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A journey through the 'Gadget Nation'

A chat with reporter Steve Greenberg, author of the new book Gadget Nation.

Gadget Nation cover

Ever heard of bird diapers? A talking toilet paper dispenser? A kosher lamp? Reporter and self-proclaimed "invention groupie" Steve Greenberg has.

Greenberg, also known to TV audiences as the "Innovation Insider," traveled America looking for clever offbeat products. His journey brought him face-to-face with hundreds of garage inventors, some of whom spent years, and even their retirement savings, in a quest to turn an idea into the next gadget bonanza.

In his new book, Gadget Nation, Greenberg tells the stories of these inventors--and more than 100 of their weird, and sometimes wonderful, innovations. These include the aforementioned bird diaper, a headwarmer pillowcase, and the "Take-Out-Time-Out Mat," a portable disciplinary mat parents can pull out anywhere when their kids' behavior warrants a "time out."

Steve Greenberg
Steve Greenberg Courtesy Steve Greenberg

I recently caught up with Greenberg for the CNET daily podcast while he was stuck in traffic on a Miami bridge. He outlined a few of the gadgets in his book and talked about what differentiates the inventors he met from those people who say, "Too bad there isn't a yada, yada..." but never take it any further.

Some of the inventions profiled in Gadget Nation have proven profitable, but Greenberg maintains that many inventors would say they're driven by more than financial gain.

"Money is part of it," he said. "But it's also some sort of consumer immortality that you go to the store and you see your product on the shelf. That's a very heady experience. You've changed the world of commerce."

Greenberg, who himself was born into a family of patent filers, also has sound advice for would-be inventors. He suggests, among other things, that they find a legitimate patent lawyer, build a working prototype of their gadget, and become part of an inventors' network. Click on the link below to hear the full interview.


What drives inventors?
Author Steve Greenberg talks about what motivates innovators, and shares advice for dreamers who think they have the next big idea.
Download mp3 (4.33MB)