Not everything loses viability after a century.
The past 50 years have witnessed unprecedented change; especially in communication, transportation, and technology. Computers and smart phones provide a digital world with no boundaries. Advances in transportation make domestic and global travel convenient and fast, and driverless vehicles will soon be on the market. In everyday life, we have welcomed microwave ovens, digital clocks (whatever happened to calling “time” on your phone to reset the clocks in your home?), Velcro and other improved adhesives, global positioning satellites, one-day delivery, e-books, and so much more.
In spite of these changes, for some items we use every day, time has stood still. The following devices have been in daily use for more than 100 years and remain unchanged. Alternative solutions have been developed and tried for some of these items but in every case the original design is still used today and preferred by many:
• The safety pin was invented by Walter Hunt in 1849. The design of the present-day safety pin is essentially unchanged.
• The BAND-AID was introduced by Johnson and Johnson in 1920. Although improved adhesives have made the BAND-AID more reliable, staying in place sometimes for days and even through showers, the basic design, concept and name remains the same.
• The nail clipper was invented in 1881 by Eugene Heim. The design of this instrument has not changed since then.
• The stapler was invented by George McGill in 1866. It enabled fine wire hoops to attach papers together. They function the same today as they did then.
• The lead pencil first appeared in 1564, when graphite blocks were embedded in wood. On March 30, 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia received the first patent for attaching an eraser to one end. (Later this patent was invalidated because Lipman’s invention was determined to simply be a composite of two devices and not an entirely new product.) The current day pencil is essentially unchanged.
• The Q-Tip was invented by George Gerstenzang in 1920. The Q stands for “quality” and “tip” stands for the cotton at both ends.
• The paper clip was invented by Johan Vaaler in 1899. A second loop was added in the modern design.
• Buttons have been used to fasten clothing for thousands of years. They have persisted through millennia, essentially unchanged.
• Rubber bands were invented in 1845 and are used today in essentially the same form, with the best made from natural rubber.
• One everyday device that has remained in use for over a century, and which intrigues me the most, is the zipper. It was conceived in 1851, modified in 1893, and perfected to its modern form in 1913. We use this complex and seemingly unimprovable device to hold together our daily lives in so many ways!
Then there is Coca-Cola. The name was coined in 1886 when it was introduced as a patent medicine. Aggressive marketing and product enhancement makes this product “new” every year.
In each of these examples cited above, the inventor saw a need and came up with the simplest way to get the job done. I wonder, what will be next.
By Savvy Senior
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