Are You Alarmed?

No, this post is not about the alarming things happening in the world today. Rather it’s about are you alarmed? As in, do you have an alarm system? In my WIP, If I Should Die, I recently needed to know what year saw the invention of the first closed circuit security system. Guess what I learned? A woman co-invented the first home security system in 1966. 

Marie Van Brittan Brown

photo of Marie Van Brittan Brown who I found at the bottom of the research rabbit hole I tumbled down while writing If I Should Die
The only image of Brown I could find. But I could not determine the original copyright holder.

We know little about the private life of African-American Marie Van Brittan Brown. She was born October 30, 1922 in Jamaica, Queens, New York. She became a nurse and married Albert Brown, an electrician. They had a son and a daughter.

They lived in the same neighborhood where she was born. As a nurse and an electrician, they worked irregular hours. The high crime rate in their neighborhood worried her. It worried her more since it took the police a long time to respond.

The Alarmed Peep Hole

Brown and her husband invented the first form of home security system. They used a radio-controlled wireless system. A camera slid up and down three peep-holes in the door. The three peep holes were at child height, average adult height, and tall. The camera transmitted an image of the person on the other side of the door to the homeowner’s television set. He or she could talk to the visitor behind the door too. If alarmed, the homeowner could push a panic button which alerted the police. The system also allowed the homeowner to unlock the door remotely.

Patent Granted

They jointly filed a patent in 1966. Take a look at the drawing she submitted

The U.S. Patent Office granted the patent in 1969.

It was the first closed-circuit television security system. Intended for homeowners, small businesses used it too. Brown’s patent is still in use today.


Brown died February 2, 1999, at seventy-six years of age.

An Historic Mark

Brown’s invention has undoubtedly prevented many, many crimes. It has probably saved lives too. The mark she left of history is enormous.

This is the type of “rabbit hole” I can tumble down while researching a bit of history. Her invention came too late for me to use in my book. But the first motion sensor invented in 1950 came in handy.

It makes sense to me that a woman would invent this very helpful device. And this bit of history was one I had to share. Are you alarmed? Did you know about Brown?


  1. Her invention sounds like the very first “Ring” system! And yes, we’re alarmed, both by a security system and by having two dogs. I love it when I run into cool history like this as I do research!

    1. Yes. Her system probably spawned the first “Ring” system. Two dogs do make a pretty good security system. I have three yorkies that will yap and ankle bite (more likely lick to death) any intruders at our house. lol

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