A hitherto unknown French inventor, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, went to his grave believing that Thomas Edison had been unfairly credited with inventing mechanical sound recording. Now researchers in Paris have unearthed one of Martinville’s phonautogram plates, designed to capture the image of a sound wave, made 17 years previous to the famous ‘Mary had a little lamb’ recording by Edison.
Of course, it’s not the first or last time that an invention associated with someone who didn’t actually invent it has robbed relative unknowns, not just of their rightful glory, but the kudos and fame which they deserve. As recently as 1980, Digital Research Inc. founder, Gary Kildall, with his operating system CP/M, missed a meeting with IBM the day they called, looking to get into the home computer business. Bill Gates, however, was available and eventually sold them MS DOS, a command line operating system which almost exactly mimicked CP/M.
The fact that MS DOS didn’t exist before Gates struck the IBM deal, has prompted many in the business to speculate that Gates simply retro-engineered CP/M, changing little except the copyright notice in it’s source code. MS DOS went on to become Microsoft Windows, the most widely adopted software for personal computers in the world.