Today’s Illustration: The Death Of A Great Invention!

Who: Dean Kamen / Jimi Heselden

When: 1990s

What: The Segway

  • Dean Kamen made the world’s first drug infusion pump in his parents’ basement, out of parts he bought at RadioShack. That invention changed health care forever. — slate
  • “Like that other lover of first principles, Archimedes, Kamen had his eureka moment in the bathtub—or in his case, getting out of the shower. He slipped and windmilled his arms to regain his balance, which made him think about how humans balance ourselves. We instinctively understand how to shift our weight and change our stance; we even, in walking, propel ourself into small, controlled falls forward, each interrupted by the next step. If he could build a machine that could balance like a person does, it could have incredible applications; imagine a wheelchair that can stand up straight on two wheels or even climb stairs. How many lives would that change?” — slate
  • In 1995, Kamen designed, built, and sold “Fred Upstairs,” a wheelchair that could climb stairs, to Johnson & Johnson.
  • December 2001, on Good Morning America, the Segway personal transporter was on display.
  • “It’s sort of like putting on a pair of magic sneakers,” he told Diane Sawyer. “You think forward, you go forward.” — Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America
  • “Time magazine put the Segway on the cover and gave seven pages to the invention.”
  • Jeff Bezos told him, “You have a product so revolutionary you’ll have no problem selling it.”
  • Kamen leased that factory that could produce 6,000 Segways every week
  • People couldn’t buy one until a year after this big reveal.
  • A year after launch, the Segway factory was manufacturing not 6,000, not 600, not 60, but 10 Segways a week. — slate
  • Purchase cost $5,000
  •  In 2009, Jimi Heselden bought Segway out.
  • In 2010, Heselden accidentally drove his Segway off a cliff and was killed.”According to an inquest, Heselden backed up to make way for a dog walker on the trail, lost his balance, and spun out of control. When I asked Steve [Kemper] [1] about this story, he sighed, remembering the long hours he spent watching DEKA’s product safety team trying to envision every possible dangerous scenario a rider might put their invention in. “The machine is not totally foolproof,” he said finally, “because fools are so ingenious, as the saying goes.”– slate

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • say not today or tomorrow
  • life / death
  • failure
  • providence
  • plans/planning
  • Ecclesiastes
  •  opportunity
  • fools
  • foolproof
  • accidents

Sermonic Example: There are several distinct ways to use illustrative material.

(use whatever you find useful in the above details)

. . . . Now listen to the words of Steve Kemper, a journalist who followed the original development of the Segway  — “The machine is not totally foolproof because fools are so ingenious, as the saying goes.” . . . . .

Other Information & Links:

1.  Steve Kemper:  “Steve was a freelance journalist who’d built a modest career writing for newspapers and magazines” and had been asked to write a story and a book on the Segway by Kamen.  His relationship with Kamen ran hot and cold over the years. — slate

“Never mind that, Steve said. He had another great story, one no one could scoop him on. It was about an inventor named Dean Kamen, who had made his name by inventing the drug infusion pump and the first portable dialysis machine. He was a millionaire many times over, lived in a mansion in New Hampshire, and had his own private island. Now he had come up with his greatest invention yet.

Steve had once written a profile of Kamen, and recently Kamen had invited Steve up to the Manchester headquarters of his R&D company, DEKA—for DEan KAmen—telling him, “This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever worked on.”

Now, as Rafe and I listened, Steve told us that the new technology was absolutely revolutionary. “This invention is going to change the world,” he said, his voice crackling over the speaker from his house in Connecticut. He was a mild-mannered guy, generally, but he was fervent about this. “I have complete access to the whole thing. The engineers, the designers, Dean.”

“OK, well, what is the invention?” Rafe asked.

“I can’t tell you,” Steve said.

Rafe looked up at me, eyebrows raised. “Well, how do you expect us to get you a book deal?” he said.”


You won’t find a more complete history of the Segway


♦♦♦♦♦ ♦♦♦♦♦

“Time magazine put the Segway on the cover and gave seven pages to the invention. In that story, Kamen said the Segway would be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy. Jay Leno rode out on a Segway to do his Tonight Show monologue and then let the night’s guests, Russell Crowe and Sting, ride them too. The next week, the Segway even appeared on the cover of the New Yorker: Osama bin Laden, riding a Segway along a mountain pass in Afghanistan, fleeing coalition forces in style.

Yet despite this launch to end all launches, the Segway was not a hit. It was, of course, a flop.” — Slate

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