Lon Safko Innovator

Computer History Contributions Timeline

By Lon Safko

This is a brief list of my contributions to the computer industry over my career.  These are only the highlights as there are far too many stories to tell in this document.

This list resulted in having 18 inventions and 30,000 professional documents of mine being part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and 14 inventions in the collection of The Computer Museum in Mountain View, California.

Smithsonian Castle

Nearly all of the claims and statements below can be collaborated by the people involved, the Smithsonian institution Lemmelson Center records, and the copies of their 30,000 documents I have in my possession.

There are so many more details and stories that go along with these inventions and my work helping the disabled.  Far to many to list here.


Historic Timeline

Lon At Computer History Museum

1976 through 1978:  Programmed an engineering firm’s TI-59 handheld programmable (mag-card) calculators to perform engineering calculations that I sold to other engineering companies and the State of New York, including, coordinate geometry, earthwork calculations, sub-division design, and more.

The BASIC programming language.

1978 through 1982:  Programmed a Wang computer to perform all the engineering programs listed above and many more including Traffic Light Phasing Analysis, Weir Outflow Analysis, and Stormwater Watershed Analysis in Octal coding.


1982:  Created “Let’s Talk” on the Timex-Sinclair which  included the elements of voice synthesizing, chatbot, and deep learning where the computer would “say” “Good Morning (day or evening), Let’s Talk!  What would you like to talk about?”  The user typed in a subject.  The computer would them say what it knew about that subject.  Or, I would say, I don’t know about that.  Tell me what that is.  The user would type it in, the computer would “learn”, and the next time, the computer would talk about it.  It would continuously learn and build its library of what it could talk about.

1983:   Ported Let’s Speak over to the Franklin Computer from cassette tape to 5 1/4” floppy drives.

03 Lets Talk

1985:  Identified the Micromint “List’ner 1000” daughter board hardware created by a TI engineer in his spare time and sold through a computer magazine for the Apple IIe / Franklin.  I programmed some binary code to make it work properly to perform the first voice recognition computer commercially available.  I sold these through the Apple Store I managed.

1985:   Added the List’ner board which I modified to my now, Apple IIe, and Let’s Talk was a full, two way voice synthesizing / voice recognition conversational A.I. computer.  You speak, it would understand, and answer you!  You converse for hours!

1985:   Created more than 100 voice-controlled software programs for the Apple IIe which sold well.

04 Listnr 1000

1986: Added X-10 (BASF), radio overlay modules and designed the necessary cables to create the first commercially available “Voice Controlled Home Automation” for the Apple IIe.

1986:  Developed the first voice-controlled telephone controller that would answer the telephone by modifying a Radio Shack speaker phone and adding an electronic relay.

05 X-10 Powerhouse

1986:  Created the first Voice Activated Computer which could run all commercial  software, answer a telephone, and control 255 lamps and appliances.  I called this system “SoftVoice” for “Voice Activated Software”.

1986:   Worked with a quadriplegic at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Yakima, Washington, and saved his life.  NBC did their first news feature on “Computer Saves Human Life”.

1986: Officially invented “The First Computer To Save A Human Life” as coined by Steve Jobs.

06 Lon At SoftVoice

  1986:   The System appears on more than 150 NBC Television Stations across the U.S.

1986:  John Scully calls me to meet in Cupertino where I become an Apple VAR (Value Added Reseller).

1986:   Work with Apple to create “Isle 15” which I named, that specializes in all Apple products that could be used to help the Disabled.

1987:   Begin work with IBM and Microsoft to set up their own disability divisions.

1987:  Co-created the $15.3 billion “Assistive Technology Industry”.

07 First SoftVoice Patient

1987:   Ported the “SoftVoice” system over to the Macintosh.  This new Mac-based system was called “SenSei” for “Master – Teacher.”

1987:  Founded “Safko International, Inc.”, the first company specializing in computer technology for the disabled.

1987:   Convinced Apple NOT to discontinue MakinTalk and allow me to make improvements to the code.

08 First SenSei System

1987:   Worked with Stavos (?) who had voice recognition hardware he called “The Voice Navigator”.  Worked on improving this hardware, writing software drivers, and creating cables to allow it to work with the Macintosh computer.  Later introduced Stavos to IBM who acquired the technology, which eventually became “Dragon Dictate.”

1987:   Worked with Prentke-Romich to improve the “HeadMaster” an ultrasonic triangulation / sip and puff head mouse that works on the Macintosh with new software and cables.

09 First Headmaster

1987: Created the first software “On-Screen Keyboard”,  which became the thumb-keyboard we all see in smartphones today.  This allowed the disabled the ability to type simply by moving their heads and puffing.  One client was paralyzed from the neck down and could type 48 words per minute

11 First Screen Keyboard

1987:   Created the “SenSei Server” which was a series of electronic boards that incorporated the telephone control, home automation electronics, and allow external devices to easily be plugged in and controlled.

