Dean Kamen, co-founder of FIRST and president of DEKA Research and Development, jokes about how his first invention was not a big seller.
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What was your first invention as a child? Dean Kamen: The first thing that I actually remember creating as an invention wasn’t a big seller. I was probably five or six-years old. My mother, as most mothers thought it was a good idea that everyday I get out of bed and make the bed. Well, I am small even today but certainly, for a six-year old, I was particularly small. I could barely see over the side of that bed and running to one corner and tagging on the covers and then running to the other corner and tugging on the cover and if I tugged too far, running back to the first. It takes a lot of time and effort to run around that bed. And I quickly learned that for instance, if my old brother helped me, it wasn’t twice as fast for the two of us. It was virtually instant because we can each be at one end of the bed, tugging on the cover. It’s taut, you let it go; it’s done. It was sort of like learning for the first time you can pull a noodle but you can’t push a noodle. So, it occurred to me that without his help, I could still in effect be pulling simultaneously from both ends if I could just for instance, put a little pulley at the other end of the bed frame, put a knot in the end of the cover and bedspread with a rope around it, come back to the other end and if the pulleys are all right, I could get out of bed, stand in one place, pull on a couple of ropes and everything was taut, the bed was made. So, I had an automatic bed maker. It wasn’t a big seller.