An Inventful Life
Yoshiro Nakamatsu, better known as Dr. Nakamats, is an eccentric Japanese inventor with over 3,500 patents to his name. Best known for creating the floppy disk and licensing it to IBM in the 1970s, he’s now in a race with time to find a cure to the cancer he has been afflicted with.
It is said that you possess more patents than Thomas Edison. Did you ever imagine you’d invent so many things? No, I just keep getting ideas. Thomas Edison died at the age of 84 and his total number was 1,093 inventions. That number is fixed, but I’m still living, so my tally of 3,500 is still increasing.
When did it all begin for you? I made my first invention at the age of five. It was a way to help a model plane self-adjust its flight path in mid-air. I loved my mother so my next invention was for her at the age of 14. It is what is now known as the kerosene pump and was designed to help my mother get the last drops of soy sauce out of a large bottle on cold mornings. It’s now used all over the world to get gas out of tanks in the same way. I wrote the patent for this and presented it to the Japanese patent office without any patent attorney present.
You’ll always be remembered as the inventor of the floppy disk, won’t you? I invented it in 1952 when I was still at the University of Tokyo. The first model was 8 inches and it was this size because my notebook at university was 8 inches, and I used to transport it in my notebook. IBM developed the ‘Diskette’ and licensed material from me to make the floppy disk we know now. People didn’t understand what it was meant to do at first, but some 20 years later, IBM produced it and people realised how important it was. It revolutionised the computer industry. This showed me inventions could take a while to take off. You’ve developed some, shall we say, less revolutionary inventions as well? I have developed a musical putter that when you hit it and get a certain note, you know you will get the golf ball in the hole. I’ve also developed the Guard Wig, a self-defence wig to help protec t you from potential attackers. You throw it at them to disorient ate them and then reel the wig back in with an attached piece of string. Of course, I’m planning to send one to Donald Trump.
How do you go about inventing something? What’s your creative process? First I sit in my calm room, a room plated with gold to help remove all the noise from my mind and block out TV signals and mobile phone signals. Once my mind is focused, I go to my dynamic room and play music, as music is key for the creative process. It’s in this room that all my ideas come to life. Midn ight to 4am is the golden time for creation – I use this room from 12pm to 4am and sleep from 4am to 8am. That way, I can use all the other hours for creation. I have just a single meal per day, to save time that I can better use to make inventions. I’ve bee n doing this for 46 years.
What is your focus now? Well, I was diagnosed with cancer two and a half years ago and a famous medical doctor said I would die at the end of 2015. At first, I didn’t accept this and I consulted many, many famous doctors, but they all agreed my cancer [ductal carcinoma, a malignant