Who Invented The Blender

vitamix-blenderIt is an item used a lot in kitchens, and whether you are after a home-made milkshake, alternative baby food, or for separate foods to not be so separate, a blender performs the messy task that its name implies. But who first came up with the idea of creating the blender?

In the year 1922, American Stephen Poplawski (owner of the Stevens Electronics Company) is credited as having first produced the idea of implementing an electronic fast-spinning blade at the bottom of a plastic container as a means of turning more solid foods into liquid, with an official patent (‘device for turning fruit and vegetables into liquid’) being awarded to him in 1932.

It could be argued that he got his inspiration mainly from the first-ever AC/DC motor created by Hamilton Beach Manufacturing Co. in 1910, although the company’s co-founder Fred Osius would go on (over 25 years later) to find ways to improve on Poplawski’s product.

Despite Osius’ and other developer’s future attempts, though, there have been not been many groundbreaking developments or improvements on the original concept aside from improved reliability and small modified features, as well as much greater levels of marketing, which was funded by singer Fred Waring, whose interest in gadgets is said to have convinced him to financially back Osius’ design for a ‘Miracle Mixer’ which was later renamed as the ‘Waring Blendor’.

The product was advertised by Osius on roadshows across America in the late 1930’s, and the concept has not looked back since, sold by many companies worldwide with slight tweaks of features including specific food settings, timers, and speed levels. Blenders are now used in a number of day-to-day cooking activities, but drinks (in particular alcoholic ‘mixers’) remain the device’s main domain.

However, with modern society and video sharing websites such as YouTube, it is not just common food that gets put under the blender’s blade, as the popular Blendtec-operated web series Will It Blend? demonstrates. Featured below are blending attempts at an iPad, trainers, glowsticks, and a collection of Justin Bieber memorabilia. Just remember to keep the lid on…

Blender – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Screwdriver

screwdriverIt is a long-standing household tool that can make the task of fixing an item to a solid surface a lot more stress-free, and while many people will feel that they can do the same job with any pointed object in the right dimensions, a screwdriver is undoubtedly the best fit for the objective that it was made to fulfil. But who was it that first came up with one?

While the screw (a ‘conical helix’-shaped device for penetrating solid surfaces in an less damaging manner) had been around for quite some time (with its origins dating back to Ancient Greece and the historic engineer Archemedes), it was not until the late 15th-century that a way to control them more efficiently was developed, a hand-held metal device that was shaped to match an implant in the flat head of the screw, generally the straightforward ‘flathead design’, the basis of a shape still applied today.

While the exact date or founder is unknown, information on the screwdriver was first published in a manuscript (The Medieval Housebook of Wolfegg Castle) dated between 1475-1490, with claims that the design came from either Germany (schraubendreher [screwturner]) or France ( tournevis [turnscrew]).

Since that point, there has not been much development in the area of screwdrivers aside from more refined and supportive shapes (such as the Philips or Robertson head screwdriver designs), sizes to match varying screws, or making it motorised or automatic for the tougher screwing jobs, but a cheap, modern basic version of the device (flathead) is generally an item which could be found in any household in the developed world, sometimes even applying a purpose away from screws. An in-depth review of the history of the screwdriver can be seen below:

Screwdriver – Wikipedia

Who Invented Planking

It is not an item, or an invention of sorts, but the craze of ‘planking’ was strangely a big cultural emergence of 2011, with ‘plankers’ taking to Facebook and YouTube with their ‘acheivements’ in laying-down. Regardless of its absurdity, though, all things seem to have an origin, so who was the ‘inventor’ of planking?

planking_bollardWhile the ‘act’ of pretending to be a plank of wood (done by lying face-down and rigidly in a crowded or unusual location), only broke out under its current name last year (with the term originating from Australia), a number of people or groups lay claim to having founded it.

A number of these (one from South Korea in 2003 (‘playing dead game’), France in 2004 (‘a plat venre’ – on one’s belly), and Australia in 2008 (extreme lying down)) can be noted as just renaming or re-launching the craze, with the earliest dated claim coming from Canadian comedian Tom Green, who believes that it was his original idea back in 1994.

Whether or not it was true, ‘planking’ began to take off with the world of social networking, as English pair Gary Langdon & Christian Clarkson set up a Facebook page for ‘the lying down game’ in 2006, when the movement (or lack of) started to take off (and at the time of writing has around 100,000 ‘fans’ worldwide compared to over 175,000 for the ‘Planking Australia’ page set up in 2011), although the duo claim to have started ‘planking’ with each other in 2000, and are also said to hold the official copyright papers to the ‘The Official Lying Down Game’.

