There are a multitude of inventions and everyday objects that we take for granted.
A recent book and BBC documentary by Steven Johnson (pictured above!) called, ‘How We Got to Now’ looks at the history of everyday items.
The humble wheel
The wheel must be one of the most commonly used inventions that we take for granted. The oldest to be found was in Mesopotamia, dating from 3500 BC, during an archaeological excavation. Castors from Tente are a good example of how wheels have evolved.
Lighting up your surroundings
Light bulbs have been in use since Thomas Edison gave his first public demonstration on December 31 1879, in America, but as early as 1800 Humphry Davy from the UK was working on a battery powered bulb. Lighting has changed dramatically since the first bulbs started to be used by the general public and are rarely given a second thought.
Making a phone call
Telephones are a part of society that is constantly changing. The original telephone goes back as far as 1831 when Michael Faraday was working on the principals of electrical impulses. But it wasn’t until 1861 when Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone system. Today’s smartphones are still evolving.
Waking up with coffee
An article in The Independent explains how the first coffee was discovered. It’s said that an Arab named Khalid noticed his goats in Ethiopia became livelier after eating a certain berry. He boiled the berries and made the first cup of coffee.
Writing and drawing go back thousands of years, but it’s believed that the first fountain pen was made for the Sultan of Egypt in 953 after he asked someone to design a writing implement that wouldn’t stain his clothes or hands.
Many everyday items we use are rarely thought about, but they all had to be invented by someone. The idea for the pop top or ring pull drinks can was first made by Ernie Fraze in the USA in 1959. He owned an engineering company and thought of the idea after forgetting to take a can opener to a picnic.
Withdrawing your cash
The Personal Identification Number or (PIN) was first invented by a Scottish engineer called James Goodfellow. He was given the task in 1966 and 40 years later was given royal honours for his invention. It is now used worldwide.
In 1986 two telecommunications researchers came up with the idea of the voicemail system. Scott Jones and Greg Carr invented the first of these which allowed a person to dial a number to obtain information on the stock market; this was then extended to the public.
The flushing toilet has been argued about for centuries, but the first recorded water closet was designed by Sir John Harrington when he was in exile (1584-91) from Queen Elizabeth I’s court.
Some inventions are still in a state of evolution. Daniel Hess from the USA first patented a version of the vacuum cleaner in 1860, and today’s cordless models are simply variations on this tried and tested machine.