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Top 5 Oddest, But Still Brilliant Inventions

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I read over at MSN recently of Tamim Ansary’s (a columnist) list of the 10 greatest inventions. His number one is the mechanical clock. And kudos for that. Not many people realize how important and ingenious time is to both nature and civilization as we know it. I don’t think that we’ll ever find out that single man or woman who invented the concept of time, probably some form of the sundial, but I know that all of us are in a debt of gratitude to that prehistoric genius.

You’ll find his list includes, and in order: toiler/modern plumbing, printing press, immunization/antibiotics, telephone, electrical grid, automobile, television, computer and “something new” (internet, birth control, genetic engineering or virtual reality – you can read his column here).

In homage to his list, I thought that I should come up with a list of some of the more odd inventions, but nonetheless crafty and brilliant.

1. The Staple and the Stapler – Who would have thought that a small piece of sheet metal could be used to bind several pieces of paper together. In that same regard, the stapler itself is a very complex machine that takes several attached staples and individually staples the sheet metal into the paper. How the staple bends as it hits that metal plate is magnificent.

2. Antiperspirant & Deodorant – Anyone, like me, with a smelly roommate can attest to the joys of such a blessing. Long and hot summer nights can turn into blistering endurance trials, and sometimes the only comfort can be found in preventing and lessing your sweat or at least its smell. Body odor is natural, but not necessarily good.

3. The Contour Design – Current bottles have shown this new trend. Straight edges are yesterday’s news, and curves and contours are in. Who doesn’t want to drink out of something that can fit smoothly and snug in one’s hand? I once read a story about how much money the beverage industry spent researching the effects of contour designs on the people. What I remember was that the $50 million dollar study found out that people were willing to pay more money for bottled drinks as long as they were sold in contour designed bottles. Wow.

4. Jesus Christ – How many people can say that they are devoted to and worshipped by a billion people? Not many. While I don’t doubt that a “Jesus” ever existed, I doubt that He might be as mystical and divine as the Bible claims Jesus is. Jesus Christ, as He is now, is an amazing invention who has inspired thousands of people to crusade against the heathens, millions of people to love Him, and billions of people to know His name. If that isn’t successful marketing, then I don’t know what is.

5. The Widescreen – This is a very under-appreciated viewing ratio in almost all feature films and some television shows. The use of widescreen was started after cinema attendance plummeted following the invention of the television. Movie executives were startled and found new ways to differentiate the film from the TV show. What came out of it was CinemaScope – the first widescreen film camera process. The first widescreen movie was The Robe (1953) starring Richard Burton and Jean Simmons. Imagine watching Lawrence Of Arabia or Ben-Hur in full screen. It makes me shutter.

Honorable mentions: the iPod, thongs and crotch-less panties, the Lord Of The Rings (books, not the movies), the syringe, the yin/yang symbol (it doesn’t show up if I save it), the Segway, the “STOP” sign, self-adhesive stamps, and language.

What are some other ones that change our lives, but still lack enough popularity to make it into the mainstream?

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About Tan The Man

Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music. He has previously covered events like Noise Pop, Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest, TBD Festival, Wizard World Comic Con and WonderCon.
  • Antfreeze

    Jeez, seems like fire and the wheel might have made the cut. Or maybe clothes, or agriculture, or domestication of animals. These are admittedly just after crotchless panties but still…

  • Paper money – I mean, think of it, the concept of a slip of paper representing real wealth, and finally coming to be wealth on its own.

    Chocolate – and kudos as well to the first brave soul who consented to nibble that greasy brown lump…

  • Keefer

    Hey, what about sliced bread?

  • Combine sliced bread with paper money. That might impress me.

    For the first time, money would have real value. Little pieces of paper and heavy chunks of shiny metal are both equally worthless in times of famine.

    Of course, anything durable enough to serve as money would not be very tasty or healthy, but that’s really no problem because you’d never actually want to eat it except in the most dire emergency.

  • RJ


    The birth-control pill (name that inventor!)

    RADAR (name that inventor!)

    POST-IT notes (name that inventor!)

  • gilbert

    Uh…soap? Paper? Pencil?

  • I forgot the Post-It!!!

  • RJ

    How about the person who invented the helocopter…you never hear much of him…yet you hear endless praise for the Wright Brothers…

  • True. The helicopter is one hell of a complex machine.

  • khit

    I vehemently disagree dat Jesus Christ is part of d list! He is not an invention neither a wishful thinking of some pipol. Attest to dat fact r d change lyf brought about in knowing Him.

  • “It has served us well, this myth of Jesus” – Pope Leo X

  • I’m not saying the man is an invention. The aura and the celebrity of Jesus is an invention. All of the worship is an invention.

  • Tam

    How could fire be an invention? It simply exists, and we made use of it.

    I agree with the wheel, sliced bread, and of course, the refigerator. C’mon!

  • There was a discovery of how to make fire.

    Helicpter? Da Vinci or Sikorsky (sp?)

    – Temple

  • Da Vinci…

  • The Poch

    About Post-It Notes:

    The paste was invented by Spencer Silver, a 3M Company researcher. He was trying to create a superglue at that time but instead created an exact opposite. The glue simply could not dry, thus is only barely able to stick two pieces of paper together. It took five years before a co-worker, Art Fry, was able to come up with a practical use by applying paste on sheets of paper to be used as a makeshift bookmark. It took another eight years before this concept became the Post-It pads that we’ve come to know and love today.

  • bob

    i think everything is cool!

  • Thomas DeBray

    And…what about the toaster oven?

  • Invention is the greatest invention. Not one thing we know of and of which we make practical use exists that isn’t presaged in nature. Take the hydrolic hinge: mimosa plant (sensitve plant). Staples, sewing, weaving: ants, birds, spiders all precede man. Man’s greatest invention is a blade, which was invented after trying to shape wood to build the teepee, cabin, boat without it, and so the visioning the true inventing, seems to be in seeing ends, and finding means. Examples abounded in nature, but some aren’t, and those inventions that arose from purely abstract thought, about uses unknown, but are now used for known things, is perhaps the “purest” form of invention or creation de novo. And that is in the sphere of mathematics. We use formulas everyday to ease manufacture and management of energy that the original “coiners” wrote down for no other reason than they belonged to the sphere of matematics. They were interested in pattern, resolution, balances, contrasts, etc. And some seer with a smattering experience in practical things, an empericist with some smattering of abstract mathematics, combined the “purely theoretical” thought with the end desired. Amazing. (Man, that was good pot!)

  • Now, do I hit “publish” or what? What the h-ll, wait, wati, where am I? Okay, here we go: click. Click? Back space? I forgot to save my comment? Okay, click. There. God I hate typewriters. Computers. Whatever. Now, do I hit “publish” or what?…..repeat.