When Germany invaded Denmark in World War II, the Hungarian chemist George de Hevesy dissolved the gold Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck into aqua regia to prevent the Nazis from stealing them. He placed the resulting solution on a shelf in his laboratory at the Niels Bohr Institute. It was subsequently ignored by the Nazis who thought the jar, one of perhaps hundreds on the shelving, contained common chemicals. After the war, de Hevesy returned to find the solution undisturbed and precipitated the gold out of the acid. The gold was returned to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Foundation who recast and presented the medals to Laue and Franck.
Sputnik was launched on this day 50 years ago, beginning the space race.
And there’s a more personal anniversary for me. It was on this day, three years ago, that I created my first podcast: an RSS feed of episodes of my radio show.
You can read my post about it here. We’ve come a long way in three years!
I‘ve been re-reading George Gilder’s fascinating Telecosm and I came across this telling anecdote about focus groups.
In 1980 when Bob Metcalfe, inventer of Ethernet, came to pitch the industrial megacorporation General Electric on behalf of his fledgling company 3COM, GE executives explained that they had done considerable research on the new personal computer and networking industries. In focus groups composed of GE customers held all over the country, executives were told over and over that there was no consumer interest in personal computers. PCs, the focus groups said, only were of interest to businesses. And the same could be said for networking.
The GE execs came to the conclusion that there was no home PC market, and never would be. They decided to stick with refrigerators, nuclear reactors, and light bulbs, and to this day the company has never touched in personal computing or networking thereby missing the fastest growing businesses in the past 20 years.