Archive for the ‘Invention’ Category

275/365 – Bicycle Facts

In 1817, Karl von Drais, a German baron, invented a horseless carriage that would help him get around faster. The two-wheeled, pedal-less device was propelled by pushing your feet against the ground, The machine became known as the “draisine,” and led to the creation of the modern-day bicycle.

The term “bicycle” was not introduced until the 1860s, when it was coined in France to describe a new kind of two-wheeler with a mechanical drive.

Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who built the first flying airplane, operated a small bike repair shop in Dayton, Ohio. They used their workshop to build the 1903 Wright Flyer.

Fred A. Birchmore, 25, circled the globe by bicycle in 1935. The entire trip, through Europe, Asia, and the United States, covered forty thousand miles. He pedaled about 25,000 miles. The rest was traveled by boat. He wore out seven sets of tires.

There are over a half billion bicycles in China. Bikes were first brought to China in the late 1800s.

About 100 million bicycles are manufactured worldwide each year.

Over the past 30 years, bicycle delivery services have developed into an important industry, especially in cities, where the couriers have earned a reputation for their high speed and traffic-weaving skills.

Americans use their bicycles for less than one percent of all urban trips. Europeans bike in cities a lot more often—in Italy 5 percent of all trips are on bicycle, 30 percent in the Netherlands, and seven out of eight Dutch people over age 15 have a bike.

The Tour de France is one of the most famous bicycle races in the world. Established in 1903, it is considered to be the biggest test of endurance out of all sports. Lance Armstrong, an American cyclist, is the only rider to have won seven titles (1999–2005) after surviving cancer.

Bicycle Moto Cross (BMX), an extreme style of bicycle track racing, became a sport in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Maris Strombergs, of Latvia, received the gold medal for Men’s BMX, and Anne-Caroline Chausson, from France, took home the gold in the first Women’s BMX Olympic event.


267/365 – LCD

A liquid crystal display (LCD) is a flat panel display, electronic visual display, or video display that uses the light modulating properties of liquid crystals (LCs). LCs do not emit light directly.

LCDs are used in a wide range of applications, including computer monitors, television, instrument panels, aircraft cockpit displays, signage, etc.

They are common in consumer devices such as video players, gaming devices, clocks, watches, calculators, and telephones. LCDs have replaced cathode ray tube (CRT) displays in most applications.

They are available in a wider range of screen sizes than CRT and plasma displays, and since they do not use phosphors, they cannot suffer image burn-in. LCDs are, however, susceptible to image persistence.

The LCD is more energy efficient and offers safer disposal than a CRT. Its low electrical power consumption enables it to be used in battery-powered electronic equipment.

It is an electronically modulated optical device made up of any number of segments filled with liquid crystals and arrayed in front of a light source (backlight) or reflector to produce images in color or monochrome.

The most flexible ones use an array of small pixels. The earliest discovery leading to the development of LCD technology, the discovery of liquid crystals, dates from 1888. By 2008, worldwide sales of televisions with LCD screens had surpassed the sale of CRT units.


213/365 – Email

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

Computer engineer, Ray Tomlinson invented internet based email in late 1971. Under ARPAnet several major innovations occurred: email (or electronic mail), the ability to send simple messages to another person across the network (1971).

Ray Tomlinson worked as a computer engineer for Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN), the company hired by the United States Defense Department to build the first Internet in 1968.

Ray Tomlinson was experimenting with a popular program he wrote called SNDMSG that the ARPANET programmers and researchers were using on the network computers (Digital PDP-10s) to leave messages for each other.

SNDMSG was a “local” electronic message program. You could only leave messages on the computer that you were using for other persons using that computer to read.

Tomlinson used a file transfer protocol that he was working on called CYPNET to adapt the SNDMSG program so it could send electronic messages to any computer on the ARPANET network.

The @ Symbol

Ray Tomlinson chose the @ symbol to tell which user was “at” what computer. The @ goes in between the user’s login name and the name of his/her host computer.

First Email

The first email was sent between two computers that were actually sitting besides each other. However, the ARPANET network was used as the connection between the two. The first email message was “QWERTYUIOP”.

Ray Tomlinson is quoted as saying he invented email,”Mostly because it seemed like a neat idea.” No one was asking for email.


