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John the Inventor

There's a lot of speculation about what really happened to John, but after a century in hiding, there may be a clue in a poem left behind by the man himself.

By Edison AdePublished 2 years ago 3 min read

Written in 1918 on an old piece of stationery from the Hotel Marlowe in New York City, it was found in his hotel room shortly before he disappeared…

One of my fondest dreams

Is to get this invention off the ground,

But I’m damned if I can’t get people to hire me.

John was an inventor with good ideas and a strong work ethic — but no one wanted to hire him. A career in engineering wasn’t for him, but he had been trying for years to find success in the business world.

“The people that would have given me a chance just didn’t take my ideas seriously,” he once confided in his journal. “They were too busy chasing after the next big thing, and I think they still are.”

He was labelled an oddball by his peers at school and seemed to encounter difficulty everywhere he turned. He just couldn’t get a break, and eventually grew discouraged.

“Every time I think about my invention, something holds me back,” says John. “I’ve been trying to decide if it’s fear or doubt.”

He described a recurring dream in which he is standing at a podium before a crowded room, waving frantically to catch the audience’s attention. “I’m trying to tell them about my plans for this new company, but they won’t listen. They can’t even hear me.”

John’s journey began in 1908 when he was working as an engineer for the Mead Manufacturing Company in New York. It was there that John first started developing his idea — a new type of fabrication machine called The John Hardin.

He continued to work on the machine throughout the next decade; tinkering with designs, upgrading parts and increasing the efficiency of its operation.

“It just made sense,” he explained in one of his journal entries from those early days, “to make it as easy to use as possible.”

Although many people would look at this design and see the computer as we know it today — a single, complex piece of machinery — John saw something different: a machine that could do the work of twenty men.

John was intent on building something to impress, but couldn’t seem to score his big break. “Every time I walk into an interview, they see me as some sort of nutter,” he explained in one of his journal entries; completely unaware that history would remember him quite differently.

I bet I can do it better myself,* he wrote in his journal.

In the end, John decided to go into hiding before anyone could stop him from pursuing his invention.

“I know that I’m going to make this work,” he wrote confidently in 1918.

“I just need time and peace of mind.”

A week later, he checked out of the Hotel Marlowe and was never seen again.

The only remaining clue as to his fate — is the poem found in his hotel room.

We know that John continued to tinker with his invention after leaving Mead, but it wasn’t until fifty years later that the world would ever lay eyes on it.

After his disappearance, his family remained hopeful that he would return to them one day. They went so far as to keep an empty chair at the dining room table — just in case.

It wasn’t until 1965 — the centennial of John’s birth — that the world would get its first glimpse of his machine. His daughter had kept it under lock and key all those years, and now she was finally ready to share it with the world.

People who saw The John Hardin at that time described its appearance as “primitive” and “unimpressive” in comparison to today’s high-tech computers, but that didn’t stop them from recognizing its value. Today, we know it as the first computer ever built.

The world has come a long way in 100 years; that much is certain.

As for where John went or what became of him, we may never know. Some say he ended up leaving Mead and travelling south to North Carolina, while others believe he returned home to New York — or even decided to travel west instead.

“He could be anywhere,” his daughter told us through tears, “and I’m just not ready to let go.”

Whatever the case, we thank John for leading such a fascinating life and hope that he has found peace with himself after all these years. We can only think of The John Hardin as a symbol of what is possible when an idea is pursued to fruition — and the world is better for it.


About the Creator

Edison Ade

I Write about Startup Growth. Helping visionary founders scale with proven systems & strategies. Author of books on hypergrowth, AI + the future.

I do a lot of Spoken Word/Poetry, Love Reviewing Movies.

My website Twitter

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