10 First SenSei Server

1987:   Developed the first “Virtual Reality” operating system (OS) to allow the first-time disabled user to understand how to run a computer.  If you wanted to type, you selected the typewriter.  If you want to make a telephone call, you selected the telephone.

12 First Virtual Reality OS

1987:   Worked with Steve Wozniak  at his new company Cloud 9 or CL 9 which was a company that developed an universal TV remote controller called “Core”.  As it had an RS-232 jack, it became integral to the SenSei System Server.  This allowed the disabled access to every I.R. device on the market.

13 CORE Controller

1987:  Developed “ToolTips” which allowed the disabled user to hover over a button and see what that button does as they could not physically hold a paper user’s guide.  Apple later…. Took, this concept and added it to their OS System Software version 4.1 on March 2, 1987.  When Microsoft took the Mac OS from Apple, they also took ToolTips and it became part of every OS since then.

14 Tool Tips

1987:   Developed an electronic hospital bed controller to work directly with the SenSei Server.  By sip & puff or voice commands, the disabled could control all the functions of their electronic hospital bed.

1987:   Developed dozens of human / computer interfaces to bridge nearly every disability and allow the user full access to an off-the-shelf computer and all commercial software.

1987:   Developed the first electronic User’s Guide.  A quadriplegic can’t hold a paper user’s guide.  By using SuperCard, a commercial improvement to Apple’s Hypercard, I was able to recreate Apple’s User Guide and create an additional hands-free User’s Guide for the SenSei System.  Today, all user’s guides are hands-free, electronic PDFs.

15 Hospital Bed Controller

1987:  Programmed more than 1.2 million lines of code which  resulted in creating more than 125 software titles and copyrights which reside in the United State Library of Congress.

Sidebar: Apple and I fought about having an electronic User’s Guide for several years.  Apple always prided themselves on having the highest quality spiral-bound guides.  They would not understand that someone paralyzed could not hold their spiral-bound guide no matter how professional it was.  Apple threatened to cut me off as a VAR and not allow me to use their logos, etc. if I didn’t comply.  I spent $10,000 having a professional marketing company create a SenSei User’s Guide which I only had three printed, two I sent to Apple to satisfy them, and one to put in the file.

16 Texas Patient

1987:   The SenSei System became the first voice-activated, voice synthesized, computer that could run all commercial Macintosh software, answer or dial a telephone, control 255 lights and appliances, control all I.R. (Infrared) media devices, control an electronic hospital bed, and other devices all thought voice recognition or sip & puff.

17 SenSei System

1987:  Flew back to Northvale, NJ to try to save X-10 Powerhouse from bankruptcy.  Introduced them to Apple, IBM, and Microsoft to help promote products and recover.  They survived.

18 New Mexico Patient


1987:  In the first half of 1987, I was called to meet with the top officials of the United States Department of Energy and Westinghouse Electric,  the managing company at the Hanford Nuclear Facility in Richland, Washington.  They saw me on the Today Show talking about my “First  Computer To Save A Human Life” and asked for my help.

They needed an advanced computer system designed to track 1,000’s inspection reports annually, read the reports, analyze the actual text, and determine if there could be a potential problem with their handling of nuclear materials and nuclear waste.  (They had accidentally misplaced over 100 pounds of weapons-grade Plutonium.)  I agreed to work with them and hired the then largest computer programming company in the U.S.; Boeing Computer Services.

Nine months later, I delivered the world’s first “Artificial Intelligent” (A.I.), pseudo-deep learning computer system that would use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to read 1,000s of typed reports, analyze each word on every page, remove non-useful words such as “the”, “at”, “is”. “A”, etc., and “rank” the remaining words according to their definition, compile the results, and present the “ranked pages” for human consideration.  It would then take the result after human ranking and reprogram itself to learn as it operated similarly to today’s deep learning.  It was in fact the archetype for the Internet search engine a decade and a half before anyone ever heard of the Internet.

19 First AI Report

1987:  Apple’s Advanced Technology Group began working on the Apple Newton PDA (Personal Desktop Assistant).  The same team was previously responsible for analyzing my software each quarter to guarantee it was up to Apple’s high, 23, 4” binders of rules, standard.  The team left Apple and formed the company, “General Magic” to develop the Newton in partnership with Apple.  When the Newton was released, the OS was an identical copy of my SenSei System which they all have been analyzing for years.

