"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious." — Thomas Jefferson
I enjoy lists. Lists like the top ten beers, the most watched TV shows or the best selling cars in the world. Many of these lists are compiled by trade magazines representing the items the lists refer to, i.e. beverage, entertainment and auto magazines.
The other night the History Channel had a program devoted to the 101 gadgets that changed the world. The list was compiled by Popular Mechanics Magazine. I was fascinated with some of the selection PM had included in their list. Here are a few selections that I thought were simple, yet I believe had a great impact on society and the way work, play and live. You can go through the list and make your choices for the “best” selections.
No.101 Duct Tape: NASA astronauts have used it to make repairs on the moon and in space. The MythBusters built a boat and held a car together with the stuff. Brookhaven National Laboratory fixed their particle accelerator with it. And enthusiasts have used it to make prom dresses and wallets. You might say it's a material, not a gadget, but trust us: Duct tape is the ultimate multitool. I can’t tell you how many times I have used duct tape. I have used it repair cars and household items. I is inexpensive and I always carry a roll in my car and suitcase when I travel.
No. 99 the Stapler: The first known stapler was handmade in the 18th century in France for King Louis XV. Each staple was inscribed with the insignia of the royal court, as required. The growing uses of paper in the 19th century created a demand for an efficient paper fastener.
In 1866, George McGill received U.S. patent 56,587 for a small, bendable brass paper fastener that was a precursor to the modern staple. In 1867, he received U.S. patent 67,665 for a press to insert the fastener into paper. He showed his invention at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and continued to work on these and other various paper fasteners through the 1880s. In 1868 a patent was also taken out for a stapler in England by C.H.Gould. As well, also in 1868, Albert Kletzker of St Louis, MO patented a device to staple paper.
No matter the color or size the stapler is one of the most “can’t do without” tolls of the office. It replaced those pesky paper clips that always rusted and stained your documents. Of course its companion tool, the staple remover is a must tool if you want to save your fingernails. The stapler was so popular the largest office supply store in the world borrowed its name. Today we use all sorts of staplers: heavy duty, electric, industrial for construction and surgical staplers to stich you up.
No.94 the Blender: Stephen Poplawski invented the blender in 1922, but his name is not the one most often associated with the gadget. That honor belongs to Fred Waring — an orchestra leader in Pennsylvania who, in 1936, offered financial backing to a tinkerer named Frederick Osius who was developing a similar invention. One reason for Waring's interest: He could use Osius's gadget to puree raw vegetables for the ulcer diet his doctors prescribed. The Waring Blender debuted in 1937 and cost $29.75; ($470 in today’s dollars).by 1954 one million of the devices had been sold. It was a gadget for the rich, but with completion and manufacturing techniques you can buy a simple blender for under $40 today at Wall-Mary or Target.
No. 90 the Zippo Lighter: Almost every soldier or sailor in WWII had a Zippo lighter. The Zippo, that stalwart status symbol of the smoky second half of the 20th century, was born in 1932 in the most inauspicious of settings: a rented room over the Rickerson and Pryde auto shop in tiny Bradford, Penn. Equipped with a kitchen hotplate for soldering, a used welding kit, and a punch press, founder George Blaisdell and two employees went to work. In the first month of production, January 1933, they produced 82 lighters. In February, output jumped to 367. By 2006, the total number of Zippo lighters surpassed 425 million lighters.
Today you can get a custom Zippo emblazoned with the emblem of your military unit, your company logo or favorite sports team. These lighters make great give-away marketing items. There are even butane versions on the market today.
No. 88 the Flash Drive: Boy is this one is a gem. Toshiba engineer Fujio Masuoka developed the concept of flash memory—so-called because the erasure process reminded a colleague of a camera flash—in the early 1980s. But the good ship flash drive needed a way to dock. Intel's Ajay Bhatt and his Universal Serial Bus (USB), which was introduced in 1996, provided part of the solution. But data still didn't travel well until 2000, when the first USB flash-drive stick, with 8 megabytes of storage, arrived.
