If you play video games, use a GPS in your car, or go scuba diving, you can thank some of the people inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame this year.
To honor those whose inventions and discoveries have changed the world for the better, the National Inventors Hall of Fame inducts key scientists and inventors into its ranks each year. Announced at Wednesday's induction ceremony in Washington, D.C., some of this year's honorees designed or paved the way for several of the technologies we use today.
As an early pioneer in video games, Ralph Baer invented a system later released by Magnavox as the Odyssey Home Video Game System, the first home video game player. Baer also designed a number of video games well known to people who played them in the 1970s, including ping-pong, handball, and soccer.
Working for the Naval Research Laboratory, Roger Easton created a system called Timation, a term that combines time and navigation. Timation was the first system that used atomic clocks on satellites to provide an accurate position and precise time to observers. It's also the invention that led directly to today's GPS satellites and systems, which use the exact same principle.
Three of this year's inductees--Field Winslow, Lincoln Hawkins, and Vincent Lanza--were all part of a team at Bell Labs that created a new coating to better protect and insulate telephone cables from weather, temperature changes, and other environmental factors. Their work helped to cut the cost of building and maintaining today's phone networks.
Two more honorees make it possible for divers to more easily move around and breathe underwater. Famous explorer Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan developed the Aqualung, also known as the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or "scuba." Replacing heavier and more clumsy diving suits, scuba gear gives divers the freedom to swim underwater and adjust their air pressure depending on their depth.
Other inductees this year include Yvonne Brill, a pioneer in rocket propulsion, and Spencer Silver, the designer of Post-It notes.
A nonprofit organization, the National Inventors Hall of Fame accepts nominations each year for people whose inventions or discoveries have improved society in some way. Each person's invention must be covered by a U.S. patent and recognized for its contribution to science or the practical arts.
A panel of experts from the organization and representatives from different scientific and industry groups select each year's recipients. Including the new inventors honored for 2010, the number of inductees now stands at 421. A list of all recipients from the past 38 years can be found at the Inventors Hall of Fame Web site.