While it is unknown how long ‘planking’ will remain popular for amongst people who have little in the brain cells department, it can be laughed at by non-participants even in its prime, as this compilation video of the best ‘plankers’ demonstrates:

Who Invented The Piggy Bank

While most money-saving people will keep their funds in wallets or banks, plenty – mainly children, collectors, or those with small change – will use a piggy bank. It is probably one of the most confusing match-ups in modern times, so how did the pig become associated with storing money in a fragile and smashable case?

piggy-bankThe origin of the piggy bank, unlike its first creator, is actually known, and is thought mainly to be the work of the development of the English language. Throughout much of the Middle Ages, the word ‘pygg’ was a way to describe a form of clay, from which people made an assortment of useful houshold items, namely jars.

One such jar was a small pot-style item known as a ‘pygg jar’ in which people that used them would store their money. By the 18th century, the English language was now pronouncing the word for the animal ‘pig’ in a similar manner, and one unknown person during that era seems to have made the key link between the two similar words (pig-pygg) that created an iconic product.

The ‘pig bank’ obviously must have went down well with people who bought them, and by the mid-20th century it was one of the most popular and commonplace methods of storing money, as well as some starting to be made from materials more practical and durable than their clay-based origin. In more recent times, the definition of ‘piggy bank’ has extended a bit, and while this does mean that other animals (such as bunnies or sheep) are featured as money-storing objects, nothing seems to be coming even close to the popularity of the pig in this respect.

While the piggy bank has been featured as a mascot for banks and financial services, the most prominent use of them in popular culture is arguably being ‘smashed’ in a film or TV series when a character is desperately in need of some money. This ‘sledgehammer moment’ is probably not seen as much in reality, but this video does show one getting the cruel treatment in slow-motion:

Piggy Bank – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Paperclip

It is one of the most commonly-used items within an office or school, seen as a small device that many of its users would consider to be crucial when they need it, but forgettable when they don’t. Paperclips have been a ‘staple’ in the stationary industry for years, but who first came up with the idea of bending a small tube of metal in that shape?

paper-clips-001There are a number of claimants to the invention of the paperclip, but the first patent for such an object was granted to American Samuel B Fay in 1867, with what was described as a bent wire used for attaching sheets of paper together, although this was merely a side-effect of Fay’s original intention (an object to bind tickets to fabric). At some point in the early 1870’s, though, The Gem Manufacturing Company (in England), began producing paperclips in the ‘looped’ design seen today, and although they are recognised nowadays as the inventor of this paperclip shape, the design was never patented by them. American William Middlebrook, meanwhile, completed a universal recognition of the design when he filed an accepted US patent for a machine that produced Gem-style paperclips in 1899.

A common misconception from many in the world is crediting the invention with Norwegian national icon Johan Vaaler, who had registered his more simplistic and less functional (rectangular and un-looped) design to German authorities in 1899, and in the USA in 1901.

While he is known as a ‘great Norwegian inventor’ who went on to become a Patent clerk himself, it is widely regarded that Vaaler only received the patents because there was not yet a market for the device in his native Norway (the reason he had thought the idea was original at first), and relaxed US patent laws which saw enough of a difference between the Vaaler and Gem designs to be considered ‘unique’, although it was only the latter which would become a well-known shape for the object.

Despite not being the true inventor of the paperclip, Vaaler’s work still had an impressive impact on his countrymen, with the paperclip now regarded as a ‘national symbol’. Around the rest of the world, the object has been useful in keeping important documents bound together, but also has other uses, as explained in this clip produced by The History Channel:

Paperclips – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Nuclear Bomb

Chinese_nuclear_bombIt is possibly the most lethal and most feared weapon in the world, and as proven in 1945, can prove to be a real statement of intent during wartime, whether it is used or not. The nuclear bomb is a WMD (weapon of mass destruction) that creates a nuclear fission (‘splitting the atom’) of high energy upon impact with its target, with even the smallest of these bombs often carrying the ability to wipe out entire cities, and creating a giant version of the iconic ‘mushroom cloud’. While modern-day usage of the nuclear bomb is buried under a legal minefield, and often used (and kept) by big nations only as a threat, who was it that first invented this killing machine, and why did they do it?

