Category Archives: invention

erased.

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Happy Birthday to the Modern Pencil

Was sticking an eraser on the back of a pencil common sense, or a new invention? This week in 1868, Philadelphia stationery store owner H.L. Lipman patented something that seems incredibly obvious in hindsight: a regular pencil, with an eraser on the end.

Although Lipman is credited with this innovation, his pencil with eraser looked a little different than its modern descendant. Rather than being glued onto the end, Lipman envisioned a pencil with a chunk of rubber eraser in the core that could be accessed by sharpening it, the same way you would a pencil lead.

Graphite pencils had been around since the 1500s, writes David Green for Haaretz. But until the 1770s, the preferred tool used to erase pencil marks was balled-up bread.

Lipman’s name hasn’t gone down in history, maybe because he didn’t manage to hold on to his patent. After gaining it, he sold it to Joseph Reckendorfer in 1862 for about $2 million in today’s money. Reckendorfer also didn’t get much use out of the patent. He took another company to court over their use of his patent, only for it to be invalidated by the court’s decision, which stated that Lipman merely combined two existing things, but didn’t really produce something new.

Lipman essentially imagined the pencil as having a graphite end and a rubber eraser end.

“It may be more convenient to turn over the different ends of the same stick than to lay down one stick and take up another,” the decision noted. “This, however, is not invention within the patent law.”

Over his career, though, Lipman also made a number of contributions to the 19th-century office:

He was also America’s first envelope manufacturer, and it was he who had the idea of adding adhesive to the back flap, so as to make sealing easier. He devised a methods for binding papers with an eyelet that preceded the stapler by two decades. And Lipman was the first to produce and sell blank postcards in the United States, in 1873.

Pencils aren’t really a notable object, writes Henry Petroski in The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance, but they shape how people do their work. Unlike the pen, a more permanent writing instrument, the pencil doesn’t usually get sayings (it’s the pen that’s mightier than the sword, for example) or a lot of credit. But pencil is an essential creative medium, he writes, because it can be erased—as everyone from architects to artists can tell you.

“Ink is the cosmetic that ideas will wear when they go out in public,” he writes. “Graphite is their dirty truth.”

credits: kat eschner, smithsonian.com, smithsonian magazine

hunger harness.

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reynolds wrap made a food harness to keep your favorite super bowl snacks close
If you plan to watch the big game today on Super Bowl Sunday, and also anticipate eating your body weight in food while doing so, take a look back at Super Bowl 2019, when the aluminum foil aficionados at Reynolds Wrap had something they wanted to show you. Here was their unique promotional offering:

You can now satiate your appetite without moving a muscle or missing a play, thanks to the Reynolds Wrap Hunger Harness. This $5 “wearable snack pack” has plenty of pockets to hold your appetizers, main course, snacks, and beverage, all while keeping your food nice and toasty. Essentially, it’s a mini kitchen you can wear like a front-facing backpack or a baby carrier, because after all, snacks are precious cargo.

Want to nervously munch on mozzarella sticks and mini bean burritos while you yell at the referee on your TV screen? Just tuck them into the upper thermal pouch in your Hunger Harness and you’re good to go. Want to make sure you have enough tortilla chips to last through the halftime show? There’s a side pocket for that, too—plus an insulated slot for your queso or dip of choice. A built-in food tray rests on your lap and “turns you into a human table,” and there’s also a pouch for a can of your beverage of choice.

The Hunger Harness was sold in waves in limited quantities and is no longer available. Some may be found on other sites, but are now extremely rare. Just get out that old Baby Bjorn and repurpose as needed! Be creative! If you’re thinking of procuring one for yourself, please heed this advice from Reynolds: “Use caution when handling hot food and beverages.” Lovers of lava-hot pizza rolls, you’ve been warned.

“our inventions mirror our secret wishes.”

-lawrence durrell

 

 

credits: emily petsko, reynolds

 

qwerty.

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not me, but someone from back in the day 
who is frustrated by the illogical order of the keyboard.

have you ever wondered why the letters on the keyboard are organized the way they are? while it seems like the letters were randomly strewn across the keys, this method of organizing the keyboard was developed as way to slow down typists. back in 1872, typewriter users were typing too fast and causing the typewriters to jam. so, the QWERTY method actually kept the machines from breaking down and is still used today.

 

“wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast. ”    

-william shakespeare

 

 

source: mental floss, noam

 

soaked.

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never heard of lonnie johnson? now you have. in high school lonnie was the only black person at the science fair. he went on to get his phd and work at nasa. while experimenting at home, he had the idea of a pressurized water gun, and he built prototypes with pvc and a soda bottle. his invention eventually became the super soaker. he was paid for the super soaker in royalties when Hasbro bought the super soaker line, but when they used his system in other nerf guns, he was not paid. in 2013 he sued hasboro and was awarded $73 million in unpaid money. all the while he was building rockets, and built and designed the water gun in his spare time. never mess with an inventor, lest you get soaked.

Syracuse Herald-Journal reporter Bob Niedt gets a cool surprise introduction

to the summer of 1992’s hottest toy the “Super Soaker 200” water gun.

Niedt’s sons Ben and Bryan, do the soaking.

“to invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

-thomas edison

 

credits: history hustle, bob niedt, Syracuse Post-Standard

thanks to our neighbors, on canada day.

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things you might not know were invented in canada

 

1. Peanut Butter -1884 (by a pharmacist as an option for people who couldn’t chew food)

2. The Wonder Bra – 1939 (by Canadian Lady Corset Company)

3.Trivial Pursuit – 1979 (by a sports editor and photo editor who couldn’t find all their Scrabble squares)

 4. Odometer – 1954 (by a nova scotia inventor)

5. Rotary Snowplow – 1869 (by a dentist – a popular train track clearing device)

6. Egg Carton – 1911 (by a newspaper editor who found a new use for paper)

7. Imax – 1967 (by 3 filmmakers and an engineer)

8. McIntosh Apples – 1835 (by a farmer grafting his wild apple trees)

9. Walkie Talkie – 1937 – (by a western canadian inventor)

10. Insulin – 1922 – ( by 3 toronto scientists- not invented but discovered it and its use )

11. Instant Replay – 1955 (by a cbc tv producer)

12. Foghorn – 1854 (by an inventor/civil engineer/artist – who never patented it)

13.  Green currency ink – 1862 (by chemist/mineralogist – ink used to make us dollars green)

14. Baggage tag – 1882 (by a new brunswick railway man)

15. Paint Roller – 1940 (by a canadian inventor – later tweaked and patented by an american)

16. Standard Time- 1883 (by an engineer who brought it to canadian and american railways)

17. Wheelchair – accessible bus – 1945 (by a blind, quadriplegic veteran – took his first ride after his death)

18. Electric Wheelchair – 1952 (by an engineer)

19. Plastic Trash bags – 1950 (by 2 inventors – later sold to union carbide and became glad bags)

“i don’t even know what street canada is on.”

-al capone, american gangster

 

source credits: amanda green, mental floss, canadian pixel

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