Sunday, 14 April 2013

It’s the Great Machine, Charlie Brown!

Alright, so perhaps it was more like a giant pumpkin.

However, I think the same level of astonishment and wonder felt by Charlie in the 1966 TV Special applies to our period from a technological point of view. In fact, the 1920s were very prolific years in the machine-inventing area.

Here is a list of some of the machines invented in this period:
  • Traffic lights (1920): the first 4-way three colour traffic light was invented by police officer William L. Potts In Detroit, Michigan
  • Hair dryer (1920): the first handheld household hair dryer was not very efficient and overheated easily, but it beat the alternative: prior to this invention, women used to blow-dry their hair by attaching a pipe to a vacuum cleaner
  • Lie detector/Polygraph (1921): invented by John A. Larson, a medical student, and Leonarde Keeler, a detective, it measured the heartbeat and breathing rate to check whether the person was lying or not
  • Convertible (1922): the credit for envisioning and building the first practical retractable manual hardtop system belongs to Ben P. Ellerbeck; however, the first power-operated convertible was made by Georges Paulin in 1934 (a Peugeot 402BL Éclipse Décapotable) – side note: Paulin was a dentist.
  • Bulldozer (1923): invented by a farmer, James Cummings, and a draftsman, J. Earl McLeod.
  • Instant Camera (1923): although Edwin Land is credited with creating the first commercial instant camera in 1948, the first actual instant camera was invented in 1923 by Samuel Shlafrock.
  •   Pop-Up Toaster (1926): Charles Perkins Strite invented it in 1919 and Waters-Genter Company developed the first consumer pop-up toaster in 1926, which could simultaneously toast both sides of the bread and turn itself off automatically after making the toast. It was called the TOASTMASTER! – Thank you, Charles P. Strite for making my breakfast come true in an easy, non-life threatening way!
  • Drive-through (1928): City Center Bank, today known as UMB Financial Corporation, opened the first drive-up window. A few years later, the Grand National Bank in St. Louis opened a drive-through with a slot for night deposits. Today, drive-through rules the world!
Honourable mentions go to objects which were invented in this period as well, but cannot be considered machines because, well, they don’t have, like, engines or anything. Here they are:
  • Jungle Gym (1920), by Sebastian Hinton
  • The Band-Aid (1920), by Earle Dickson
  • Cotton Swabs, a.k.a. Q-Tips (1923), by Polish-born American Leo Gerstenzang – side note: he originally named them “Baby Gays”. Seriously.
  • Cheeseburger (1924 or 1926, the dates are a little fuzzy), by Lionel Sternberger.
  •   Bubble Gum (1928)! Invented by an accountant, Walter Diemer, marketed under the name “Dubble Bubble”. Its sales exceeded 1.5 million dollars in its first year.
  • The Tampon (1929) was made by Dr. Haas and sold under the name Tampax.
So, now you can all sleep better at night, knowing where your breakfast and your bubble gum come from.
Also, J. Earl McLeod, the man who invented the bulldozer, is NOT the Highlander, so don’t go trying to cut his head off!

Don’t forget to be awesome,
Sara Santos.

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