Ralph R. Teetor of Hagertown, Ind., is awarded a U.S. patent on Aug. 22, 1950, for a speed-control device that developed into modern cruise control. Speed governing devices had been in use since the early days of the automobile and even dated back to the use of steam engines.
Teetor needed another decade -- and a few more patents to improve his original device -- to devise a version that would be produced and installed commercially.
The device calculated ground speed based on driveshaft rotations and then used a solenoid, connected via chain, cable or mechanical linkage, to vary the position of the throttle on the carburetor. Modern systems today are all computerized, using speed inputs gathered from sensors in the drivetrain.
A very crude form of speed governors were found on cars of the 1910s and 1920s, which required the driver to adjust ignition timing and fuel mixture. A vehicle's speed could be limited by controlling the speed at which the engine could run.
Nothing it seemed -- not even blindness -- could dim Ralph Teetor's engineering talents.
After a knife accident left Teetor blind at age 5, he learned to develop his mind and a remarkable sense of touch to excel at mechanical engineering.
Teetor, inspired by the story of Thomas Edison, began working with machinery at a young age.
"A constructor of miniature dynamos and other machinery at 10 and thoroughly versed in all that pertains to their operation, and at 12 the builder of an automobile that carries him about the streets of his native town and far out upon the country roads at a speed of from 18 to 25 miles an hour, is the remarkable record of Ralph Teetor of Hagerstown, Indiana," the New York Herald wrote in a Dec. 21, 1902, feature on Teetor.