Robert Adler is probably a name you have never heard of before yet his work is found in homes worldwide. Adler invited the wireless television remote control and is the person we should all thank for making lethargy easier. His invention may seem insignificant but could you imagine having to scroll through a hundred satellite channels a minute, trying to avoid repeats?
Ezra Warner and William Lyman are another two inventors whose effect on our lives is profound. Warner invented the first can opener. At the time it would have been a blessing as cans in 1800s weighed more than the actual food they contained. So difficult was the job of opening a can that grocers would do it and send customer home with open cans. Warner’s opener was shaped like a bayonet and was deemed too dangerous for the public. Lyman invented the rotating wheel opener in 1870 and it became the first to gain widespread domestic use. Next time you’re eating month-end-pre-payday tinned beans on toast you know who to thank.
History is full of people whose names you wouldn’t recognise but whose contribution to technology makes your home life more convenient on a daily basis:
• Charles Strite invented the pop-up toaster in 1919 and banished the difficulties of making toast. Gone were the days of having to use a long handled fork to hold bread over open flames. Another major benefit of the invention has only recently been discovered. Namely, morons on Youtube who think it’s a good idea to jam metal objects in a toaster. Their pain is our entertainment.
• In our summer months we may want to have Dr. Samuel J. Crumbine and Frank H. Rose knighted or showered with gold. Crumbine was a member of the Kansas State Board of Health and in 1905 wrote a bulletin titled, “Swat the fly” in response to the public’s lack of awareness on the potential of flies to spread disease. This inspired Rose, a school teacher, to construct a fly-swat made from a stick and a piece of screen. Early advertising testimonials claimed that a fly-swat “…is the most prized article in my home”. Many would still agree.
• Edwin Beard Budding, despite his unusual moniker, could be nominated as the patron saint of gardening. On 31 August 1830 he registered a patent for the first mechanical lawn mower. His invention ensured that lazy gardeners such as I would not have to use sickles or shears to cut grass by hand.
• The expression “best thing since sliced cheese” may never have entered the lexicon of idioms had it not been for Thor Bjørklund. He was dismayed that the cheese he had for lunch had melted into an unappetising blob. He wanted to cut it into thin slices and began to experiment using a knife, saw and eventually plane. Inspired by the success of this carpentry tool, he decided to imitate the plane’s cutting action and used a thin sheet of steel to fashion the first cheese slicer. His neighbours were impressed and soon the orders were rolling in. He patented the device in 1927 and started a company that still makes cheese slicers to this very day.