These 8Mgb flash drives sold for around $60 dollars, but it didn’t take long for bigger and bigger drives to come on the market reducing the price. Today we have flash drives with capacities up to 32 Gigabytes and the 1Gig versions selling for under $10 dollars. These, like to Zippo make great give-away marketing items.
No. 85 Sunglasses: These most common of health and fashion accessories came on the market ten years after founding the Foster Grant plastic company in 1919 to make hair accessories for women. Sam Foster switched his focus to a new consumer product — sun-blocking eyewear. Targeting the throngs of beachgoers in Atlantic City, Foster started selling his wares — America's first mass-produced plastic lens sunglasses — at the Woolworth's on the oceanfront boardwalk. Foster's business boomed, prompting him to adopt the manufacturing technique known "injection molding" in 1934, which revolutionized American plastic production.
In 1936 Ray-Ban (founded by Bausch & Lomb) came out with their optical glass, green tinted versions. Unlike other sunglasses, Ray Ban Aviators classic style was created to deflect the sun’s glare and prevent light from hitting the eye. While their original design was meant to make an aviator’s job easier, their iconic design has withstood the test of time and is one of the most imitated brands on the market. Buying a Great Pair of Ray Ban Aviators History. The Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses have been around since the late 1930s. In fact, they were first released in 1936 but only for fighter pilots. They were not released for public consumption until 1938. Their designed was modeled after the goggles being sold to the military at that time. This was the beginning of what would later evolve into the Ray Ban Aviator Polarized upgrade. Their popularity stemmed from the media appearances of General Douglas MacArthur during World War II. He often wore Ray Ban Aviators and was photographed for many newspapers with them on. In my opinion these are the best sunglasses you can wear and I own two pair, one regular green and one polarized brown.
Since the introduction of the first sunglasses the industry blossomed with some of today’s fashion models selling for 3 or 4 hundred dollars. I’ll stick with my beloved Ray-Bans.
No. 83 the Toaster: People have been toasting bread since the days of the Holy Roman Empire; for a thousand years, the job was done by simply holding the bread over an open flame. In 1919, however, a plant mechanic in Stillwater, Minn., finally got fed up with the burnt toast in his company cafeteria. So, Charles Strite built a box that incorporated heating elements that browned both sides of the bread at once, a variable timer and springs to eject the bread. Originally intended for restaurants, the toaster is now in 90 percent of American homes; 12 million of the gadgets are sold annually.
No. 79 the Swiss Army Knife: Carl Elsener, a Swiss journeyman cutler, thought it was a disgrace that Swiss soldiers carried German-made knives. In 1890, he introduced the first Swiss Army Knife, the Modell 1980, which had a blade, an awl, a can opener and a screwdriver. Today you can get a Swiss Army Knife with a multitude of utility tools ranging from the traditional blade, awl and can opener to saws, pliers and scissors. There are two competing manufactures, Wenger and Victorinox. Wenger claims to be the “genuine” while Victorinox claims to be the “original” and was founded by Carl Elsener. You can tell the difference by the little Swiss flag emblem on the case. I have been to the Victorinox factory in Ibach, Switzerland and the visit was very rewarding — I purchased several Swiss Army Knives.
No. 78 The Can Opener: Canned food was invented for the British Navy in the early 1800s—but the modern can opener didn't come along until 1870, when American William Lyman created a simple device with a cutting wheel that rolls around the can's rim. Previously, can-opening instructions for British sailors read, "Cut round the top near the outer edge with a chisel and hammer." It is also claimed that Napoléon supplied his arm with canned food when they invaded Russia.
No. 74 The Safety Razor: King Camp Gillette did not invent the safety razor—that honor goes to the Kampfe Brothers, circa 1880--but his company, founded in 1901, quickly became the foremost name in facial hair removal. Advanced manufacturing methods, low prices and shrewd promotion— for example, Gillette arranged to have his safety razors issued to every American soldier during World War I — changed the practice of shaving from the exclusive domain of skilled barbers to an everyday act that any man could perform from the comfort of his own bathroom. And according to Gillette, his blade saved money and time, too. From the March 1918 issue of The Gillette Blade: "Every razor sold by the Gillette Company represents a saving of half an hour of time spent in a barber shop, without saying anything about the money paid for service and tips. With an approximate number of 10 million customers this would represent a saving of 10 million half-hours per day, or a saving of 5 million hours which might be devoted to study or labor and which represents 500,000 working days of the labor of 500,000 men constantly employed, which is nearly twice the number employed by the U.S. Steel Corporation, which at $3.00 per day represents a saving of $1,500,000 per day, or for a year of 300 days, a saving to the United States of labor equal to $450,000,000."
