Story Research

10 Inventions Made in the CSU

Elizabeth Chapin



​​​CSU campuses are hotbeds for innovation: campus resources and faculty mentorship gives students the support system to develop into entrepreneurs, while faculty research provides solutions and innovations to meet the needs of California’s changing economy.

Here are 10 inventions—ranging from scientific and medical breakthroughs to everyday household items—that you may not know came from the great minds of CSU faculty and alumni.

Videotape recorder: In 1951, San José State alumnus Charles Ginsburg developed the first videotape recorder. In 1991, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame where he was credited with “one of the most significant technological advances to affect broadcasting and program production since the beginning of television itself.”

The microprocessor: In 1971, Intel engineer and San Francisco State alumnus Stanley Mazor co-invented the world’s first microprocessor, the Intel 4004. In 2010, he was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama for his pioneering work on the 4004.

Modern home security: Chico State professor and alumnus Bill Wattenberg has eight patents to his credit, including the first home alarm system using electrical wiring.

Augmented reality: In 1991, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor Louis Rosenberg developed one of the first-known augmented reality systems. Augmented reality superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world and is used in many applications including Google Glass.

The waterbed: In 1968, Charles Hall presented the modern waterbed as his master’s thesis project at San Francisco State. The vinyl mattress filled with water and equipped with a temperature device was designed to be a piece of furniture that would eliminate pressure points and use heat to relax muscles.

DNA analysis method: Humboldt State alumnus Peter Underhill is known for his pioneering research on the molecular analysis of DNA. Underhill was part of a team that patented a process called Denaturing High Performance Liquid Chromatography, which quickly compares chromosome nucleotides in DNA.

Bluetooth: Intel mobile computing engineer and Fresno State alumnus James Kardach was part ​of the team responsible for creating Bluetooth technology, which powers wireless communication between electronic devices. Kardach holds over 100 patents from his career at Intel.

Rapid tuberculosis test machine: Humboldt State alumnus M. Allen Northrup created GenXpert, an automated test that shortens the time to diagnose drug resistant strains of TB from weeks to only a few hours. In 2010, the World Health Organization endorsed its use in TB endemic countries and declared it a major milestone for global diagnosis.

Botts’ Dots: In 1951, California Department of Transportation engineer and San José State alumnus Elbert Dysart Botts oversaw the research that led to the development of the road markers, also known as road turtles or buttons. Today, there are more than 25 million Botts’ Dots on California’s roads.

Microcyn: Sonoma State alumnus Hoja Alimi founded Oculus Innovative Sciences, which manufactures and markets biopharmaceutical products such as tissue care products including Microcyn, which enhances healing in open wounds while reducing the need for antibiotics. Oculus has more than 10 issued patents and over 90 patents pending worldwide. More than 50 percent bear Alimi’s name.