The Quest for the Perfect Vacuum

By Steven Greenberg
Published on: January 16, 2020

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Most everyone knows the name Dyson and equates it to the Dyson vacuum with its patented cyclone technology. But here’s just a little background on the founder of Dyson, Sir James Dyson, and his obsessive quest for perfection. Because let’s face it, obsession is often a requirement for a successful inventor.

Our brief story begins back in the late 70s when James Dyson visits a saw mill where they use a 30-foot centrifuge kind of vacuum that sucks saw dust out of the air so workers don’t choke to death. He thinks to himself, “self, why couldn’t that be shrunk down and turned into a vacuum cleaner for each and every home on the planet?” (I’m paraphrasing here)

So he sets out to build what he prototyped as “a bagless vacuum that didn’t lose suction.” Dyson was a nobody, who came up with a great idea, but really was just another dude trying to create something magical out of whole cloth. But here is where perseverance really pays off.  Dyson would spend over 15-years re-designing and re-configuring his invention and in the process create over 5,000 prototypes. Ouch! He wrote about this period of his life and said the following, “Those years were tough for our family. By (prototype #) 2,627, my wife and I were really counting our pennies. By 3,727, my wife was giving art lessons for some extra cash.”

Well, the rest is history. He perfected his technology, applied for his patent, and tried to talk big-name vacuum manufacturers into licensing his technology. When that licensing pursuit completely and utterly failed, Dyson took the giant leap and started to manufacture the now ubiquitous DC01 model vacuum. You know, “The Yellow One,” I’ll bet you’re picturing it in your mind as you read this.

Today, Sir James is worth over $4.5 billion (that’s right billion with a B) and he’s still inventing and pushing new boundaries. Keep his story in mind when people say your new idea is crazy and will never fly.   In fact, if your idea really “sucks” you might end up becoming a billionaire too.

Steven Greenberg

Steven Greenberg

Steven is the author of Gadget Nation and can be seen every month on NBC’s Today Show. He appears routinely on The Dr. Oz Show and on the nationally syndicated news/talk TV show Eye Opener. Follow Steven on Twitter @SteveTV or Facebook at

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