Why didn’t I think of that?

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One of my current favorite commercials is for Best Buy. In that commercial, several technology inventors proudly hold up their devices and say, “I’m the inventor of (product),” then at the end, some Best Buy employees explain that all these inventions are great but the best place to get smartphones and other technology is at their store.

I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences at Best Buy, so I can’t really state whether I think that claim at the end is correct. What interests me about the commercial is the different inventions that were designed based on the smartphone. A man with a European accent states “I invented the first text message.” A young entrepreneur says, “I turned your phone into a bank,” referring to the Square application that allows a phone to work like a credit card machine. In one of the more humorous parts of the commercial, two inventors say proudly “We invented Words with Friends,” only to be hushed up by a flight attendant (remember, you can’t play with phones on airplanes).

All of these people in the commercial had something in common — an idea. It’s amazing to me that so many claim the American dream is dead, and there’s no way to be financially successful or get ahead, if you’re in the middle class. There are also those who say that everything has already been invented, or the cost to invent something is too astronomical that new technology will be developed by corporations like Apple and GM, rather than individuals like Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln.

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And yet, despite all those claims, there continue to be people every day who push the envelope and come up with unique inventions. Sure, a lot of those start-ups fail, but that’s always been part of the American dream as well. It’s been stated that Edison had more than 1,000 failed attempts before ultimately inventing the light bulb.

I know that when I first found out about Square, I immediately thought, “Why didn’t I think of that!” After all, the technology is already there to allow people to swipe credit cards (think of how small a card reader is at a gas station). It might have taken some time, but I’m sure any tinkerer could have eventually figured out a way to link that credit-card reader to a phone, and therefore an Internet connection, and therefore the ability to take transactions anytime, anywhere.

Just look at Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook. He had an idea of a way to allow his Harvard college buddies to socialize with each other online, and he has turned it into a multi-billion dollar company. I remember laughing when I first heard about Twitter — “How could anybody possibly get any use out of something that limits how much you can say?” I’m guessing that the inventors of that service are the ones laughing right now.

To all of the graduates out there, you have a tremendous opportunity. You have the imagination, and you have the education to accomplish great things. Perhaps somewhere out there we have the person who will invent the next Facebook, or the next Twitter, or maybe even the next light bulb.

And then we’ll look at you, and we’ll say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Justin Schuver is the managing editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can reach him at justin.schuver@thepostsearchlight.com.