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July 9, 2012 | By Jay Levin, The Record
Well before "Madden NFL" video games, there was a quirky tabletop toy called Electric Football. Surely you remember it: Metal playing field. Two teams of 11 plastic football players, each standing on a rectangular base with prongs on the bottom and a knob on the side. At the beginning of each play, the human "coach" sets the players in the desired position and puts the football in the hands of one. A switch is flicked, the gridiron vibrates and the players move - often wildly in every direction.
July 2, 2012 | By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
Aeronautical engineer Jim Drake had already solved the "puzzle" of pairing a surfboard with a sail when a young man who stopped to admire "the Baja Board" in the late 1960s suggested what he called "the perfect name": the Windsurfer. In his Santa Monica garage, Drake had designed and built a prototype meant to be ridden in a novel way — standing up — and steered by an inventive hand-held sail assembly. He first tested the board in 1967 off Marina del Rey and the "wind-propelled apparatus" was patented three years later.
May 22, 2012 | By David Lazarus
Amid all the ballyhoo over what a bold visionary Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is, let's pause for a moment to appreciate the work of Eugene Polley, inventor of the TV remote control, who has died at age 96. Think about it. Before Polley's brainstorm, people actually had to get up out of their seats and cross the room to change TV channels. Simply put, there would be no couch potatoes without this man. I don't mean to be snarky. The TV remote truly is one of those rare devices that change the way we live . I'd put it right up there with personal computers and microwave ovens.
May 2, 2012 | By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times
At his kitchen table, orthodontist Bob Smith tried to solve a problem that dogged him on the ski slopes in the early 1960s by using dental tools and foam to fashion prototypes of fog-resistant goggles. As he developed what is commonly called the modern ski goggle, he often traded early versions of the eyewear for lift tickets. His were the first to feature a sealed thermal lens and breathable foam venting, according to Smith Optics, the company he founded in 1965 in Ketchum, Idaho, to manufacture them.
March 24, 2012 | Patt Morrison
Only his number is retired - 33, in the Lakers' purple and gold that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore to glory on the basketball court. The rest of him is still working away, most recently on his latest book. At UCLA, in blue and gold, Abdul-Jabbar was a standout, an All American and player of the year - and a history major, which has served him well in his literary career. Some of his books have made it to the bestseller list, and this one, "What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors," is a children's volume with adult appeal.
March 9, 2012 | By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
Spanx inventor Sara Blakely is a billionaire at 41 years old, according to the annual Forbes magazine list of billionaires. Blakely, the creator and owner of the line of women's and men's slimming, smoothing undergarments, is the youngest woman ever to make the list as a self-made billionaire, meaning she didn't inherit or marry into the money. She's one of several billionaires who appear on the cover of the latest Forbes issue. According to Forbes, Blakely was 29 when she was looking for something flattering to wear under her white slacks.
January 18, 2012 | By Shan Li
Calling all inventors: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. wants you to parade your stuff. The nation's largest retailer is holding a contest, called Get on the Shelf, for a chance to snag a spot on its stores and website for your product. Think of it as American Idol: Retail Edition “That's uncovering the next great singer, this is uncovering the next product,” said Chris Bolte, vice president of @WalmartLabs, the retailer's social media and e-commerce arm. “This is a way for us to really provide our consumers with a voice on the kind of products that Wal-Mart carries.” That's because the contest will be determined by the public, who will vote on videos created by contestants and posted onto . Aspiring businesses and individuals have until Feb. 22 to upload a clip about their product onto the site.
January 15, 2012 | By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times
Four years ago, Drew Houston was just another super-smart hacker with ambitions of starting his own company. He'd strap on headphones to block out everything but the endorphin rush as he cranked code late into the night on a new service that instantly syncs all of your files on all of your devices. Houston, who played guitar in a '90s rock cover band at Boston bars and college parties, dubbed it "Even Flow" after one of his favorite Pearl Jam songs. On a white board in his Cambridge, Mass., apartment, he calculated that he'd need several hundred users to "not feel like an idiot" quitting his $85,000-a-year job as a software engineer.
December 25, 2011 | By Roger Vincent, Los Angeles Times
The gig: A 95-year-old sailor, inventor and entrepreneur, Stanley A. Dashew is probably best known for his invention of credit card embossing and imprinting machines in the 1950s that helped give birth to the plastic credit card industry. He has also invented other devices in such fields as shipping, mining and marine recreation. He personally holds 14 U.S. patents. Dashew and his late wife, Rita, were world travelers who supported efforts to strengthen international ties and promote peace.
November 12, 2011 | Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports
While running through the slick streets of Minnesota on a particularly cold and wet winter day in 1975, cross-country skier Ed Pauls was moved to wonder: Could he come up with an exercise machine that would allow him to practice skiing indoors? Trained as an engineer, he invented NordicTrack, which employed wood slats, pulleys and wires — and allowed the user to imitate the movement of gliding on skis through snow. On the advice of a family friend, Pauls decided that his creation had commercial potential.
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