Hearing the word invention, the first things that pop into our minds are light bulbs, airplanes, and inventors like Nikola Tesla, Edison, and the Wright brothers. We often fail to consider the admirable genius behind the simplest of inventions that we use everyday in our lives and most of them are not even technological. Having a look at those will make you admire the beauty of simplicity that can solve a lot of our problems without a fuss.
Eating an ice cream, you may not appreciate the stick so appropriately placed in it, or how you can easily bend the straw to your ease, or carry your coffee in a disposable cup anywhere.
We have found the 10 lost inventors behind the little objects that make our lives easier, one step at a time.
10. Shoe Size Measurement Tool
Walking into a shoe store, we all have seen a little tool propped up on a small stool for measuring shoe sizes. The man behind that simple tool is Charlie Brannock, who created the first such tools using toys back in 1925.
Brannock was the son of a shoemaker who grew up in an environment where he became obsessed with show measurement as a young man. Back then, the only way to measure foot size was using a wooden block which was far from accurate. While he studied at the Syracuse University, he found out the best way of taking foot measurements using a toy construction set to build his first prototype. Even after 85 years of the original invention, the product is more or less the same having become a crucial element of every shoe store around the world.
9. Wind Shield Wiper
Robert Kearns was an engineer who grew up in the vicinity of a Ford plan believing the auto industry could use a lot of innovations. In the 60s the windshield wipers had only two settings; high and low, which made driving too difficult in an unsteady rain. He was driving a Ford Galaxie on a rainy night making him squint to see his way. The genius idea to have the windshield wipers blink popped into his mind and he got it patented in 1967.
He sent it to major American car companies all of which rejected it but eventually started using such wipers in their cars. He spent the rest of his life fighting Chrysler, Ford, and other companies, eventually winning the lawsuit for $30 million but lost his life in the process. Shortly after losing his wife, winning the lawsuit, and getting Alzheimer’s, Kearns died of brain cancer in 2005.
8. Bendable Straw
Straw is the simplest of things we use every day, and we, would not even think it is an invention. Having the straw bend at ease might never sound like an innovation, but the genius mind behind it was Joseph Friedman whose daughter was having trouble drinking a milkshake through a straight paper straw. Friedman took her straw, inserted a screw, wrapped floss around it to get ribbed texture, and pulled the screw out. Tada! Out came the brilliant straw could naturally bend at the rim of the glass. He got his idea patented in 1937, started his own straw company but later sold the rights to Maryland Cup Corporation which sells 500 million of these every year.
7. Modern Pencil With Eraser
Everything needs to be patented. Probably not your lemonade recipe but the idea of putting an eraser behind the pencil is. Hymen Lipman came up with the idea putting the lead pencil together with an eraser in such a way that both could be sharpened. He received his patent on May 30th in 1858 and later sold it for $100,000. Imagine how much that would be in the 19th century!
6. Lollipop Stick Machine
What is better than candy? A candy that you can get to lick, right? Sam Born was a candy maker who invented the machine for inserting sticks in lollipops in 1912. Born was a Russian immigrant holding expertise in the art of candy making. In an attempt to make the candy making process efficient, he came up with the Born Sucker Machine that inserts sticks into lollipops efficiently. The lollipop maker earned Born’s company a huge fortune, and Just Born confectioner company sells in 35 countries, famous worldwide as makers of Peeps.
5. Flat-Bottomed Paper Bag
In today’s world, you can make practically anything with origami techniques. The classic flat-bottomed paper bag is probably one of the oldest useful works of origami art, and Margaret Knight is the woman behind it.
In 1858, Knight was a worker in a paper bag factory who found it frustrating to pack things in the shapeless paper bags. She thought of making a machine that could fold and glue paper to make a bag with a flat bottom. She spent nights drawing up the plans and then created a wooden prototype.In order to obtain a patent, however, she had to make one out of iron.
When she was getting the iron prototype made at the machine shop, an employee named Charles Annan copied it and got a patent for it. He was sued for copyright infringement, and he claimed that Margaret could not be the real inventor because she was a woman. Having detailed sketches and drawings, she managed to win the case against him and established her own paper bag company and received lots of royalties for it.
4. Spill-Free Coffee Cup
In 1985, Jack Clements was a worker at Solo Cup Company, assigned a task to find a better way of drinking coffee on the go. He designed the domed lid that prevented spilling and even accommodated the foam on lattes. Soon after, the Solo Traveler Lid became an industry standard bringing the company to an annual revenue of $2 billion.
3. Pop Top Soda Cans
Ernie Fraze was the owner of a successful engineering company, who forgot his can opener at home while he was out on a picnic. He pried the can open with his car bumper but got determined to solve the can problem on an ordinary sleepless night. The result was a new kind of can with a removable tap that we now commonly refer to as pop top. After he came up with the idea in 1959, his company began mass manufacturing the pop tops in large numbers that drink companies used everywhere. By the year 1980, the company began to make over $500 million dollars of annual revenue solely from the cans. If you do not have to carry your can opener everywhere with you, Ernie Fraze is the man to thank for it.
2. Voice Mail Machine
A Harvard grad student Greg Carr and an MIT researcher Scott Jones entered a telecommunications business together beginning Boston Technologies company in 1986 together. As their first project, they designed a system where you could dial a number and obtain stock information. Jones picked an even bigger idea from this and together they thought of providing the voicemail service. All companies except AT&T were banned from providing service until 1988, but after the ruling was reversed, the two of them approached telecom companies and brought their idea to reality within three months. Text messaging has somewhat reduced the importance held by voice mail in our lives, but it made Jones and Carr multi-millionaires nonetheless.
1. ATM PIN
Half of our lives practically depend on ATMs and credit cards. You no longer need to carry hefty sums of cash with you everywhere because you can extract money from an ATM that can be found at every corner. You have to thank the Scottish engineer James Goodfellow who created ATM pin numbers so people could get cash after bank hours.
The man was given a task to find a way people could get money on weekends and after bank hours. Thus born was the idea of ATM using a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that would only be known to the encoded magnetic strip card and the account owner. He patented the idea in 1966 and received royal honors for his invention 40 years later. Every machine in the world that uses a debit card uses the same ATM PIN system to this day.
Sometimes ideas are simple, but they bring such a change to our lives that becomes so natural that we fail to notice the genius behind them.