The Null Device
A landmark in the greying of rock'n'roll and the teenage dreams of the baby boom generation: the average age of members of The Rolling Stones, who celebrate their 50th anniversary as a band this year, is now almost two years higher than the average age of US Supreme Court justices (once referred to as the “Nine Old Men”, on account of it being an office one attains late in life and retains until death or incapacity). The average age of the (surviving) Rolling Stones is 68 years and 300 days, whereas that of Supreme Court justices is 67 years and two days.
Meet Nakamatsu Yoshiro, also known as Dr. NakaMats, the veteran Japanese inventor with 3,377 patents to his name and a stream of inventions dating back to 1952, when he invented an early type of floppy disk. Nakamatsu's floppy disk (a wood veneer disc designed to replace punched cards) was not immediately successful, and neither was the digital watch he invented a few years later, though both ideas found their place decades later. (IBM actually licensed Nakamatsu's patents for the floppy disk in 1969, despite having come up with it independently.) Nakamatsu followed these up with a steady stream of inventions; a few have been enormously successful, funding both his elaborate residence (a high-rise building shaped like a floppy disk) in Tokyo and his more out-there inventions:
Among his other creations (he will earnestly tell you) are the CD, the DVD, the fax machine, the taxi meter, the digital watch, the karaoke machine, CinemaScope, spring-loaded shoes, fuel-cell-powered boots, an invisible “B-bust bra,” a water-powered engine, the world’s tiniest air conditioner, a self-defense wig that can be swung at an attacker, a pillow that prevents drivers from nodding off behind the wheel, an automated version of the popular Japanese game pachinko, a musical golf putter that pings when the ball is struck properly, a perpetual motion machine that runs on heat and cosmic energy and...much, much more, much of which has never made it out of the multiplex of his mind.Dr. NakaMats is 84, though expects to live (and keep inventing) for another 60 years; he puts this down to his carefully controlled lifestyle regimen, which includes limiting sleep to only six hours a night, eating a special low-calorie diet (including a supplement, naturally, of his own invention, Dr. NakaMats' Rebody 55), as well as going on long underwater swims to starve his brain of oxygen, allowing inspiration to strike.
Dr. NakaMats is not without his detractors; some point out exaggerations in his claims (for example, the taxi meter, which he claims to have invented was patented in the US before he was born, and his claims to a perpetual motion machine, if taken at face value, are not compatible with the second law of thermodynamics). And none other than Kawakami Kenji, the founder of the absurdist (and militantly noncommercial) invention praxis of chindogu, has criticised Nakamatsu for his focus on money and self-glorification:
“Real inventions open our hearts and minds, enrich our lives, bring us closer together,” says countryman Kenji Kawakami, the anarchic founder of chindogu—intentionally silly and impractical creations that are not useful, patented or for sale. “Dr. NakaMats is all about money and fame and ego.”