Robert H. Dicke recalls patenting his idea

Interviewed by Joan Bromberg, 1983

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Of course, as soon as the maser was developed, it was clear that there was a possibility of doing this optically — and I remember a Physical Society meeting in Washington, I can't say when, but it was certainly after my patent was issued, because I saw Charlie [Townes] and I said, "How are things going?" He mentioned that, well, he’d got a good way of building a resonator for this, I don't know whether he called it "laser" or not, but a maser to operate with... optical maser, something like that. He says, "All you have to do is put a couple of mirrors on it." I said, "That's great, Charlie, but it's not new, because I've got it in a patent."...

I was consulting with RCA at the time, and it seemed like a kind of cute idea. I didn't have anything specifically in mind to do with it. You know, it was hard for me to convince RCA that this was an important invention. I actually wrote up three separate patent disclosures on various aspects of this thing, and they thought, well, it might be worth patenting but they would combine all three in one. So, the result is that the patent application's a great mess, because they put too many things in it.