Academy of Applied Science
Banking on Our Future
by Don Kelly, Chief Executive Officer
I suppose it's human nature to compartmentalize things, to place them in pre-defined slots like CD caddies or those snugly concave spool-holders in sewing drawers. You know, like Elton John goes here, NSYNC goes there; white thread, black thread and so on. We see this in the business world, too, as Wall Street defines our economy with reference to the tech sector, the banking sector, energy; the Wall Street Journal devotes whole sections to these theoretical divisions. Constant categorizing may keep our world organized, but it has some subtle influences one might not recognize.
Recently, for example, I happened to mention some gifts the Academy had received in support of our Young Inventors' Program." When I noted that two of our most recent donations came from the Merrimack County Savings Bank and the Bank of New Hampshire, the response was: Banks are not part of the tech sector. Why would they be interested in
I'm rarely ready with a thoughtful response in cases such as this; actually I'm more inclined to what the French refer to as stairway wit, meaning that I might think of a comeback long after leaving the room. But, in this case, I was prepared. I'd actually had the same curious debate only days before-with myself, in fact. Undoubtedly, my own decades of living with the ultimate categorization scheme, the US Patent Classification System with its more than 400,000 finite slots for every kind of technology one could imagine, brought me to that same knee-jerk question: Don't banks do financial stuffnot technology? Even though I knew otherwise, prejudices run deep.
Of course banks not only enjoy invention; they thrive on it.
The first financial US patent was granted in 1799 to inventor Jacob Perkins. It was for a counterfeit note-detecting method. A quick text-search of the US Patent files for the keyword "bank" brings a document count of 51,934 US Patent grants since 1976. A search for patents including the narrower term "banking" draws a total of 5,754 hits. Those patents range from inventions involving ATMs, vaults, fingerprint registering, lock-timing devices, teller cage structures, and coin-sorters, all the way to something called "Hierarchical Model of Consumer Attributes for Targeting Content in a Privacy-preserving Manner." Care to know more? Ask inventor Kramer,
or read US Patent No. 6,327,574.
Yeah, but do bankers invent?
The best example of bank-based inventorship would be the teller who grew weary of number-crunching with stubby little pencils. He supplemented his banker's hours with night work in a machine shop and came up with the calculator. The year was 1888 when William Burroughs received US Patent No. 388,116. By 1926 the Burroughs Adding Machine Company had produced a million machines. Tellers everywhere gratefully surrendered their pencil stubs thanks to this thoughtful banker.
And, thanks to the gifts of the thoughtful bankers I mentioned, along with other support received and yet to come, many children will be afforded an opportunity to stretch their own imaginations, to test and sharpen their own inventive skills. Someday, their inventive ability will impact the lives of all of usin all our various sectors.
[We are grateful for contributions of any size to support our ambitious expansion of the award-winning Young Inventors' Program" to ensure a future labor pool stocked with innovative Americans. If you'd care to join us in banking on the future, contact the Academy at 603-228-4530 with your pledge of support.]