I notified them that they were in copyright / patent infringement by taking my operating system and they said “We took it because it was cool!”  I sued General Magic, Apple, Sony (produced the screens), and Motorola (produced the chips).  24 hours after they all were served, I got a call from Apple Legal.  They said…. “If you EVER want to sell another Apple product again, you will drop the lawsuits immediately!”  After consulting with my counsel, he said, “Do you want to fight them or keep your company open?”  I dropped all the lawsuits.

20 Apple Newton

1989:  Assisted in the writing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with John Williams the primary author who was on my Board of Directors.

1990:   On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Later that day there was one of the first and largest “Disabilities” conferences held at the historic Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Four keynote speakers kicking off that conference and the new ADA; Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and myself.

21 ADA Report

1989:  Assisted in the writing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with John Williams the primary author who was on my Board of Directors.

1990:   On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Later that day there was one of the first and largest “Disabilities” conferences held at the historic Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.  Four keynote speakers kicking off that conference and the new ADA; Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and myself.

22 U of Dub

1991:   Dr. Thomas Furness contacted me and asked if I would meet at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.  Furness is credited as the “Father of Virtual Reality”.  I met with him and Bill Gates Sr. (Microsoft’s, Bill Gates’ dad).  When I asked why he wanted to meet me and see the SenSei System he said “It took me 20 years, 20 Ph.D.s, and 100 million dollars to create the virtual reality system for the F-15 Jet Fighter, and YOU created all the key elements and put it in a Mac for under $2,500!”

1991:   Bill Gates Sr. was impressed and asked for my hard drive to show “My boy Billie” to discuss a possible investment which I needed badly.  After several months they sent the hard drive and documentation back to me and said Billie wasn’t interested.  More on this in the timeline below.

23 Dr Thomas Furness

1992:  Opened 25 sales offices across the U.S. and three international sales offices.  Translated the entire SenSei System from English into Swedish and began selling the computer system for disabled kids in the schools in Sweden through the government-owned company, TeleNova which was their Department of Education.  The President, Tommy Naslund became a member of my Board of Directors.

24 Sales Team

1994:   In the spring of this year, I finally got to test my ScreenBoard with one of the first “touch-screen” monitors.  Ed Faber (Founder of Computerland), who was a friend of mine and CEO of DataPhaze Computers, gave me two of the first-ever touch-screen monitors, (Silicone Graphics) At approximately $2,000 each.  I booted up  SenSei saw my ScreenBoard open and it worked!  For all these years I operated it with sip&puff, now I could “touch” the keys on the screen.  And yes…. I did use my thumbs too!

Sidebar:  The two monitors that Ed Faber gave me were the two monitors used in Steven Allan Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” , most notably known for the “ahh, ahh, ahh” scene.

25 Ah Ah Ah

1995:   In May of 1995, I had the privilege of working with Christopher Reeves after his devastating equine accident where he became a C2 quadriplegic.  I first worked with Christopher at New York University Hospital until he was moved to The Kessler Institute in New Jersey once he was stabilized.

26 Christopher Reeves

1995: In May of 1995, Microsoft announced their new revolutionary operating system that was going to replace Windows called “Bob”.  It was an exact replica of my SenSei System in every detail. 

I contacted Lawrence Scarborough, the attorney who represented Apple against Microsoft in the 187 copyright infringement lawsuit where Microsoft took the Mac OS.  I developed an unique strategy and, we sue, and I got Microsoft to cease and desist.  I Killed Bob.

27 Bob

1996:   My company suffered a hostile takeover by three of its shareholders who were trying to bankrupt the company and take control of all the I.P.  After multiple failed negotiations, the company failed and I converted all my I.P. to public domain.


Westinghouse Electric
Recipient of the Westinghouse Electric “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for my work with computer technology for the disabled in the Assistive Technology Industry.

28 Westinghouse

Ernst & Young / Inc. Magazine
First nomination for the Ernst & Young / Inc. Magazine “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for my work with computer technology for the disabled in the Assistive Technology Industry.

29 Ernst & Young 1

Arizona Innovation Network
Recipient of the Arizona Innovation Network’s “Innovator of the Year”

for my work with computer technology for the disabled in the Assistive Technology Industry.

30 AZ Innovation Network

Phoenix Mayor’s Council
Recipient of the Phoenix Mayor’s Council “Distinguished Service Award” for my work with computer technology for the disabled in the Assistive Technology Industry.

31 PHX Distinguished

Phoenix Mayor’s Council
Recipient of the Phoenix Mayor’s Council “Certificate of Appreciation” for his work with computer technology for the disabled in the Assistive Technology Industry.

32 PHX Certificate of Appreciation

United States Department of Veterans Affairs
Recipient of the “Certificate of Appreciation” from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs for my work with computer technology for technology Veterans.

