Here is a picture of Harrison’s Chronometer (a late version), which was so accurate that it effectively solved a huge problem with navigation – enabling sailors to figure out their longitude when thousands of miles from home after many months. No other method had worked. Harrison had done it all for a prize as was dramatised in the book and mini-series ‘Longitude’.
Prizes are good things because if they succeed in eliciting an invention, they don’t then operate as a tax on consumers. We should use them more, and where we’ve not had them we should also have a fund for buying the best patents and making their IP available more cheaply than would occur if they were privately owned.
So it’s great to see a serious proposal to do just that being introduced to the US Senate.
And Google – never any dummy in these things – the company that auctions advertising space in real time – is offering developers multiple prizes worth $10 million for applications on Android, its new mobile OS.