In 1989, Trevor Baylis saw a TV programme about AIDS in Africa.
It said the reason for the spread of AIDS was ignorance.
It said it could only be countered by education about the disease.
By letting the general population of Africa know the scale and the cause of the problem.
But they couldn’t do that unless they could find a way to communicate with everyone.
And most people lived in villages that didn’t even have access to electricity.
So Trevor Baylis thought upstream of the problem.
Before you could address AIDS you needed to educate.
Before you could educate you needed to communicate.
Obviously, the easiest way to communicate would be by radio.
But radios needed an electrical supply or batteries.
And there was nowhere, and no money, to buy batteries.
So the real problem was batteries.
If his reasoning was right, the block in communicating was batteries.
So having reduced the problem to something he could handle, he went to his shed and started inventing.
He thought it should work like a clock.
Wind it for a few seconds, the spring stores the energy and releases it slowly.
If he could convert manual energy into electrical energy, he’d have a radio that would didn’t need batteries.
His first prototype featured a small transistor radio, an electric motor from a toy car, and a clockwork mechanism from a music box.
And it worked.
He patented the idea and tried to get backers, but no one wanted to know.
Everyone he approached saw it as an eccentric idea without a market.
In the world where all the potential investors lived, all portable radios worked of batteries.
This invention was no more than a curiousity.
Eventually it occurred to Bayliss that he was approaching the wrong people.
Before he could sell his invention he needed to create a demand for it.
A demand amongst his target audience: investors.
People on the lookout for new and exciting ideas.
So again, he thought upstream of the problem.
Who would benefit from a radio that could be played absolutely anywhere in the world?
And he approached the BBC World Service.
The people who broadcast around the world: in the jungle, in the desert, on the ocean, in the Arctic.
And the BBC World service said they’d love more people to be able to listen to their programmes.
So they contacted another part of the BBC.
They contacted BBC Television and suggested it as a story for their Tomorrow’s World programme.
The weekly show about the future – inventions and innovations that would change our lives.
And they thought a radio that worked without batteries was just the sort of story for them.
The week after it was featured, Trevor Baylis was inundated with offers from investors eager to back his new invention.
Now it had been featured on Tomorrow’s World it wasn’t just some eccentric crackpot invention anymore.
Now it was the future of portable communications.
And investors competed with each other to offer more and more money for a share in it.
Trevor Baylis’s radio went into production.
And now you can hear programmes on it, and information and education, anywhere in the world.
Because he knows how to get upstream, and change the problem from one you can’t solve to one you can.