Today there are three major manufactures of safety razors, Gillette, Schick and BIC. Gillette and Schick compete for the higher end razors while BIC goes after those throw-away plastic ones. One thing Gillette discovered eary in the game was that could give the razor away and make money on the blades. Today’s you can pick up a Power Fusion razor for about seven bucks, but for replacement blade cartridges will cost you $20 dollars.
No. 71 The Kodak Carousel: Unveiled in 1961, it was not the first 35-mm slide projector--merely the best. Before the Carousel, projectors tended to be problematic machines. Other projectors at the time relied on temperamental mechanical parts to move the slide out of its stack and in front of the light, and jamming was a regular occurrence. According to Todd Gustavson, the George Eastman House's curator of technology, "The Carousel was the first projector to use that most dependable system of slide delivery: Gravity." But adman Don Draper put the Carousel's cultural impact best in his pitch to Kodak execs in an episode of the '60s-set show Mad Men: "This device isn't a spaceship, it's a time machine." He waxed poetic while clicking through images of his family life before it unraveled. "It lets us travel the way a child travels--around and around and back home again."
Thousands of architects, engineers, marketing professionals and family photo enthusiasts used the Kodak slide projector with a Carousel holding 40 or 80 slides for their presentations and boring family travel logs. How many of us have had to sit through an hour or so of blurred, overexposed, underexposed, out of focus and receptive 35mm slides of someone’s family vacation?
No. 66 The Tape Measure: The modern, spring-loaded tape measure was created by Alvin Fellows in 1868. Fellows' work improved upon an earlier model by encasing the tool in plastic and attaching it to a spring clip to lock the tape in place until its release. Yet despite the spring tape measure's timeless utilitarianism, it didn't start outselling the wooden yard stick until the 1940s; the gadget sped up construction during a major building boom: 14.1 million houses in a decade.
As a former surveyor I can’t tell you how valuable this little tool is. Today’s tape measures come in all sizes with dual scales in US and Metric markings. There even electric ones on the market.
No. 65 The Zipper: When inventor and farm implement salesman Whitcomb Judson unveiled his newly patented "clasp-locker" — which featured a central guide that hooked together the fastening clasps when pulled upward — at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the odd-looking and ungainly device failed to impress. The modern zipper didn't come about until the 1920s, when Goodyear put an improved version of the fastener on its Zipper galoshes.
Today we use zippers for almost everything from pants to suitcases. Many are now made of nylon and come in little tiny models to the large industrial types.
No. 59 The CD-ROM: The CD-ROM is a pre-pressed compact disc that contains data accessible to, but not writable by, a computer for data storage and music playback. The 1985 “Yellow Book” standard developed by Sony and Philips adapted the format to hold any form of binary data.
CD-ROMs are popularly used to distribute computer software, including video games and multimedia applications, though any data can be stored (up to the capacity limit of a disc). Some CDs hold both computer data and audio with the latter capable of being played on a CD player, while data (such as software or digital video) is only usable on a computer (such as ISO 9660 format PC CD-ROMs). These are called enhanced CDs.
It is claimed that the first music CDs were developed by Sony and were designed to contain enough space to play Beethoven’s ninth symphony as that was Sony’s chairman of the board’s favorite piece of music. Today the CD Rom has been replaced with the DVD, which can play you favorite movies.
No. 54 The Ball Point Pen: The Reynolds Rocket, America's first ballpoint pen, cost $12.50 when it went on sale at Gimbels in 1945. Adjusting for inflation, $12.50 in 1945 dollars equals about $150 today. At $3.29 per dozen, that's 546 BIC pens.
