Yesterday - National Inventors Hall of Fame day - was a time to hail legends in photography, electricity, television; the inventors of the "super slurper," a windmobile (may all its winds be crossdirectional), and the insect suction gun; and the man who can guarantee that your 6-year-old will squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube.
Edwin H. Land, known for the Land Camera and holder of 500 patents, and Russian-born Miami Beach resident Vladimir K. Zworykin, who developed the cathode ray tube vital in television and radar, were inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame at the Commerce Department's patent and trademark office at Crystal Plaza.
Appropriately, the ceremony was recorded by, among others, a guest with a Polaroid camera. Land, dark-suited and prosperous-looking, and Zworykin, his turned-up collar point suggesting the pleasant dishevelment sometimes associated with genius, were cited along with the late George Eastman for development of photographic film, Lee DeForest for work in amplifying electrical currents and Charles Steinmetz for the system for distributing alternating electrical current.
About 30 would-be Hall-of-Famers displayed their inventions throughout the room, fascinating several hundred visitors. One of the largest crowds was attracted to the "super slurper," which won the Inventor of the Year award for four U.S. Department of Agriculture employees from Peoria, II.
[WORD ILLEGIBLE] formally known as "highly absorbent starch-containing polymeric compositions," absorbs up to 1,400 times its own weight in water. "I'd hate to have someone drop some in my swimming pool," a woman said.
It's said to have about 80 uses, from agriculture to child-raising; it increases the absorbency of diapers.
James L. Amick of Ann Arbor, Mich., describes his windmobile as "a new breed of car." Indeed it is. It looks like a small jet plane that either just landed or it about to take off from an arch that rises over it. The arch is crucial. It serves as a fixed "sail" which collects wind, and which should blow perpendicular to the car's direction for best results.
With an undying, favorable wind, one could drive forever. If it's not windy enough, the car is powered by electrical energy stored in batteries.
An entire rapid transit system was shown off by Averette T. Lee of Atlanta. A 1,500-to 2,000-foot vehicle capable of carrying 8,000 people and 300 automobiles moves over an elevated route supported by pylons. The wheels are not on the vehicle, but are mounted and turning on the pylons in accordance with Lee's belief that "big wheels are efficient but hard to steer."
William Wolowitz of Bethesda, a typist's best friend, displayed his black-and-white ribbon that enables one to make corrections with no problem. He's also the man behind the typewriter correction key and says, "There won't be a typewriter manufactured five years from now that won't have a correction key. You can't write without making a mistake no more than you can walk without sometimes stumbling."
Art Wilston of Troy, Pa., is the man who can put an end to crumpled, punctured tubes of toothpaste. His dispenser forces out from the bottom up the contents of a tube placed inside it. Somewhat household-oriented, Wilston says he's working on a cake pan that will produce level sections for layer cakes, eliminating the necessity of cutting off the risen centers.
When it comes to energy converters, Mark Schuman, of Washington, points proudly to a device with a piston bobbing up and down in a glass tube. He has a patent, too, on his insect suction gun. Pffffffttttt. If it's not the end for bugs, it could be a hit toy next Christmas.