33 Veterans Affairs

Ernst & Young / Inc. Magazine
Second nomination for the Ernst & Young / Inc. Magazine, “Award for my work with computer computer technology for the disabled in the Assistive Technology Industry.

34 Ernst & Young 2

Arizona Software Association
Recipient of the Arizona Software Association “Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for my work with computer technology for the disabled in the Assistive Technology Industr

35 AZ Software Association

2006:  Contributions To The Smithsonian Institution In Washington, D.C.
In May of 2006, I got a call from the Director of the Smithsonian Institution who said “After exhaustive research, we have determined that you have made more of a contribution to the Human – Computer Interface than has anyone.  That’s why we want your original inventions for our collection.  Do you have any original inventions or documentation?  Within a short amount of time, the  Smithsonian sent Craig Orr, their Senior Archivist to my home in Gilbert, Arizona, where we spent two days in a room I rented at the Hampton Inn, studying the contents of 19 plastic tubs I had saved for more than a decade.  I had saved every document ever created since 1985 along with at least one when possible, original prototype of every hardware invention.

36 Protoytpes & Documents

This resulted in them requesting a donation of 18 original inventions and more than 30,000 professional documents, which they now house in the Lemmelson Center for Invention and Innovation.

37 Smithsonian Letter

2006:  Contributions To The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
Nearly a decade later, in December of 2005, I contacted the Computer History Museum to see if they would like any of these inventions.  After careful consideration, the Computer History Museum requested a donation of 14 original inventions.  These inventions are know housed at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.  Deed the donation letter below

38 CHM Deed Letter

I independently created and brought to market all the accomplishments listed above and can collaborate each with adequate documentation.



Lon Low Res

Lon Safko



Lon Safko is a serial innovator, inventor, bestselling author, speaker, trainer, consultant, and is the creator of the “First Computer To Save A Human Life” as coined by Steve Jobs, Apple, Inc. That computer, along with 18 of Lon’s inventions are part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. along with 30,000 of Lon‘s professional papers. Lon also has 14 inventions in the collection of The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.

Lon starred in the first ever PBS Television Special on social media, “Social Media & You… Communicating In A Digital World”.

Lon developed the world’s first “voice recognition”, “voice synthesizing” and pioneered home automation, with the physically challenged in mind. He is also the designer of the archetypes for the Apple Newton world first PDA, and Microsoft’s“Bob” operating system. He also invented those handy little help-balloon pop-ups “Tool- Tips”! He brought to market the world’s first Virtual Reality Operating System. He also designed the first Artificial Intelligence Nuclear Waste Tracking System for the United States Department of Energy.

Lon has founded over 14 companies, including Paper Models, Inc., based on “Three-Dimensional Internet Advertising” and “Virtual-Electronic-Retailing” (V-E-Tailing) concept for business, promotions, and education for which he was awarded three United States Patents, 60k customers and more than $1m revenue.

Lon is a 2017 Pulitzer Prize Nominee and author of multiple innovative bestselling books; “The Social Media Bible,” published by John Wiley & Sons, now in its Third Edition and five languages which hit #1 on Amazon, is the most comprehensive book on social media marketing ever written, and exceeded $2M retail sales.

His bestseller, “The Fusion Marketing Bible”, published by McGraw Hill is published in three languages, hit #3 on Amazon, and the concept is patent pending. The Safko Wheel Marketing Toolkit leverages your existing marketing to make it significantly more effective, while adding to your company’s bottom line, without any additional costs.

Lon’s two most recent bestsellers “The Innovative Thinking Bible, Cracking The Creativity Code” is 300 full- color pages of innovative techniques ideas with more than 200 innovative quotes, and 40 brain training exercises and his “A.I. ChatBots, Unexpected Positive Consequences”, both hit #1 on Amazon.

Lon is also a renowned international speaker, consultant, and trainer, teaching the world’s largest companies the concepts to harness the power of innovative thinking, social media, and digital communications strategies, creating higher productivity and profits. His presentations are personalized to help corporate, government, higher-education, non-profits, and executives improve their operations and performance by cracking their innovative potential.

Lon has been recognized for his innovation with such prestigious awards as; The Westinghouse Entrepreneur of the Year, Arizona Innovation Network’s Innovator of the Year, The Arizona Software Association’s Entrepreneur of the Year, twice nominated for the Ernst & Young / Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year, The Public Relations Society of America’s, Edward Bernay’s, Mark of Excellence Award.

Lon has also been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, PC Novice, INC. Magazine, CFO, Popular Science

Magazine and the New York Times just to name a few. Lon is the first appointed Ambassador to SCORE, is a USA Today CEO Advisor, and is now listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. He even saved Betsy Ross to the history books! And… as you can imagine, Lon is a member of MENSA!