The Tale of the Scale: An Odyssey of Invention

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9780195158687: The Tale of the Scale: An Odyssey of Invention

In the mid-1980s, Solly Angel had a technological mini-vision. He saw in his mind's eye a quarter-inch thick personal scale weighing a pound--a travel scale--and he decided to make it a reality, to bring it to market.
The Tale of the Scale is a rare first-person account of the process of invention and design as it unfolds in the remaking of the familiar bathroom scale. It is rare because inventors seldom have the inclination to articulate their thought processes and to recount their experiences in great detail. Written by an inventor, the book stands apart from recent books about inventors.
Angel, an urban planner by profession, had no mechanical skills as he embarked on his journey. The Tale records his transformation, over the course of a decade, from a bungling ignoramus to an expert on thin scales. Readers know as much about scales--or about invention for that matter--as Angel does at the beginning of the journey. Listening to Angel's unfolding story, they learn about the intricacies of invention and design as Angel finds out about them.
The Tale of the Scale is truly an odyssey of invention. The pursuit of the thin scale takes readers to fascinating places--from Bangkok to Rolling Hills, California, from Groningen in the Netherlands to Murrhardt in Germany, and from New York to Tokyo. But the places Angel explores are not only visually different. They are realms of knowledge inhabited by people with diverse yet complementary outlooks on the invention process--engineers, designers, lawyers, product development specialists, corporate functionaries, and friends who philosophize on the deeper meanings of one's life pursuits.

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About the Author:


Solly Angel is an internationally recognized authority on housing policy in developing countries. He is a senior policy advisor to the UN, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. He teaches urban planning at New York University and at Princeton University. He is a co-author of A Pattern Language and the author of Housing Policy Matters.

Review:


"Angel takes us into the machine shop and boardroom, and lets us in on moments of exhilaration and crushing disappointment.... This--and not the romantic vision of the lone inventor toiling at his workbench--is the reality of product development. There are towering savants and there are revolutions, but most progress usually happens by committee, inch by inch."--Christian Science Monitor


"In this fun yet informative book, readers follow Angel through the trials and tribulations of building a prototype, applying for a patent, finding a manufacturer, and finally marketing the product. It's particularly interesting to watch Angel find his way around challenges-his first scale cost nearly $500 to build-and meet all the people that he encounters in trying to see his project through."--Science News


"It all seems so simple: think of a brilliant new idea, manufacture it, and everyone lives happily ever after. Reality is much more painful. In this book, Solly Angel tells a compelling case history of the seemingly never-ending hurdles that lie between the creation of a brilliant concept and its actual realization as a product that can be sold in stores. There are many lessons to be learned in this fascinating diary." --Don Norman, Nielsen Norman Group, author of Emotional Design


"The Tale of the Scale is a wholly engaging adventure story set in the world of invention, engineering, and manufacturing. It provides a rare look into the mind of an inventor and entrepreneur at work. No reader of this book should ever be able to look at a bathroom scale again without thinking of Solly Angel's personal quest." --Henry Petroski, author of The Pencil


"An immensely entertaining and instructive chronicle.... Daydreaming about inventing a better mousetrap is common enough, but the dreamer who converts fantasy to reality is rare. Rarer still is the inventor with the reflective acumen to illuminate the process; that Angel has this ability makes the account amazingly exciting--not a quality usually associated with consumer-product development. To an extent, his bright idea--a slim scale for travelers--is incidental to the story, which dramatizes the collision between creative concepts and their marketability."--Booklist


"The fruit of Solly Angel's vision is not just his against-the-odds feat of design and engineering but also this absorbing account of the eurekas and frustrations involved in his long voyage of discovery." --Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture


"An architect with a brilliant idea for a domestic product devotes more than ten years of his life to realize his dream. He gradually learns, from many mistakes and disasters, how to overcome the deep conflicts between aesthetic ideas and physical and commercial reality. This book, which is written clearly, modestly and philosophically, is both inspiring and informative. I know of no other book that reveals the intelligence and the devotion that are needed to integrate engineering and aesthetics." --John Chris Jones, author of Design Methods and The Internet and Everyone


"Against the odds, Angel makes The Tale of the Scale interesting. His determination is impressive. His sense of humor stays alive even in the direst circumstances and he is easy to identify with. His early vision of making a million dollars soon fades, but this doesn't stop him. A rueful book, and a much more rewarding read than might be supposed."--New Scientist


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