Since the dawn of time, mankind has faced countless and imposing obstacles that have defied its progress. Fortunately, each generation of man has produced clear thinking, innovative geniuses willing to push past the throngs of perplexed, idly drooling strugglers (such as myself) in order to meet problems head on. The results have been impressive: thanks to inventions in just the last one hundred years alone, we can now travel the world quickly (airline turn-your-head-and-cough security checks aside) and converse and trade with people worldwide almost instantaneously. It boggles the mind to think of what might come next (I hate when my mind gets boggled, so I try not to think too much about it).
Certainly the automobile, airplane, computer and electricity are among the most obvious and influential inventions of all time. You could also toss in the boat, sewage control, vaccines, indoor/outdoor plumbing, agriculture and the harnessing of fire. However, there have been other, less ostentatious and yet still brilliant innovations that have served mankind nearly as well. I have given this a great deal of thought – literally minutes – and offer you a list of what I consider some of the lesser known great inventions to benefit mankind. I realize the title of this post may be somewhat misleading, since I admittedly haven’t devoted enough time to definitively declare these among the greatest ever; but my other idea for a title, Ten Things People Thought of that I thought were Pretty Smart and Kind of Cool, just doesn’t have the same pop.
So, without further ado, my list of The Ten Other Greatest Inventions of All Time, in no particular order:
1) The Twist-Tie. Someone invented bread; someone else invented plastic bags to carry it in, but then the bread fell out when it was carried incorrectly. Then someone invented the knot (actually, it was invented long before and then adapted to this purpose), which solved the bread falling out but really pissed someone off when they wanted to open the bag for more bread. Then, eureka! The twist tie; and somehow managing to cover the wire in paper: the brilliant cherry atop the sundae of epiphany.
2) KFC Extra Crispy. A crunchy, salty, delicious fried batter seductively covering a tender, mouth-watering protein hidden underneath. We would leave a bucket of this rapturous offering on the dashboard of our truck for three or more days on fishing trips; it remained faithfully delicious and food-borne bacteria-free for the duration. Truly a marvel of artery-lining cooking oil and industrial preservatives. Mmm…I’m going to stop here. I have to go out for a bit.
3) Sorry, I’m back (belch)…The Fork. Have you tried eating salad with a spoon? I personally don’t eat much in the way of salad, unless it’s mashed between two beef patties and two buns, but I can tell it would be hard to do. With this indispensable tool, efficiency and propriety were introduced to the dinner table almost overnight. Manners and decorum replaced clawing, teeth-gnashing and evisceration at mealtime; the fork was the key that opened the door to a civilized society.
4) The Newspaper. Let’s face it; each of us become little more than Cro-Magnon man daily (most of us, anyway) when forced to sit and tend to our most basic evacuative functions. Think about it: for those few moments (or minutes or hours, depending on water consumption, diet and age) we are simply waste-dispensing organisms, devoid of any productivity or self-respect. Add a newspaper to the equation, however, and dignity and utility are at once restored; we are again a processing, multitasking, commanding being.
5) Hemorrhoid Creams and Ointments. Often inventions can cause new problems or obstacles that must be conquered. See #4.
6) The Television Remote. Sure, the television was an impressive invention, but the remote brought it into the realm of indispensability. There are some of us who recall when there were only four channels and you had to get up to change them. If there were commercials on all of them, you had to stand and wait to see what was on. Television viewing in the 1970’s, for men in particular, often became an aerobic exercise; the remote transformed television into the idle, sloth experience it was always intended to be. If you question the validity of this particular choice, just remember how frantic and perturbed you become when it’s missing.
7) A-1 Steak Sauce. A mouth-watering blend of tomato puree, vinegar, corn syrup, raisins, spices, orange and grapefruit juice concentrates and other seemingly incompatible ingredients were ingeniously combined to completely change the dining experience. With its introduction, the killing and eating of dim-witted livestock was instantly transformed from a ritual of marginal sustenance into a passionate, exotic intercourse between dead, cooked animal flesh and the oral senses….whew…it’s getting hot in here…time for another break.
8) The Oral Thermometer. An important advancement in the field of medicine was the discovery that a person’s temperature could help determine the extent and imminent threat of infection to his or her body. For this purpose, the thermometer became an invaluable tool for taking the accurate measurement of body temperature in humans for both the medical profession and at home. Without the invention and introduction of this particular type of thermometer, however, it would have been impossible to take mine.
9) Toothpaste. Self-explanatory. Can you imagine meeting, conversing and becoming intimate with people who greet you with bits of sinew and various plant matter hanging from their smiles? If everyone alive in the pre-toothpaste era were as discerning as myself, mankind could very well have been extinct by now.
10) Soap. The thought of living in an era of squatted-upon chamber pots and sanitization by way of finger-dipping in rose water is almost more than I can bear (see recent post, They’re Everywhere!). There must have been poo on nearly every reachable surface; a Nazi goose-stepping army of E.Coli likely ensured that people were expelling body wastes trilingually on virtually every street corner, some spontaneously and in explosive fashion. Naturally, the existence of soap now still doesn’t guarantee its use by the most offensive among us; I therefore include liquid hand sanitizer, though certainly worthy of its own ranking, as a proud member of the soap category.
There you have it: ten incredible inventions that stand at or near the front of the line of life-enhancing innovation. You might argue that some of the things on this list reflect a somewhat personal bias; I reject that notion by stating here and now that if everyone were more like me, these inventions would have universal appeal and influence, and life for all would improve as a result. I would love to hear some of your nominations for great inventions; please be mindful (as I am) of who might benefit most from their use.