[2009-05-22] Ray gun patent clip art book
Middle of last year I got around to implementing a scheme I'd had brewing since 2005 or so, to go through the USPTO's online database and trace the history of toy ray gun design as represented therein. The text and images of patent documents are in the public domain from the moment they are published by the patent office, so there are no royalties to be paid or rights to be infringed. My patent research was quite exhaustive; I ran a very large number of keyword searches ("ray gun," "toy gun," "toy firearm," etc.) and then looked at every patent referenced in each hit, and at every referenced patent in each of those hits, and so on. Then I cut the sexy images out of the hi-res document TIFs provided by the USPTO and batch-processed them through Illustrator's tracing algorithm. Then I went back and tweaked the poorly-rendered ones manually to improve the tracings. Then I selected the best 101 images, arranged them in more-or-less chronological order with deference to aesthetic page layouts, numbered them, and labelled each one with its US patent number, the name of its inventor, and the year its patent issued. I cooked up front and back covers and a foreword, explaining why I think the material is significant, and wrapped the whole thing up in a .PDF. I printed a half-dozen copies at Kinko's and shipped them off to various well-known publishers of clip-art books. And got no love. Perhaps unsurprisingly. It's not as if clip-art books are the wave of the future. And maybe I'm the only one who thinks this is cool.
But no biggie. It was a labor of love, anyway. And now that I've made a respectable effort to get the thing published in print, I've got no problem setting it free in the tubes. So here's the compressed .PDF. You can also get just the images,which are available as scalable vector graphic (.SVG) files in this .ZIP archive. Enjoy! Drop me a line if you make use of this stuff; I'd love to hear about it.
last modified 2009-05-22