Who Invented Scissors

800px-Fiskars-scissorsScissors are a useful tool when paper needs cutting or when hair needs a trim, but who was it that came up with the idea for this simple, yet versatile cutting device?

The use of ‘modern’ design scissors can be dated back to around the year 100, when ancient Romans used them for clothes-making and barber’s services. The simple design was well received, and can attribute the basic function to Archeimedies’ ‘lever’ concept several centuries before.

Despite this popularity with the Romans, the use of scissors never really took off until the 1500’s in Europe, where the great inventor Leonardo Da Vinci is mistakenly credited with the invention, where he merely seemed to re-introduce them to the world with a more updated design.

Since those times, scissors have now developed to a greater extent, with many different variations on the product now readily avaliable (whilst maintaining the baic concept), including designs made more specifically to a certain function (e.g. kitchen, hairdressing, etc.) to concepts such as children’s safety (plastic and more blunt), left-handed (reversal of blade positions), and stronger versions to cut material such as metal, as well as technologically aided scissors, like mechanical, or laser guided scissors.

The laser guided scissor is an approach that is said to give users more control over their cutting, enabling them to be able to cut in a truly straight line. Below is a video demonstrating this product:

Scissors – Wikipedia

Who Invented Post-It Notes

postitsFor businesses, busy households, and forgetful people, post-it notes can be a vital tool in helping to remember or identify things, and can also be used as a temporary file divider, amongst other applications. The often-bright colours can often draw attention away from their simple design that has become of use to so many over the years, but who came up with this product, and why ?

Despite seeming simple in design, there appears to be a fine art to getting the ‘sticky strip’ to be only on a small portion on the top of the reverse side, while also making it grip its designated surface enough to hang on, but also to not be strong enough to cause any permanent fixtures or damage. They are mass-produced now, meaning that it is a simple creation process, but the original science behind Post-it notes was seen as good enough to induct its creators to the National Inventor Hall of Fame.

These inventors were two reasearchers for stationary and office equipment company 3M during the late 1970’s. Their names were Spencer Silver and Arthur Fry.

In the 1960’s, Silver developed a form of glue that managed to have a low level of adhesion, but could not find any practical use for it, until colleague Fry, who wanted a way to keep track of the pages in his hymn book at church, tried the new glue alongside a paper bookmark after experiments in the company laboratories. The end result had the desired effect, as the new glue-paper could be removed (and reused) many times over before wearing out.

In 1977, their bosses at 3M took on the product to make and sell what they marketed as ‘Post-it’ notes, and after word eventually spread of the new product, it took America, and then the rest of the world, by storm, earning 3M a National Medal of Technology during 1985, and giving Fry and Spencer the recognition they deserved.

Below is a famous commercial that 3M made for their Post-it notes, featuring oversized versions of the product, and a collection of well-organised squirrels:

Post-it notes – Wikipedia

Who Invented The USB Memory Stick

Who Invented The USB Memory Stick

USB-Memory-Stick_0The USB ‘memory stick’ (or ‘flash drive’, as it is commonly known) is a small storage device used for computers that implements ‘flash memory’ technology, and connects to computer systems via a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port. A flash drive is designed to be both portable and rewritable, with very large storage capacities considering their size. A primary purpose of the memory stick is that they can transferring data between two different computer system. But who created this innovation of technology?

The need for the flash drive came about after the computer developed to the extent that the original method of portable storage, the floppy disc, was seen as too slow and small (file size (up to 1.44MB of data)) for modern machines.

In 2000, IBM, together with Trek Technology, invented and sold the first-ever USB flash drives. Trek Technology, a Singaporean company, named their product the “thumb drive” due to its physical size.

Although the first memory sticks had a storage capacity of only 8MB (still a large improvement on floppy disks), the product would develop into an even more functional piece of technology, with storage sizes now as high as 258GB.

With a huge marketing potential, and by being sold in different shapes and sizes for novelty value, it is fair to say that the USB memory stick is one of the most important accessories to a modern computer system today. For the more confused customer, though, this video helps to explain further aspects of the device, and what ‘type’ is suitable for different people:

USB Flash Drive – Wikipedia

Who Invented Toilet Paper

ToiletpaperwhitebgIt is one of the items in any household that is taken for granted…. until it runs out. It is also an item which few sane people want to discuss in detail, for obvious reasons, which could be a reason as to why the answer to the interesting yet disturbing question of ‘Who Invented Toilet Paper’ is not widely known.

The sole inventor of the product could probably not be singled out, but it was the ancient Chinese (around 14th century), who would first manufacture paper as an alternative to less convenient methods from around the world, such as grass or leaves, a corncob stick (America), or a person’s own hand (Middle East). The use of paper would be adopted the Americans and other developed areas in the next few centuries, but this would come from old and unwanted newspapers or catalogues.

The use of tissue paper for the toilet-based purpose did not come around until 1880, by the Scott Paper company in the USA. The use of it would eventually catch on furhter afield, with other companies beggining to sell their version, and the product would develop in stages to the version seen today.

