You ever hear of a new idea or some new invention and realize that you had (pretty much...) the same idea last month, last year, or twenty years earlier?
More than once.
I remember one of the first times I ever experienced this. Back in the 1970s our family bought a high fidelity stereo, and I had an idea to make it better. I envisioned an entertainment box. Each side of the box had a different entertainment option. On one side there would be a radio. You turn the box and you would find a cassette tape deck. Turn the box again and on the next side would be an 8-track tape deck--remember those? I do. On the top of this box would be a record player.
Now we've got three sides and the top of the box covered with entertainment possibilities. What more could there be for the fourth side of the box? Remember, we're dealing with 70s technology here.
On the fourth side I would have had a TV tube, but not for watching TV shows--this box would be dedicated to music. I thought that it would be cool to watch musical acts on a monitor using the same stereo system and speakers as were used by the radio, cassette, 8-track and record player. I remember thinking someone might want to watch Elvis Presley sing while they heard him on a good sound system. This was back when Elvis was alive.
So, a pre-teen imagined watching bands play music on TV in the 1970s.
On August 1, 1981 a cable channel was launched, a channel dedicated to nothing but watching music videos. It wasn't until years later that I realized I sort of had that same idea. Of course, I'm sure many many others had the same thoughts, or slight variation of that thought. But still. It was something that I came up with on my own.
It happened again to me last week. I was listening to the latest edition of the Grammar Girl Podcasts and there was a new sponsor on the show called Verbling. For as little as $15 per hour, you can be taught a language lesson from a native speaker from the country where they speak that language. Basically, genius.
My idea was to get people together to talk to each other. You could practice speaking and understanding their language; they could work on learning yours. I didn't think of it as a "for profit" project, just a way for people to immerse themselves in another language. Same technology as Verbling, but different way to reach the same goal.
I believe the human brain is wired to think about new things. Call it daydreaming, call it a muse, call it whatever. But with billions of people on the planet, how can several people not think of similar things? It's inevitable, really. I hope Verbling makes it--I hold no grudges. After all, I didn't do anything with the idea and Verbling's probably been in the works for years--long before the idea came to me.
But maybe, just maybe, one of those new ideas and/or inventions will one day come from me. That would be cool!