The independent inventor is a symbol of American ingenuity who can justly claim credit for creations such as the photocopier and the implantable cardiac pacemaker. But this archetypal figure, whose ranks receive nearly one in five patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, may sometimes be more Rube Goldberg than Thomas Edison.
Take Joe Armstrong. The 70-year-old shares traits of both utilitarian and prankster. While residing in Phoenix, Armstrong made a living for almost 25 years off a patented invention that he devised for mounting aluminum-coated Mylar screens in car and truck windows to deflect the brutal Southwestern sun. Elvis Presley's Cadillac and seven of Imelda Marcos's Mercedes were adorned with the screens, according to Armstrong.
This article was originally published with the title Kick Me, Myself and I.