The market for the product is a large one, with it being sold on the basis of being a near necessity to avoid embarrassment. This has led to companies attempting to make memorable innovations or adverts to attract customers, as seen in this attempt from 1994, featuring the famous ‘Andrex puppy’:

Toilet Paper – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Thermos Flask

Who Invented The Thermos Flask

thermosflaskgreenA relatively unnoticed or unused item in many of today’s insulated and heated homes, but for people in lesser-equipped houses, colder climates, or outdoor activities in the winter months, a thermos flask can be key to keeping that refreshing hot drink at a toasty temperature, and keep cold drinks… not frozen, with any drink now able to be taken in as fresh as when it was made. Who came up with this small and portable, yet powerful insulator for liquid?

The answer is James Dewar, a physicist and chemist from Scotland, first came up with the idea of the ‘vacuum flask‘ (also known as the ‘Dewar flask’ at the time) in 1892. After a German scientist Reinhold Burger made a similar discovery, that it could keep hot drinks warm, he created a company to sell the flasks (it would be sold on a few years later) starting in 1904 under the company name of Thermos GmbH, the only trader of the device at the time. The business soon took off with the public, and due to its unique brand name, adopted the flasks to be known as ‘thermos’.

The product would be the recipient of several innovation-based awards, and the company grew its invention to test new materials, sizes, and purposes (such as a food jar). As well as being a crucial drinks-carrying device for the British military during World War II, the flask would also be used in scientific experiments for atomic energy. The product would continue to grow, and now can be used to maintain the condition of, and transport important medical material, such as blood transfusions, amongst a wide range of uses.

Today, thermos flasks are made from either plastic, metal or glass, and with the use of hollow walls and a vacuum-based insulator, any possible heat transfer is prevented when the cap (which often doubles as a drinking cup) is on. The video below from German TV (audio in English) demonstrates the basic function of the product, and the history of it in Germany:

Thermos Flask – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Pencil

pencilThe humble pencil is, globally, one of the most common tools used to write on paper, and there are a wide range of different types of pencils, but who invented the most widely-seen type of pencil (graphite with wood casing) seen today, and in doing so creating a stereotypical image for a product that is used at home, work, and school?

Although there were early attempts at making a pencils from ancient Egyptians and Romans, and also in the 1500’s, where English farmers used plain graphite to mark sheep. Both were reasonable methods for their purpose, the material on its own would leave marks on the user’s skin and were prone to breaking easily.

In 1795, a French officer belonging to the army of Napoleon invented and patented the first quality pencil on earth. Nicholas Jacques Conte (aka NJ Conte) discovered that ground graphite, when mixed with the right kinds of clay, produced the best lead for pencils. A great myth is that pencils are made of lead, but the thin black material in pencils is actually a mix of graphite, carbon, and clay. NJ Conte, managed to turn this graphite into powder, mixing it with moist doughs of clay and then pressing the materials into thin sticks, which were then ‘cooked’ to make the ‘pencil lead’. The modern wooden casing seen in most original pencils today would soon follow, providing a no-mess and more shatter-resistant protection for the product. The Faber family would soon take on this product into mass production, and the rest is history.

To date, there are 350 different types of pencils, used for a variety of purposes, and fitting different budgets. With a variety of shades and new and creative methods being sold for novelty (e.g. giant, twisty, ect.), it is an ever-expanding product, and one that is used in all walks of life, as it is very difficult to live a lifetime without using one.

Pencil – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Trampoline

Who Invented The Trampoline

trampolineThe trampoline is a device that is used around the world both for entertainment and for sport, but who was first to arrive on the scene with this springy product?

In 1936, two Americans, George Nissen and Larry Griswold, who were both athletes representing the University of Iowa (in diving (Nissen), and gymnastics (both)), decided to create a ‘rebounding’ object that would allow for enhanced training and more entertainment in sport, after seeing a circus trapeze act use a tight net for a more entertaining and flowing show. Nissen and Griswold would realise that their product could provide more than one ‘rebound’, provided that it was used correctly (jumping). They would tour their product, named after the Spanish word for ‘diving board’ (trampoline), and eventually started selling them commercially in 1942, with the new product even being used in training for astronauts. The modern trampoline is now made with a mesh canvas/polypropylene surface attached to springs at the side to provide the ‘rebound’ effect.

Nowadays, alongside being produced for competitive ‘trampoline gymnastics‘ competitions (including at the Olympic Games), and being used as training methods for other sports, trampolines have been sold for home use, meaning that the thrill of bouncing can now be a few steps away in your back garden. With a variety of styles, and improving saftey measures to combat the obvious risk involved, it is fair to say that Nissen & Griswold’s product has really ‘taken off’.

