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?