I got my first ball point pen while in high school and paid for it with proceeds from my paper route. I paid $10 dollars for it and it skipped, smeared and would leak in your pocket. Today there are hundreds of models of ball point pens ranging from a $0.19 BIC to a $200 Mont Blanc. They all write the same.
No. 47 The Leatherman Tool: Invented in 1983 by Tim Leatherman, the Pocket Survival Tool (PST) has 14 tools, including a can opener, pliers, a file and four screwdrivers. Today, the Leatherman Surge features 21 tools. Even Victorinox makes the Swiss Army version. Everyone should have a Leatherman.
No. 45 The Sony Walkman: Sony's portable personal stereo pioneered the use of headphones. When the Walkman was introduced in Japan in 1979, Sony sold out the initial production run--30,000 units--in eight weeks. The gadget made its American debut in 1980 and became so ubiquitous that in 1986 the word "walkman" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. By the time the line was retired in 2010, more than 220 million units had been sold.
No. 43 The Polaroid Camera: In 1943, Jennifer Land, 3, watched her father, Edwin, take photos: "Why can't I see the pictures now?" Her plea was answered in 1948, when Polaroid — the company her father headed — began selling instant film and cameras. It took 10 years and $250 million developing the iconic SX-70, which debuted in 1972. The expenditure nearly sank the firm, but by 1974 the camera was a hit: It spit out 1 billion prints that year.
For those old enough to remember you took the photo and its ejected from the camera. After a wait of about one minute you separated the two parts of the film leaving one as the photo and the other the throw away chemical sheet. Then you needed to rub some smelly stuff on the photos from the applicator that came with each package of film. Any place you went; to the beach, Disneyland or a National Park you would see hundreds of those black developing sheets in trash cans or lying about.
The photos were okay and there are no doubt thousands of scrapbooks and show boxes filled with these photos. Over the years the, camera, film and image got better and smelly stuff was no longer needed. Polaroid cameras are still in use today by people who want an instant hard copy photo for documentation purposes.
No. 41 The Pocket Calculator: Math nerds couldn't slip the first all-transistor calculator (1957) into their shirt pockets: The three-unit IBM 608 weighed 2400 pounds. Anyway, at $83,210, it was too pricey. By 1976, four-function pocket calculators weighed a few ounces and cost a few dollars.
I purchased my first electronic calculator in 1969. It was a Sharp with one storage memory and I paid $195 dollars ($1,200 in today’s dollars) for it. It was big, the battery did not last too long, but it beat the hell out of the slide rule I was using. Today you can pick up a pocket calculator for less than 3 dollars at a big box office store that does the same thing my $195 dollar behemoth did and its solar powered.
It did not take long for the pocket calculator to morph into the full function, programmable engineering, scientific and business models with more computing power than was onboard Apollo 13.
No. 40 The Wi-Fi Router: Since its introduction in 2000, Wi-Fi has made its way into more than 9000 devices, from phones to TVs. According to a Wi-Fi Alliance poll, 75 percent of young Americans say they would give up coffee before Wi-Fi. Almost every home with a cable or DSL Internet connection has a Wi-Fi router connected to their cable modem allowing distributed Internet access throughout the house. Now most hotels and motels advertise free Internet access by using Wi-Fi routers.
No. 36 The 8mm Camera: It's the most famous home movie in history: 486 frames that record on Kodachrome II safety film the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Abraham Zapruder had left his Bell & Howell 414PD Zoomatic camera (shown here) at home that day, but at his assistant's urging, he drove 14 miles round-trip to retrieve it. Each winding of the mechanical camera's mainspring lasts 30 seconds; the footage that became critical evidence in the Warren Commission's report on the assassination is 26 seconds long
I bought my first 8mm camera while in high school. It was a Bell and Howell with three lenses mounted on a rotating turret. Over the years I moved to Super-8mm and much more expensive cameras. I also got into the editing part of film making and have thousands of feet of movies film stored in reels.
No. 34 The Digital Camera: Logitech introduced the first consumer model, the Fotoman, in 1990. Because of its popularity and that of other models, Kodak retired its Kodachrome film format in 2009 after 74 years of service.