200/365 – Toilets

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

King Minos of Crete had the first flushing water closet recorded in history and that was over 2800 years ago.

A toilet was discovered in the tomb of a Chinese king of the Western Han Dynasty that dates back to 206 BC to 24 AD.

The ancient Romans had a system of sewers. They built simple outhouses or latrines directly over the running waters of the sewers that poured into the TiberRiver

Chamber pots were used during the middle ages. A chamber pot is a special metal or ceramic bowl that you used and then tossed the contents out (often out the window).

In 1596, a flush toilet was invented and built for Queen Elizabeth I by her Godson, Sir John Harrington.

The first patent for the flushing toilet was issued to Alexander Cummings in 1775.

During the 1800s, people realized that poor sanitary conditions caused diseases. Having toilets and sewer systems that could control human waste became a priority to lawmakers, medical experts, inventors, and the general public.

In 1829, the Tremont Hotel of Boston became the first hotel to have indoor plumbing, and had eight water closets built by Isaiah Rogers. Until 1840, indoor plumbing could be found only in the homes of the rich and the better hotels.

Beginning in 1910, toilet designs started changing away from the elevated water tank into the modern toilet with a close tank and bowl.


191/365 – Watch

The oldest means of determining time is by observing the location of the sun in the sky. When the sun is directly overhead, the time is roughly 12:00 noon.

A slightly later development, and one less subject to an individual’s judgment, is the use of a sundial. During the daylight hours, sunlight falls on a vertical pole placed at the center of a calibrated dial, thus casting a shadow on the dial and providing the reader with a relatively accurate time reading.

The invention of the mechanical clock in the fourteenth century was a major advancement—it provided a more concise and consistent method of measuring time.

The mechanical clock includes a complicated series of wheels, gears, and levers powered by a falling weights and with a pendulum (or later a wound-up spring). These pieces together moved the hand or hands on a dial to show the time.

The addition of chimes or gongs on the hour, half hour, and quarter hour followed soon afterward. By the eighteenth century, smaller clocks for the home were available, and, unlike their predecessors, were closed and sealed in a case.

Developments in metal technology and in miniaturization, the lubrication of small parts, and the use of first, natural sapphires (and then artificial sapphires) at the spots that received the most stress (the jeweled movement) all became integral components of horological science.

Small pocket watches, perhaps two to three inches (five to seven centimeters) in diameter, were available by the end of the nineteenth century. Mechanical wristwatches were an everyday item in the United States by the 1960s. And yet, the central problem faced by watch and clockmakers remained the same: mechanical parts wear down, become inaccurate, and break.

In the years immediately following World War II, interest in atomic physics led to the development of the atomic clock. Radioactive materials emit particles (decayed) at a known, steady rate.

The parts of a mechanical clock that ratcheted to keep the time could be replaced by a device that stimulated the watch movement each time a particle was emitted by the radioactive element. Atomic clocks, incidentally, are still made and sold, and they are found to be consistently accurate.

With the development of the microchip in the 1970s and 1980s, a new type of watch was invented. Wristwatches that mixed microchip technology with quartz crystals became the standard; there are few non-quartz wristwatches made today.

The microchip is utilized to send signals to the dial of the watch on a continual basis. Because it is not a mechanical device with moving parts, it does not wear out.

The use of quartz in watches makes use of a long-known type of electricity known as piezoelectricity. Piezoelectricity is the current which flows from or through a piece of quartz when the quartz is put under electrical and/or mechanical pressure (piezo is from the Greek verb meaning “to press”).

A quartz watch uses the electricity from a piece of quartz subjected to the electricity from a battery to send a regular, countable series of signals (oscillations) to one or more microchips. (Electrical wall clocks, in contrast, use the regularity of wall current to keep track of time.)

The most accurate quartz watches are those in which the time appears in an electronically controlled digital display, produced via a light-emitting diode (LED) or a liquid crystal display (LCD).

It is possible, of course, to have the microprocessor send its signals to mechanical devices that make hands move on the watch face, creating an analog display.

But because the hands are mechanically operated through a portion of the watch known as a gear train, analogue watches usually are not as accurate as digitals and are subject to wear.

Both types of watches achieve tremendous accuracy, with digital watches commonly being accurate to within three seconds per month.


