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 The Smoke Alarm

smokeDetectorYou may get annoyed at them when they pick up the slightest disturbance in the air and sound like a constant siren, but you own a smoke alarm because if a bad fire-based situation arises in your house, you know that the circular plastic beeper fixed to your wall or ceiling could save your life. The initial cost of a smoke alarm is very cheap, and escalates even more in value for mony if it helps save a life at some stage, so who was it that came up with the idea to create such a functional and standardised product like this?

The history of the smoke detector began with an inventor from America, Francis Thomas Upton, who created the first-ever fire alarm system in 1890, filed as Patent #436,961. There is evidence that a more celebrated colleague of Upson, Thomas Edison had been helping with the development of the device in some form.

Upton had produced a basic version of the smoke detector, and would only be expanded on by a fortunate mistake by Swiss physicist Walter Jaeger, 40 years later. Jager was attempting to develop a sensor for poisonous gas, which did not work as planned, as a meter was supposed to signal when a gas was detected, but did not work, except for when Jager lit a cigarette during his break, and the meter, surprisingly, changed as an effect of the smoke.

These devices had made inroads with the technology involved, but due to high production (and therfore, selling) costs, the product was not made commerciably avaliable until 1965, when Stanley Peterson and Duane Pearsall started developing the first-ever home smoke detectors, making use of batteries, meaning that homeowners could use them without professional assistance. In 1975 Peterson and Pearsall actually began manufacturing and selling smoke detectors, under the name of their company Statitrol Corp.

The devices proved to be a big hit with concerned homeowners, and have developed from larger, metal-based devices, to the efficient, smaller plastic circles that we see today, being sold by many different providers.

A smoke alarm is a common theme for almost all homeowners in a developed society, and it is important to know how to maintain your device. The video below demonstrates how to change the battery of your alarm, and why it is important to do so:

Smoke Detector – Wikipedia