Bill French is the creative and scientific mind behind MOVA Globes. His idea for the MOVA Globe took years to go from initial concept to final product but the inventor bug had gripped him long before that. Bill sat down with us to discuss how his upbringing led him to become an inventor, what that title means to him, and his inspiration for MOVA Globes.
How did your childhood and upbringing influence your desire to invent things?
For some reason, starting a very young age, I wanted to make things different than others made. I saw no point in “painting by the numbers”. My dad would often see something about the house he wanted to be different and he would just change it. New bedroom, workshop for me, new room for me in the backyard, re-build the living room. I learned from him you can just make things like you want and take pride in that.
Both my parents worked so I spent a lot of time with my aunt after school and on the weekends. There were no friends to kill time with, no hovering mother, and no pressure to do anything. I could amuse myself by reading electronics magazines, and making little things in my uncle’s small workshop. The transistor had just been invented, so it was a great time to be interested in electronics. I realized someday I could probably make something people would want to buy.
What single moment made you realize that you wanted to become an inventor?
The best single experience I had at school was the 9th grade science fair. I was free to design and build whatever I could dream up, and try my best to make it better than what anybody else would do. I won first prize with a simple analog computer design and this really hooked me on inventing.
Were there any other moments that solidified your desire to invent?
My girlfriend was really impressed in about 1974 when I told her I could figure out how to make a solar powered flying saucer. I am still working on it. I was also impressed in about 1955 when my uncle Howard invented a new toy, won a prize of $1000, and spread it out on the floor in $20 bills.
What are the easiest and hardest parts of your job as an inventor?
The easiest part is the actual “dreaming up something cool to make and figuring out how to do it.” The hardest part is doing a patent search, realizing that at any moment my fantasies for success could crash. There are a lot of people in this big old world, and an inventor can be blocked from getting a patent if any other person thought of the idea first, even if that person did absolutely nothing with the idea. It’s intimidating.
Which inventor(s) do you look up to?
- Whoever made the first stone tool
- Whoever first created fire
- Everybody who has invented something that people are buying
What is your favorite invention in all of history?
The wheel? The compass? Radio waves? Actually, my globe!
As an inventor, do you actively search for new ideas or do you let your everyday experiences dictate your next project?
Many people succeed at inventing by solving well known problems; this is very competitive. I try to come up with ideas for cool things outside of the mainstream. I do this about 0.001% of my waking hours. The rest of the time I am just dealing with reality.
What was your inspiration behind the MOVA Globe?
I saw a top spinning and realized I could make a top that would spin when exposed to light. Later I was just challenging myself to somehow make a magical floating version of the earth. I was thinking I could somehow do it magnetically. It would be cool. About that time I saw a “floating eyeball” type of gizmo. I just allowed all of these things to come together in my head at the same time. I am always looking for some new possibility.
What has it been like seeing your invention go from idea to prototype to launch to consumer product sold worldwide? What are you most proud of?
I am proud that I invented the globe and actually was able to make it happened. I believe these objects will become a big part of what people buy and put in their houses, worldwide.
Have you ever been surprised to come across MOVA Globes somewhere you weren’t expecting?
I saw them for sale in the Museum of Science in Tokyo one time, and my family tells me occasionally when they see one in some exotic place. I still get excited when I see them in stores.
Bill is always working on new ideas and ways to evolve the technology behind (or should we say “inside”) MOVA Creations.