Today’s digital cameras come in all shapes, sizes and prices range from the $19.99 Wal-Mart special to the $6,000 Nikon D3s. They take great photos and many now take video. They have tuned millions of people into photographers and they no longer need show boxes. Now they just load up their PC hard drives with all of the images they take.
No. 32 The Computer Mouse: Initially, it was more like an elephant: The first trackball, which was invented by researchers in the Royal Canadian Navy in 1952, started life as a duckpin bowling ball. Other inventors created smaller prototypes, but it wasn't until Apple paired its Lisa computer with a small controller 31 years later that the mouse assumed the basic design it has retained for decades
No. 27 The Blackberry: In 1909, scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla wrote a piece for The New York Times — later quoted in Popular Mechanics — that essentially predicted the BlackBerry. "It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages all over the world so simply that an individual can carry and operate his own apparatus," Tesla wrote. The BlackBerry was introduced in 1999; by 2009, 50 million of the devices had been sold. I am on my third model, the Torch.
No. 26 The Crescent Wrench: n 1907, the Crescent Tool Company was officially incorporated in Jamestown, N.Y., by Swedish emigrant Karl Peterson. It had one product--a wrench that could handle periodic brake and clutch adjustments on early automobiles, and replace an entire set of dedicated-size wrenches. Its popularity didn't end with car owners, however. After his historic transatlantic flight in 1927, Charles Lindbergh was quoted as saying he carried only "gasoline, sandwiches, a bottle of water, and a Crescent wrench and pliers."
No. 23 The Laptop Computer: In the age of the MacBook Air, a computer weighing more than a few pounds seems like a desktop. But the most successful early laptop was the 11-pound GRiD Compass 1101, a clamshell computer that went on sale in 1982. The gadget spurred innovation; today, 59 percent of U.S. adults own a desktop and 52 percent own a laptop. In the 18- to 34-year-old demo-graphic, seven in 10 are laptop owners.
Today’s laptop PC or MACs contain more computing power that all of NASA had during the moon launch program. When combined with Wi-Fi or phone modem Internet access the user has the ability to communicate with the world anywhere a cell phone will work.
No. 19 The Brownie Box Camera: Inexpensive and easy to operate, the Brownie was one of the first box cameras and brought the snapshot to the masses when it hit stores in 1900; 100,000 units sold that first year. Ansel Adams's parents gave one to their son during a 1916 trip to Yosemite National Park, when the future landscape photographer and environmentalist was 14. While setting up his first photo, Adams tumbled off a tree stump and inadvertently pressed the shutter. He rated the accidental image "one of my favorites from this, my first year of photography."
No. 17 The Handheld GPS: Before GPS was a road warrior's tool, it was the navigation system for actual U.S. military warriors. The government opened up GPS for civilian use in 1983, after the Soviets downed a Korean airliner in a no-fly zone. Magellan sold the first handheld unit in 1989, which believe it or not I helped them develop.
Today GPS is everywhere. It’s in your car, imbedded in your smart phone. Hikers and fishermen have small handheld units, you can get a wrist model for jogging and some camera makers, like Nikon, offer a small unit to attach to their higher end cameras for geo-tagging your photos.
No. 7 The Telephone: Alexander Graham Bell's interest in the education of deaf people-he began teaching at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes in 1871-led him to invent the microphone and, in 1876, the telephone, which he called the "electrical speech machine." In a 1912 issue of Popular Mechanics, Bell said, "To tell the truth, as a practical man, I did not quite believe it; as a theoretical man, I saw a speaking telephone by which we could have the means of transmitting speech and reproducing it in distant places. But it really seemed too good to be true, that one could possibly create, by the action of the voice itself, electrical impulses intense enough to serve any practical purpose." The device debuted at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, leading Brazilian Emperor Dom Pedro to exclaim: "My God, it talks!"
Just think of the Pandora’s Box Bell opened and the communications industry his invention created. We now have cell phones and texting (sexting in Anthony Weiner’s case) and the ability to interrupt people when they are eating their dinner.
