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Black History Maker in Technology: Marie Van Brittan Brown

(February 15, 2019) - It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. The work of Marie Van Britta Brown is a real-world example of that idea in action. Brown invented the first home security system.

According to the website, Brown was a nurse and her husband, Albert, worked as an electrician technician. They lived in Queens, a New York City neighborhood that, at the time, had a high crime rate. Even when police were contacted, response times were often slow. Because Brown and her husband sometimes worked unusual hours, she worried for their safety.

So she took matters into her own hands. Brown developed a system that used peepholes, a camera, monitors, and a two-way microphone. It also included an alarm button that would contact police immediately.

The set-up is described like this: “Three peepholes were placed on the front door at different height levels…at the opposite side of the door a camera was attached with the ability to slide up and down to allow the person to see through each peephole. The camera picked up images that would reflect on the monitor via a wireless system. The monitor could be placed in any part of the house to allow you to see who was at the door. There was also a voice component to enable Brown to speak to the person outside.”

If someone seemed like a threat, Brown and her family could just push the alarm button. If not, the door could be unlocked using a remote control. That same security system is the basis for two-way communication and surveillance features of modern security.

Marie and Albert Brown filed for a patient on the system on August 1, 1966. At the time, the Browns dubbed the invention “Home Security System Utilizing Television Surveillance.”

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