Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Randice-Lisa Altschul is proof that lack of expertise in a
certain field need not restrict an inventor from creating
an exciting new product in that area. With little technical
education or training, the New Jersey toy inventor began creating
games and toys for children and adults in 1985. By age 26
she was a millionaire. She has since licensed more than 200
games and toys. Some of her successful ventures include the
Miami Vice board game based on the popular television show,
Barbie's 30th Birthday Game and board games based on the Teenage
Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons. She also created a
breakfast cereal that comes in the shape of action figures
and dissolves into mush in milk.
It was in 1996 that Altschul came up with the idea that
would make her famous: the world’s first disposable
cell phone. While driving down the highway and talking on
her mobile phone one day, she became frustrated as her connection became weak and the
conversation cut in and out. She wanted to throw her cell
phone out the window.
Suddenly she had a “Eureka!” moment. Why not
create a disposable cell phone that people could buy and use
until an allotted amount of time was used up, and then throw
it away? Her toy mentality helped her to think this way —
she was used to building toys for children, who tend to use
an item for a fairly short period of time before they move
on to other toys and throw their old ones out.
The disposable cell phone marked Altschul’s first
foray into electronics. She worked with engineer Lee Volte
to develop the super-thin circuitry that would go inside the
phones. She was issued a series of patents for the wireless,
prepaid cell phone as well as the circuitry in November, 1999.
Her phone was called the Phone-Card-Phone®, less than
half a centimeter thick, about the size of a credit card,
and made from recycled paper products.
Altschul and her Cliffside Park, New Jersey company, Dieceland
Technologies, developed a marketing strategy to target mothers
and kids who want to keep in touch when they are not together,
elderly people who may not be interested in long-term cellular
phone contracts, or tourists who might need a phone for a
short time when they are away from home. Essentially the disposable
phone, which Altschul considered an “enhanced calling
card,” would replace the need for a calling card and
pay phone and would be fairly inexpensive to purchase.
Eventually competing companies latched on to Altschul’s
idea and began making disposable cell phones of their own.
Thus, Altschul’s phone is yet to be distributed. But
she is known as the first to have conceived of this novel
idea. In 2002, the Phone-Card-Phone was named Product of the
Year by Frost and Sullivan.
Meanwhile Altschul continues to work on other new inventions
such as a disposable laptop computer and other new products.
She has also written an autobiographical book about her experiences
as an entrepreneur and inventor.