It may come as a surprise to many that did not know before that a key player in the development of this weapon was famed scientist Albert Einstein, and while it was unclear if he actually conceived the idea of a nuclear bomb, he (who had defected Nazi Germany to become a US citizen) and a group of fellow scientists wrote a letter to American President Roosevelt on 2 August 1939 (little over a month before World War II started), warning him of recent Nazi German developments of purifying ‘uranium-235’, sparking fears that they could be creating an weapon with the material.

In response to this during the war, the US government (working alongside allies the United Kingdom and Canada) commissioned a team of scientists (led by Columbia University’s Harold Urey, but not including Einstein, who wanted the allies to win the war, but did not believe in using such a powerful and dangerous weapon) to develop an atomic bomb for them (known as ‘The Manhattan Project’), which soon progressed into the more powerful nuclear bomb.

While the Nazis never bore the brunt of this creation, America’s main rivals during the war, Japan, did, with the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945 (with nuclear bombs codenamed ‘Little Boy’ and ‘Fat Man’, respectively), an event which went a long way towards forcing a Japanese surrender and ending the war, though debate over the ethics of deploying the bomb (and killing many innocent civilians in both cities) rages on even today around the world.

Following World War II, the USA, along with the now-defunct Soviet Union, were encouraged to come up with treaties to reduce the amount of testing done on these weapons, having witnessed the destruction they can cause. This didn’t stop tests completely, though, and the Soviets posted an still world record when they deployed the ‘Tsar’ for a test in 1961, with the device letting off an estimated 57 million tonnes of TNT (an explosive material) on an uninhabited island in north Russia, an explosion which has never been matched since. With numbers of public protests on the matter during the past few decades it is likely to remain that way, with the threat and presence of nuclear weaponry having decreased, and the two US attacks on Japan in 1945 remain the only instances of nuclear weapons being used in combat.

Today, 9 nations (USA, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, Russia, and the UK) are known as owning nuclear bombs, and so far none of them have broken major international regulation (such as ‘WMD treaties’) with them, and avoid resorting to them at all cost in modern-day confrontations. It is easy to see why authorities such as the UN do not want such a weapon to be unleashed, though, as demonstrated by this video of a testing programme undertaken by the American military in 1955:

Nuclear bomb – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Fly Swatter

flyswatterAs far back as people can remember, swarms of flies can be a bit of a dampener to a nice summer’s day. Even one insect on its own in a house is generally considered as enough of a pest to want rid of fast, and if there are no ways of getting it out safely and quickly, then what else can you do than make a short life shorter? The flyswatter is the product that has given people the tools to do this without getting their hands dirty, but who first developed this plastic producer of pain?

The man generally credited with this invention is Frank H. Rose, who created the ‘fly bat’ in 1905 as a plastic screen attached to a yardstick, made as a flexible way to take down the insect. Rose only created this device in response to Dr. Samuel Crumbine’s public awareness campaign that summer in Topeka (USA), reportedly using the term ‘swat’ after hearing it at a local softball game.

While the flyswatter is undoubtedly a popular cheap product even today (usually with a more streamlined, fully plastic appearance), a modernised twist on the classic design comes in the form of the electric flyswatter. First sold in 1995 (with development origins as far back as the 1950’s), the battery-powered device looks more like a tennis racket (has anyone tried a potential game there?) with three layers of metal mesh wire designed to protect the user (the outer layers protect the centrally-charged mesh) and provide an aerodynamic swing, with a button used to release the power with user control.

Current electric flyswatters are capable of producing 1000-2500 volts of power, though consumer safety regulations prevent the device from being able to make a one-shot kill on a fly, though continued holding of the power button causes the insect victim to ‘cook’…

The electric version of the flyswatter, combined with the modern appeal of YouTube, can create a series of interesting videos, from displaying the power of the device in a dark room, to a demonstration of what happens when you stick your tounge inside:

Flyswatter – Wikipedia

Who Invented Traffic Lights

trafficlightsThey may annoy people with their ‘sudden’ changes, and journey times may sometimes be dependant on them ‘staying green’, but the truth is that deep down, everyone knows that traffic lights are a key tool in keeping roads as safe as possible, and keeping control against potential traffic chaos. But who was it that first came up with the idea of lights to tell us when we need to stop our vehicles?

It may be a surprise to some, but traffic lights have actually been in use before cars were even invented. In times when people used horses and wagons, amongst other methods of transportation, there was still a need for organisation, even in those more basic years of road travel. In 1868 in London (England), traffic enforcers managed to find a basic, yet effective device: a lantern with two different lights: one red and one green, with a policeman on hand to turn the lights over at regular intervals with a lever.

