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July 11, 1993|CHARLES SOLOMON

THEY ALL LAUGHED: From Light Bulbs to Lasers: The Story Behind Great Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives by Ira Flatow (HarperPerennial: $10; 238 pp., illustrated). In these brief accounts, the National Public Radio science reporter recounts how many modern conveniences, including typewriters, telephones and photocopying machines were initially dismissed as curiosities with no commercial applications. Often, a number of inventors experimented with prototypes, before perseverance, imagination and/or luck got the device into production and before the public. Flatow reveals that the solutions to many technical problem have not involved American know-how so much as a skeptical, "No, how?"

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