From the moment we are awoken by our alarm clock in the morning, right through to when we turn out the light before going to sleep, we use an enormous amount of inventions that make our day to day lives much easier. Many of these are relatively new inventions, whilst there are also dozens of ancient ones which are difficult to imagine living without. Usually, we do not think twice about these inventions as we use them and how they have changed the world. Today, however, we are showing our appreciation for 10 amazing inventions which are often overlooked.
Completely revolutionizing fashion and luggage, the zipper is used everyday but is often overlooked. Whether it is the zip of your pant fly, on a hoody, pencil-case or backpack, you know that the fabric is secure and you do not have to worry about it opening (which is particularly important when it comes to your pants). Perhaps it is overlooked because it is so quick and efficient, but prior to this creation a drawstring, hooks or buttons (another terrific invention) would need be used. Whitcomb L. Judson was the first to conceive and invent the workable zipper, and this initial design was known as the “hookless fastener.” The design became more reliable, and the onomatopoeic term “zipper” was first used in 1923. Through the use of a slider, rows of protruding teeth could be interlocked and a Y shaped channel in the slider meshes together or separates the teeth depending on the direction of the slider’s movement.
Unless you are the king of relaxing and are currently in bed, there is a very high chance that you are sat in some kind of chair right now. Whether it is a wooden chair, office chair, bench, sofa, car seat, inflatable chair if you’re feeling retro, or even on the toilet, chairs have made life much easier and more comfortable and we sit on some kind of chair for the majority of the day. Anybody that is on their feet all day will truly appreciate chairs, but many of us do not even give them a second thought. Chairs have been used since antiquity, and for many centuries it was a symbolic article of state and dignity. This was until the 16th century, where they became more common and used in everyday life. Life would be uncomfortable without them, so remember to appreciate your chair.
In just a matter of seconds, and without using any personal energy, we can be transported to the top of a skyscraper up in the clouds. Elevators are used to move millions of people and machinery each and every day, and without them, both homes and offices would be limited to low rise buildings. Elevators date back to ancient Rome and would work through the use of rope powered by hand. There were many developments, but we have Elisha Otis to thank for revolutionizing the elevator and consequently modern society. This was with the introduction of the safety elevator in 1852, where a tension activated braking system was introduced which would prevent the cab from falling if a cable broke (this was always a huge problem and fear prior to this). With this, it was safe to transport humans and other objects and consequently it allowed for the construction of skyscrapers.
Refrigerators have completely transformed our eating habits and how we store food, but often this is not even considered when we open them up and peer inside throughout the day. Prior to their invention, people would gather ice and store it in icehouses and cellars so that they could keep their food cold. However, people would still have to purchase fresh food and consume it the very same day. This took us up to the beginning of the 20th century, when iceboxes were invented. Although this made a huge difference, the first commercially viable electric refrigerator arrived in 1913 and all of a sudden it was simple to store and preserve food and keep drinks chilled. The design has come leaps and bounds since, plus the addition of the freezer, and now they are often underappreciated even though it is hard to imagine living without them.
6. Flush Toilet
Fortunately, the flush toilet enables us to dispose of human waste extremely easily. Using water to dispose of waste dates back as far as the Indus Valley Civilization, but the development over the years has made it easy, quick and clean so that you don’t have to give it second thought. Flush toilets incorporate a shaped bend that allows the water in the bowl to collect and stop sewer gases from emerging, and when flushed, a valve opens which allows water from the reservoir tank to quickly enter the bowl. This causes the swirling water to quickly rise and fill the shaped bend, where the siphon action pulls the water and waste down the drain and into a septic tank, and then onto a sewage treatment plant. The water lines and valves connected to the water supply refill the tank and bowl so that it is ready for use again.
Without eyeglasses, many of us would be stumbling around bumping into things and struggle with many important activities. Almost three quarters of the US population wear glasses, but it is rare that somebody appreciates their glasses and it is more likely that they will be frustrated by having to wear them. Without glasses, many people would be unable to read and learn easily, and also stop many people from operating any kind of vehicle. We can now get prescription lenses for personalized vision correction, which is a truly remarkable invention. Prior to eyeglasses, a convex lens could be looked through for magnifying purposes. The first eyeglasses were created in Italy around 1286, and again these used convex lenses to fix farsightedness. Over time, bifocals were introduced and the frames also evolved and now there are all kinds of incredible eyeglasses available which enable people to see the world properly.
4. Modern Toothpaste
Toothpaste dates back to ancient Egypt, but modern day toothpaste is a vast improvement and has drastically reduced the amount of tooth-related issues that we have. Modern toothpaste is now so effective at keeping our teeth and gums healthy, that many dentists state that they will have little work to carry out on the future generations (provided people clean their teeth regularly and properly). The effectiveness of toothpastes came leaps and bounds in the 20th century, where toothpastes were developed to prevent and treat specific diseases. Additionally, the addition of fluoride did wonders in preventing decay. The most recent advances have seen the addition of triclosan, which provides added protection against tartar, plaque, gum disease and bad breath. Also, the design of toothbrushes have evolved so that they are less abrasive, plus the invention of electric toothbrushes makes it very easy to thoroughly clean your teeth each day.
3. Tin Cans
Much like the refrigerator, the invention of tin cans completely revolutionized the way in which people eat and live. With many soldiers ravaged by scurvy and hunger, the Royal Navy was desperate for a way to safely and efficiently store provisions on long voyages. Nicholas Appert had experimented with storing food in glass containers, and this led Frenchman Philippe de Girard to invent the idea of tin cans who then passed it on to British merchant Peter Durand. A few years later, the process and product had been refined and tin canned goods were being produced for the Navy. Soon, explorers and sailors of the world were all using tin cans which enabled them to travel for longer and further. The usage of tin cans then moved from the battlefield to the kitchen and now we can buy and store a gigantic range of tinned goods and drastically reduce meal preparation.
2. Lock & Keys
We all carry keys in our pocket and use them regularly, but rarely do we consider what an incredible and important invention they are. Keys are needed to protect ourselves and our property, and without them we would be very vulnerable. They are used to protect houses, cars, sheds, and through a padlock (which acts as a portable lock) we are able to protect almost anything. The history of keys dates back to ancient Babylon and Egypt, where wooden devices used small pins hidden in a small opening near the bolt, and these could be lifted with a toothbrush-shaped key. In ancient Rome, the design was much improved with small locks made of iron and bronze, plus keys that could be easily carried. Keys as we known them today were introduced in the mid-1800s, with the majority of modern keys being variants of designs by Bramah, Chubb and Yale.
The world would be a horrible place without soap. Whether we like to admit it or not, humans are smelly creatures and get very dirty, but thanks to soap we can stay “so fresh and so clean” with ease. Not just this, but the invention of soap also massively reduced the amount of bacterial infections that occurred. The ancient Babylonians invented soap and the product was made from fats, wood, ash and water. Ancient Egyptians used animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to similar effect, and this was used for washing as well as treating sores and skin diseases. Many different variations were created before industrially manufactured bars of soap became available in the late 18th century with a better understanding of hygiene. Nowadays, soap is easily available and used for washing, bathing and cleaning, as well as dozens more uses.