February 16, 1995 in City

One Of These Days Inventor Will Be Overnight Success

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

Dream up a better mousetrap and crazed consumers will hammer down your door with their money-filled fists.

That’s the theory, anyway.

The sad reality, according to John Weingart, is that an inventor has better odds getting his name on a Hollywood star than he does striking quick riches with a burst of mental brilliance.

“My advice to a wannabe inventor? Get a regular job,” says Weingart, flashing a wry grin.

“When I started I thought I could walk into a company and say, `Build this for me,’ and then sit back and collect the royalties.”

He laughs. “If that’s the way things worked I’d be living in a warmer climate.”

Weingart, 36, is no Edison-come-lately to the inventing game. The Spokane resident is father of Micro Golf, the Continually Variable Transmission, the Versa-Bar, the Domino’s Pizza Dialer, the ….

That you haven’t heard of any of these marvels explains why Weingart must peddle real estate to pay the bills.

Although his inventions haven’t made him rich, they are ingenious.

Take his Domino’s Dialer, a fiendishly clever marketing tool designed to make Americans order even more pizzas.

The Dialer prototype is a small, square plastic refrigerator magnet emblazoned with the Domino’s logo.

Want a pizza? Hold the Dialer to your telephone receiver and push the button. The microchip inside automatically sounds the tones that dial the pre-set number of your neighborhood Domino’s.

The technology could be used to hawk any product or business, but Weingart went after Domino’s and nearly succeeded.

He says he came up with the concept during a 1988 blizzard, when the pizza he ordered arrived four hours late. “I got tired of looking up the telephone number,” he explains.

The Dominos’ corporation was intrigued. Company brass flew Weingart to the headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., where they discussed testing the device in a trial run.

About the time Weingart began to count his imaginary millions, the research and development director quit and interest fizzled out like a glass of warm cola.

“You can see why I became frustrated,” says Weingart, who has several years worth of correspondence with the Domino’s corporation.

Weingart grew up outside Kellogg, working on neighbors’ cars as a kid. He says he didn’t do well in high school and only attended 1 years of college.

He is blessed, however, with a mechanical aptitude that is off the charts, plus the ability to visualize the answer to a problem.

Art Hoener, an engineer who teaches manufacturing processes at Gonzaga University, calls Weingart a true “deep thinker” whose inventions are amazingly broad-based.

“That’s what’s unique about him,” says the instructor, who is helping Weingart develop a working model of the gear-driven variable transmission.

Some of Weingart’s inventions are pure whimsy. His Micro Golf, for example, consists of a lightweight club with a paddle. It smacks a marble-sized ball at the pull of a trigger.

He made the contraption out of fishing line, parts of a barbecue and a bicycle hand grip. The idea is to play a round of golf on a floor mat printed with photographs of some of America’s best courses.

The Versa-Bar is Weingart’s most practical invention. It looks like a typical steel roll bar in the back of a pickup. Within seconds, it can be adjusted into a rack to haul ladders or canoes. A hoist attachment is in the works.

From all this you can see that it’s only an undetermined matter of time and a gob of money until John Weingart becomes an overnight success.

“I’m convinced everyone has a marketable idea once or twice in their lives but they just let it flit by,” says Weingart. “If you want to succeed, you have to push your inventions and try to hang on for dear life.”

MEMO: IDAHO EDITION: It takes more than genius to be inventor

IDAHO EDITION: It takes more than genius to be inventor


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