The Invention of the Home Security System

In the 1960’s, an African American nurse living in Queens invented the very first home security system. Marie Van Brittan Brown and her husband Albert, an electronics technician, lived amidst a boom of serious crimes that hit the New York suburb during the early years of the sixties. The couple worked unconventional hours, leaving Marie to spend most late nights home alone.

Marie’s homebrew security system set the foundation for the two-way communication, video surveillance, and police response features of modern-day systems. The invention was comprised of a motorized camera that moved between peepholes mounted on an entry door at 4 different heights. Additionally, a two-way microphone, monitor, door lock solenoid and panic button were wired in. These components gave the Brown residence the ability to screen visitors visually, communicate safely, provide remote access control, and even alert the authorities in the event of an intruder. 

Although Marie’s invention was way ahead of its time, it netted the family little in financial success. The system was just too costly to produce and install in the average household.  However, after the patent was filed in 1966 and approved 3 years later, Marie was presented a 
well-deserved award from the National Scientists Committee and was interviewed for an article by the prestigious New York Times. 

Half a century later, and Brown’s invention is still cited in CCTV security system patents being filed as late as 2013.