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Having a wife who is a qualified secretary has distinct advantages for someone like me who is dyslexic.


Today the 30/3/1994 she is the training administrator at the head office of a DIY chain (who shall remain nameless), There are only two in their department, her boss Nic and her, so she has to DO IT ALL.
It is generally believed that a spellchecker on a computer enables a dyslexic like me to correct their own spelling mistakes. It don't. To use even a dictionary you must have some idea of how the word is spelt. To know you have found the right individual word you have to read what the word means and it takes a long long time. I can read say, a newspaper quite easily, but I tend to understand the sentence not read the words. For instance, when tested, I could not read the word petroleum in isolation but in this sentence I could read "the petroleum vapours ignited on the forecourt". Anyway it's usually easier and quicker to get my wife to do it. It also has its disadvantages in that on this particular night, in order to get the spelling corrected in a long letter on the computer, I had to volunteer to deliver paperwork to a training centre 30 miles away Nr Evesham.

It was a dark dry and windless night, with little traffic on the journey, and when I joined the M5 heading for home I started to get sexited because in addition to correcting the spelling I had also managed to extract an extra nuptial promise from the wife . I had travelled only half a mile along the motorway when I saw the first ROAD WORKS AHEAD sign, stating two lanes closed.
No hold-ups were anticipated though, because of the light traffic and I was awaiting the usual one eyed yellow winking monsters sitting on every other cone. BUT when the coned off lanes arrived every one that had had a hazard light on was lying on it's side, most of which were smashed. Of course to an inventor this sort of observation (problem) demands explanation and a solution. By the time I had reached the end of the two miles or so of cones I had reasoned a solution out, but not all the problem, so at the next available junction I returned in the opposite direction and en route I noted on the other side that the police parking point was adjacent to a couple of still working hazard lights (insanely winking at the moon instead of warning motorists of the danger). Turning once again at the next junction and back onto the motorway, this time pulling off the motorway onto the police parking hillock, and justifying my unauthorised stopping by believing that "what I do now is for the greater good and safety" (with possibly some small monetary gain), I up righted the two still flashing cones and it wasn‘t long before my suspicions were confirmed when the wind from a lorry blew them both down again. Even when the lights were positioned with the heavy batteries on the approach side they were still felled by the wind from a juggernaut.
 Obviously for the rest of the journey home I was preoccupied with confirming whether it would be possible to alleviate the problem without prohibitively increasing the cost of manufacture. I had to contemplate most all possibilities and weigh up the pros and cons and had by the time I reached home conceived the entire money saving solution. Needing only to confirm that the two 6v lantern batteries used in hazard lights each contained 4 x 1.5v standard cells connected in series, I satisfied my curiosity by routing out and dissecting one, proving thatindeed they are made up of 4 separate cells contained in

a moulded case. I could not tell the wife about the new exciting innovation because by this time she had gone to bed and was fast asleep. The light was out, and so was my extra nuptial promise. Having seen that at least in this instance there was a problem I needed to see if and how it was minimised by the end user. A trip the next day to the local motorway maintenance depot gained me two broken lights, and a chat to the supervisor explained that it was a problem and that their solutions were:- first, having two complete cones stacked together served to eliminate toppling, second, they had collected extra bases salvaged from smashed cones (motorway cones are made in two parts) and an extra base added to cones with hazard lights minimised toppling, and lastly, to add a sandbag to the bottom of the cone. He also said the situation I had seen was unusual because a new man had

not been told to use two cones. He also conceded that although their solutions worked it added to the work load etc, but knew of no other solution.

Encouraged by this I used the broken lights and made the working prototype. My first observation and intention was to turn the weight of the batteries into an advantage instead of the basic disadvantage that they are. Using the 8 standard 1.5v cells only (cells as in an ordinary hand torch) served also to eliminate the need to produce two 4 cell containers and associated connections (money saved). Eight cells placed in series and parallel end to end in a plastic tube borrowed from the kitchen sink still gave plenty of clearance to ground when hung INSIDE cone utilizing existing hole on top.

Using an extruded plastic tube would be much cheaper and once again eliminate the need for ALL THESE very expensive and complicated plastic injection mouldings, plus the bracket.

All in all a MUCH MUCH cheaper product, neater looking, and arguably a SAFER product in that the batteries were now protected inside a single cone and no heavy, potentially lethal flying objects.

Having had all this hands on experience I also noted that each light, even with a darkness sensor, has to have it's batteries changed periodically (a very labour intensive and costly exercise). This, coupled with the original problem and my new design features, suggests the development of a small wind turbine for each light. I have visions of the new shaped hazard lights being transported standing upright in rows being recharged en route by the wind.

Satisfied that this would and will solve the problem I then considered how to protect my idea. This reasoning and the outcome are elaborated on with others in another chapter called Do the numbers add up.

Advised reading, especially for the inventor.

At this stage it is normally advised to have a patent attorney do a search and if nothing shows up you are then advised to apply for a patent. This of course costs time and money. I elected not to use this avenue because the problem still exists and if someone else had arrived at the same solution it would surely have been implemented. Instead I decided the way forward was to attend an appointment made with one of the larger manufacturers to demonstrate and explain the concept and advantages. It had been agreed that I would be accompanied by one of my brothers and that the meeting was to be videoed by me as proof of priority and the meeting would be in confidence.

The camcorder was set up at one end of the conference table and the recording started. My brother
and I sat with the two representatives from the company at the other end.

The meeting lasted 28 minutes but was over effectively in 1 minute. I merely showed them the prototype and as soon as the one man saw it he said "Dare I say right now, we have already done something like that and it didn't catch on. Ours had a mercury switch. Later he said it was around 3 years ago"

I disclosed all of my observations and solutions to no avail. He suggested that a robust wind turbine could possibly be interesting but as for introducing a new type of hazard light "The customer is happy with what he has got". We thanked them for the coffee and their time and left.

Content at that stage to accept their explanation that there was not a problem that needed solving, the hazard light was shelved alongside many others. It had been merely a relatively inexpensive diversion fulfilling my inventive urge while I had waited for a response on my major project "MMBOLT"

Today, armed with more knowledge and insight, I am able to speculate the real reason why a product such as my hazard light is not on the market. I had failed to pinpoint WHO had the problem.

THE problem still exists for YOU the end user (and TAX payer)

It can be seen on any motorway if you
look close at the bases that two cones are used to stop them toppling.

But it is NOT the manufacturer's problem. Think about it. The more Hazard Lights that are smashed the more he sells, to stop them smashing you buy more cones so why introduce something cheaper with less profit. It just so happens that the same guy makes the cones etc etc etc. I believe it is contemptuous of them! to do this because I suggest that the public are put at greater risk because the weight of two cones together is potentially more lethal.