Categories: Invention, Science

167/365 – Clothes iron

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

A clothes iron, also referred to as simply an iron, is a small appliance used in ironing to remove wrinkles from fabric. Ironing works by loosening the ties between the long chains of molecules that exist in polymer fiber materials.

With the heat and the weight of the ironing plate, the fibers are stretched and the fabric maintains its new shape when cool.

Some materials such as cotton require the use of water to loosen the intermolecular bonds. Many materials developed in the twentieth century are advertised as needing little or no ironing.

The electric iron was invented in 1882 by Henry W. Seeley, a New York inventor. Seeley patented his “electric flatiron” on June 6, 1882 (patent no. 259,054).


Metal pans filled with hot water were used for smoothing fabrics in China in the 1st century BC. From the 17th century, sadirons or sad irons began to be used. They were thick slabs of cast iron, delta-shaped and with a handle, heated in a fire. These were also called flat irons.

A later design consisted of an iron box which could be filled with hot coals, which had to be periodically aerated by attaching a bellows. In Kerala in India, burning coconut shells were used instead of charcoal, as they have a similar heating capacity.

This method is still in use as a backup device since power outages are frequent. Other box irons had heated metal inserts instead of hot coals.

Another solution was to employ a cluster of solid irons that were heated from the single source: as the iron currently in use cools down, it could be quickly replaced by another one that is hot.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there were many irons in use which were heated by a fuel such as kerosene, ethanol, whale oil, natural gas, carbide gas as with carbide lamps, or even gasoline.

Some houses were equipped with a system of pipes for distributing natural gas or carbide gas to different rooms in order to operate appliances such as irons, in addition to lights. Despite the risk of fire, liquid-fuel irons were sold in U.S. rural areas up through World War II.

In the industrialized world, these designs have been superseded by the electric iron, which uses resistive heating from an electric current. The hot plate, called the sole plate, is made of aluminium or stainless steel.

The heating element is controlled by a thermostat which switches the current on and off to maintain the selected temperature. The invention of the resistively heated electric iron is credited to Henry W. Seeley of New York in 1882.

In the same year an iron heated by a carbon arc was introduced in France, but was too dangerous to be successful. The early electric irons had no easy way to control their temperature, and the first thermostatically controlled electric iron appeared in the 1920s. Later, steam was used to iron clothing. Credit for the invention of the steam iron goes to Thomas Sears.


159/365 – History of the Remote Control

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment

General History

The first machines to be operated by remote control were used mainly for military purposes. Radio-controlled motorboats, developed by the German navy, were used to ram enemy ships in WWI. Radio controlled bombs and other remote control weapons were used in WWII.

Once the wars were over, United States scientists experimented to find nonmilitary uses for the remote control. In the late 1940’s automatic garage door openers were invented, and in the 1950’s the first TV remote controls were used.

History of the TV remote control

Zenith began playing around with the idea of a TV remote control in the early 1950’s. They developed one in 1952 called “Lazy Bones,” which was a long cable that was attached to the TV set. Pushing buttons on the remote activated a motor that would rotate the tuner in the set. This type of remote wasn’t popular for long considering that, at the time, there were very few channels to choose from.

In 1955, the Flash-o-Matic was invented. A flashlight was shined toward light sensitive cells in each of the four corners of the TV. Each corner had a different function. They turned the TV on and off, changed the channel, and controlled the volume. However, people often forgot which corner of the TV operated which control. Also, if the set was in sunlight, the sun’s rays would affect the operations of the TV.

In 1957 a group of engineers developed the Zenith “Space Command,” a wireless remote control using ultrasonic waves. The problem with the ultrasonic control was that clinking metal, such as dog tags, could affect the TV set.

High frequencies sometimes also made dogs bark. The ultrasonic remote was used for two decades until engineers discovered a better way to operate TV’s, the infrared remote control.

On the infrared control, each button has it’s own command, and is sent to the TV set in a series of signals. There is a digital code for each button, and in the TV there is a tiny sensor called a photodetector that identifies the infrared beam, and translates the code into a command.

Manufacturers used to only make remote controls that operated one TV set. However, they’ve recently begun making universal remote controls that can operate any TV set.

Experts predict that someday remote controls will control almost every device in the home.