This method was useful, but the lights themselves were a danger, with some of the lanterns exploding due to being used for prolonged and alternating periods. An updated and safer version / design of the traffic light was first invented, and put to use, in 1920, by American traffic police officer William L. Potts, based in the city of Detroit. He used automated railroad signals as the inspiration for his design, to be used on four-way streets. A new colour, amber (yellow), was used in the middle of red and green (standing for ‘stop’, ‘caution’, and ‘go’).

The design would start to take off, first in the rest of Detroit, and then rapidly to the point where traffic lights are the norm on almost all areas of the world’s roads that require them. Below is an video demonstrating how these traffic lights work, as well as a bonus clip featuring classic comedy character Mr. Bean, who demonstrates exactly what not to do when faced with a red light…

Traffic Lights – Wikipedia

Who Invented Supermarkets

shopping basketThe supermarket is one of the things that society takes most for granted, and while they somewhat lack the charm of a small business for specific areas of groceries (e.g. bakers, butchers, fruit stalls, etc.), they are by far the most popular method of purchase with consumers, due to their lower prices, higher product range, and an ‘all-in-one’ feel to the location. Giants in the industry such as Wal-Mart (USA), and Tesco (UK) are always branching out into new ventures (banking, electronics, insurance, etc.) to expand their circle of operations, and it is tough to imagine that there was once a time where such a concept did not exist. So who first came up with the idea of a multi-purpose shop?

Clarence_Saunders95 years ago, to go shopping, a person would either buy their specific groceries from a specialised shop (e.g. bakers), or visit a ‘retail store’, in which a customer would list the items they want before an assistant collected them from a storage room or behind-counter shelf. 1916 would be the year to revoloutionise this concept, though, after Clarence Sanders, a local grocer who had moved to Memphis (USA) looking for a more efficient way to run this type of business, would create the concept of a ‘self-service’ store. Putting his money where his mouth was, he would create the first business of its kind, ‘Piggly Wiggly’ (which still runs today as a franchise). This would lead to several patents awarded to Sanders for his concepts used on the first-ever Piggly Wiggly store alone.

The concept of self-service shopping would catch on fast, and the supermarket was also said to be responsible for the breakout of brand power, with users now identified more with companies who make products now that they have a choice (pre-supermarket ‘retail stores’ would not have this kind of situation, as the customer would not actually see the name of the company that made the product). For Sanders, who passed away in 1953, the supermarket would be the first of several concepts he was patented with (such as ‘keedoozle’ (a larger, manned version of modern-day vending machines), and a self-service checkout (‘foodelectric’) (which is seeing an increasing emergence in newer supermarkets)), and is seen now as a character who was way ahead of his time in his way of thinking.

Today, supermarkets are the primary method of all retail, and with the concept so popular, it was only natural that a gameshow was made of it. Here are some highlights of a format

Supermarkets- Wikipedia

Who Invented Cardboard

cardboardFor the use of packaging and securing items, nothing compares to the symbolism of cardboard. This multi-layered, thicker version of paper is used mainly for packaging, support of objects, and arts and crafts, but who first came up with the idea for this material?

The original concept occurred in the mid-19th century, when society needed an advanced alternative to flimsy sheets of paper for some purposes, which was when a more rigid, stackable, and cushioning form of packaging was made for purposes of transit.

The first patent was registered in England in 1856 for ‘Corrugated paper’, used as liner for hats, although corrugated ‘boxboard’ (to use in shipping) did not become registered until December 1871. This was issued to American Albert Jones, from New York, and the material was first used for wrapping fragile items, such as bottles or glass lantern chimneys. A machine for mass-producing large quantities of the material was built in 1874 by a man known as G. Smyth, while another inventor, Oliver Long, developed  Jones’ design to include the liner sheets on both sides in a ‘sandwich’ format, the cardboard that has been used most commonly ever since. This was now corrugated board as we know it today.

The use of the material is now most commonly associated with the near infinite amount of packaging boxes made from it, but is also used to line or support the structure of certain items where required (flexible and stiff), but this will often go unnoticed by most. The material is certainly one of the most useful in common procedures today, and it is hard to believe that it was first conceived and mass-produced so long ago in terms of modern society. For more information on cardboard, click the link below:

Paperboard – Wikipedia