When Alexander Bell died in 1922, he was widely celebrated. When Matti Makkonen aka the “father of SMS” died last month, the announcement was met with far less attention. In fact, few outside of the tech industry know of Matti Makkonen and his contribution to modern communication. Why is there such discrepancy between in notoriety between Matti Makkonen and Alexander Bell despite the significance of Matti’s work?
According to Nic Denholm, a TechCrunch contributor, the difference lies in Matti’s reluctance for self-promotion. Despite being given the label of “father of SMS,” Makkonen routinely rejected it and gave credit to those he worked with in developing the SMS platform.
“I did not consider SMS a personal achievement but a result of joint effort to collect ideas and write the specifications of the services based on them.”
– Matti Makkonen
Further along in the article, Nic Denholm expresses other strong opinions of why inventors like Alexander Bell are celebrated in history books:
The canonization of Bell and Edison owes more to their business savvy and talent for self-promotion than to any one mythical moment of inspiration. Edison himself said, in a classic humblebrag, that he had never failed, just ‘found 10,000 ways that don’t work.’ He did fail to ever mention the names of the employees, partners and competitors whose work he variously exploited, bought or stole outright. This giant stood on the shoulders of dwarves, and crushed them. Even Nikola Tesla, whose mythology posits him as the ‘true’ inventor of much of the modern world, was not the only person working on the technologies that made his name.
At the very least, Nic’s article gives us all a chance to reflect on a the topic of invention and our need to credit single, heroic figures. Read the full article here and let us know what you think in the comment section.