No. 5 The Personal Computer: The forerunners of modern personal computers were introduced in the mid-1970s as kits. Little did pioneers like Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who wrote programming language for the MITS Altair 8800 kit, or Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who designed the skeletal Apple I, know what was in store. The Apple II, which debuted in 1977 with color graphics and an attachable floppy disk drive, ushered in a new technological era-and when IBM introduced its Personal Computer in 1981, the PC began its slow acceptance as a crucial business tool instead of merely a geeky toy. In 1983, there were 10 million personal computers in the U.S.; today 80 percent of American households have a notebook or PC, creating unprecedented levels of efficiency, capability, and access to news, music and entertainment.
No. 3 Television: The origins of television stretch back to the late 19th century, to a time before it was even technically feasible. In 1877, civil servant George Carey was already sketching drawings for a "selenium camera" that would allow people to "see by electricity;" at the same time, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were theorizing about telephones that could transmit images along with sound. Modern television was demonstrated in 1939 at the New York World's Fair-and soon TV beamed dramatic images of the Civil Rights movement; political debate and casualties of war; astronauts, pop musicians, sports heroes and more directly into American living rooms. In 1949, fewer than 1 million U.S. households had a TV; four years later, that number had ballooned to 25 million. For a half-century, TV has stood as the No. 1 source for Americans' news and entertainment, and today, 99 percent of U.S. households have a TV. We spend an average of 2.8 hours per day watching them
No. 2: Radio: Police switchboards jammed. Drivers fled cities. Doctors volunteered to treat the injured. Why all the ruckus? On Oct. 30, 1938-the day before Halloween-Orson Welles presented a radio play he based on H.G. Wells' sci-fi novel The War of the Worlds. The Mercury Theatre on the Air presentation sounded like a news broadcast of a Martian invasion, complete with fake bulletins that interrupted dance music. The resulting hysteria dramatically revealed the power of gadget No. 2, the first instrument of instant mass communication. Patented in England in 1896 as "wireless telegraphy" by Guglielmo Marconi-who based his work on technology developed by Nikola Tesla-radios were in 80 percent of U.S. homes by the time those aliens landed in New Jersey.
No. 1: Mobile/Smartphone: With origins tracing back to Finland and Japan in the '70s, mobile phones have fast become the most widely used gadgets in the world. The first billion units sold in 20 years, the second billion in four and the third billion in two. By the end of 2010, the subscription rate stood at 5 billion, or 75 percent of all people on earth. The technology leaped forward in 1983 with the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, the first truly portable cellphone. The smartphone, with us since 2000, is now a pocket-size PC. Wireless and GPS — and multimedia-enabled, it facilitates instantaneous personal connections that make phone conversations seem like cave paintings. People of developing nations, even those without an electrical grid, can tap into the world's commerce and culture. After a scant 11 years of development, the device seems to have limitless potential.
Well, that’s my selections of the 101 gadgets that changed the world. I am sure you can go through the PM list and add or take away from my selections. The UK Independent published their own list of the 101 gadgets that changed the world and it’s a bit different than the popular Mechanics list. You can view their list by clicking here.
The one thing all of these gadgets have in common, however, is the industries and the millions of jobs they created. Each one began as a gadget, but ended up as a staple of society, something we cannot live without and not one of them was created by government or with government money. They are all products of the free market.
Some said items like the computer would cause the loss of thousands of jobs and TV would ruin the movie industry and Hollywood. This is like Obama spread his nonsense by saying the ATMs caused unemployment in the banking industry. Sure some bookkeepers and secretaries may have temporarily lost jobs due to the PC, but millions of others now had jobs in a new industry. The had jobs building the PCs, writing he software, selling he PCs and servicing them Whole departments within companies were created and called IT departments. Microsoft employs 77,000 people in Redmond, Washington and another 12,000 in Canada writing software for the PCs. As for Hollywood, they have never had it so good. They now make movies that go directly to DVD and they make more money on some of their films through the sale of DVDs and cable TV than from showing then in your local theater.
The human mind operating in a free market environment is the best thing we have going to build a prosperous society. Government intervention, regulations and restrictions imposed by the lobbying efforts of special interest groups are our worst economic enemy.