callaway when he was in his early 60s.

Bifocals — Invented by Benjamin Franklin when he was in his late 70s.

While this list just scratches the surface, it shows the influence of older inventors.  It also makes you wonder what everyday living might be like without their efforts.

More often than not, these inventors went through years of failed attempts before finally getting it right.  What if they hadn’t persevered?

They could have said: “I’m too old to do this.”  Instead, they didn’t let their age, or anything else, get in the way of turning a vision into reality.   Thank goodness they didn’t.

As demonstrated by their achievements, the world needs inventors who have life experience.   Sure, the Next Big Idea could come from a college student.  But don’t count out the inventor with crow’s feet.  When it comes to innovation, you never know.

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About Lynne Strang

I'm a writer who blogs about 40-and-older business owners. I am also the author of "Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40." Outside of work, I enjoy reading, cooking, vegetable gardening and exercise (especially cycling).
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6 Responses to What Barbie, Bifocals and Barbed Wire Have in Common

  1. So sorry, I’m late…busy week. Great post. The Barbie doll certainly got my attention having raised 2 daughters and I believe my own Barbie, behind the glass doors of a doll cabinet may be a vintage one.
    My cousin’s son won his first Oscar and nomination in his early 40’s! Shhh…I’ll e-mail the rest.

  2. lbstrang says:

    An Oscar at any age is a huge achievement, but it must be especially gratifying to receive one after years of hard work. Congratulations to your cousin’s son!

  3. Mike Wilson says:

    Lynne, this is a very cool post. I think we who are not “spring chickens” can always use the encouragement that it is not too late to start or to make that change or to put our ideas to the test.

  4. lbstrang says:

    I think it’s just the opposite, actually. With some planning, Act Two (and beyond) can be more productive, creative and/or fun than Act One.

  5. Reblogged this on Snippets from the web and commented:
    It’s not too late.

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