With the popularity of home-use trampolines reaching new ‘highs’, it is inevitable that users will try and expand their use, and attempt to create different ‘moves’ or styles. Sometimes, though, to the delight of home video clip shows, this does not go to plan…

Trampolines – Wikipedia

Who Invented The QWERTY Keyboard

QWERTY_keyboardThe QWERTY keyboard is the default keyboard used with computers, named after the first 6 letters on its top left side. The QWERTY design was not actually for computer keyboard design, and instead goes back much further than that.

American Christopher Sholes designed the original QWERTY keyboard. Sholes, while worked at a newspaper in Milwaukee. His main motivation was to invent a device that would number pages in a book easily, so that the newspaper did not need the man hours of tedious work in numbering. Together with another inventor, Samuel Soule, he created a machine for numbering in 1866. He may have just stopped there, but a fellow inventor, Carlos Glidden, suggested the machine could capeable of more, nameley typing letters. After reading an article about the Plerotype typewriter invented by John Pratt, an Englishman, Sholes then had the idea to invent his own typewriter.

Sholes got together with Soule and Glidden once again, and after several attempts, and the departure from the project of the latter two, a typewriter was produced, though a major issue with the product was key jamming. That is, the typing bars would stick together when the typist worked too fast, due to popular letters being close to eachother in the alphabet, on which the keypad was directly based. So Sholes decided to split up the most commonly used letters in the design, and after much trial and error, he came up with the QWERTY design. The final design made sure the word “TYPE WRITER” could be typed just from the top row. Producers Remington approved the design, and the rest is history, with QWERTY even being the most popular design in modern computers, which do not have the issue of jamming. Several other designs have been attempted, but QWERTY looks set to be the keyboard layout of choice for a long time.

Below is an example of someone seeming to use a QWERTY keyboard to its maximum potential, a speed which would probably have broken an early design keyboard within seconds:

 

QWERTY – Wikipedia

Who Invented Lego

who invented lego blocks

Lego_BricksLego, manufactured by the Lego Group, are one of the most well-known and instantly recognisable types of toy in the world, due to their basic concept and potential for seemingly endless possibilities, and have been credited with expanding the ability of imagination and creativity of the children (and adults) that use them. But who brainstormed this product?

Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter from Denmark, conceptualized and invented the idea of Lego bricks. He came from a poor family and worked as a carpenter to make ends meet, and used his workplace skills to begin to produce toys made out of wood (around 1932). He considered it as his real job during that time, and went further by constructing miniature furniture and houses to sell. By 1934, his company was already addressed as Lego, the name under which the toys were sold.

In 1947, he decided to use plastic to make these toys, and by 1949, Christiansen had already made a total 200 wooden and plastic toys. In that same year, his company started to manufacture toys called ‘automatic binding bricks’, which were comprised of interlocking bricks. Christiansen named this product after his company, Lego, which was derived from the Danish phrase ‘leg godt,’ the meaning of which is to ‘play well.’ He also emphasized on his employees the importance of quality.

In 1954, his son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen assumed the position as Lego Group junior managing director. He was credited for introducing Lego bricks as a more enjoyable and fun toy system. In January 1958, months before Ole Kirk’s death, the patent for the modern version of Lego bricks was approved.

Today, the Lego Group has progressed even further. It has already designed and manufactured thousands of themed sets that are guaranteed to bring fun and enjoyment for everyone, with a monumental range of themes, and licenced special editions based on movies and TV shows. The company has expanded to include movies, books, videogames, clothing, and even Legoland theme parks, and now have one of the most recognisable products in the world, that is still going strong today, with Ole Kirk Christiansen proving that you can be successful regardless of your background or social status, with creativity and imagination, the very things that his product stands for, being a critical factor in his success.

Lego – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Toothbrush

who invented toothbrush

toothbrush_adultv41_allEven the simplest of items has a back story, and one of the household items that people really take for granted every day is the toothbrush. But who came up with this reasonably simple invention?

Tooth-cleaning methods have been around since the dawn of civilisation, but it is doubtful that the methods employed in ancient communities in India , Arabia, and China, which included the use of plant stalks, twigs from trees, feathers and quills, or chalk, would be seen as suitable in the present-day. These baffling approaches were said to do a reasonable job, but it was clear that oral hygiene was in its infancy compared to today.

But who was the person that spared the world from the now-unorthodox ways of dental care? The answer is an Englishman named William Addis, who developed the first prototype whilst doing time in jail in the 1770’s (for causing a public riot). Whilst in his cell, Addis had plenty of time to realise that the current method employed for cleaning one’s teeth (a rag with soot and salt) could probably be improved on. After drilling holes in one end of an animal bone, he passed through and tied a bunch of bristles that a guard had given him, using glue to seal the tied end of the bristles to the bone. The modern toothbrush was born, and many years after his release, Addis would die a very wealthy man for his efforts, with his brainchild being developed with new ideas and technologies, and the basic toothbrush being mass-produced, and used the world over. Who says that prisoners cannot do something constructive?

Toothbrush – Wikipedia