Here's Another Inventor Who Willingly Gave Away His Greatest Idea In Order To Establish It As A Global Standard
from the true-generosity dept
Beyond the fact that you are using it to read these words, the Web has undeniably had a major impact on a large part of the world’s population. It’s certainly one of the greatest inventions of recent times, and as Techdirt has noted before, one of the reasons it has taken off in such an amazing way, and led to so many further innovations, is because Sir Tim Berners-Lee decided not to patent it.
Few would argue that the
when Smith collaborated with a handful of Japanese companies — including Roland and Yamaha — to bring MIDI into the world 30 years ago, he skipped the licensing fees, instead offering up his idea for the world to steal. “We wanted to be sure we had 100% participation, so we decided not to charge any other companies that wanted to use it,” says Smith.
What’s noteworthy here — aside from the ridiculous use of the word “steal” — is that letting people use the MIDI standard for free was not some accident or oversight: well before the example of Berners-Lee, Smith understood that it was the best way to get his standard widely adopted. That’s not to say that he hasn’t occasionally hankered after the riches he might have received had he charged for a license, but in the end he recognizes the “obvious” rightness of the move:
Smith at times questions his decision to forgo licensing fees for MIDI, but ultimately comes back to the same conclusion. “It seemed like an obvious thing to do at the time,” he says, “and in hindsight, I think it was the right thing to do.” In the world of technology, that makes Smith a different kind of legendary.
Indeed: thanks to that far-sighted decision 30 years ago, he joins Berners-Lee as one of the true benefactors of humanity. Let’s hope that in the coming years there are many more with vision enough to join them.