5 Toilet Paper
Laugh all you want at this addition to the list, but if it wasn’t for rolls of perforated (and sometimes perfumed) paper, you might still be using leaves, corncobs, old newspapers and even shells to clean between the cheeks. Wiping is more sanitary and comfortable thanks to toilet paper. According to Diamond Environment Services, the Farmer’s Almanac used to come with a hole in it so it could easily be hung in the outhouse. Sixth-century China saw the first use of the paper for this purpose, and in 1857, Gayetty’s Medicated Paper, flat sheets, were introduced in the United States. The packaged and rolled version we see in supermarkets today was first sold in 1880. The invention of toilet paper inadvertently led to the discovery of a great kitten toy and arts-and-crafts supply: the cardboard tube!
4 Wheeled Luggage
This list would not be complete without including something mechanical, something related to the Stone Age—something that literally takes a burden off our backs. If the invention of the wheel changed mankind, the introduction of wheeled luggage changed mankind’s frustration level at airports. If you can believe it, inventor Bernard Sadow actually had trouble selling his idea—he was told that “nobody’s gonna pull a piece of luggage with wheels on it!” Sadow patented the suitcase-on-wheels idea in the late 1970s, but popular brand names didn’t catch on until the mid 1980s. Today, it doesn’t matter how many outfits and shoes you bring on vacation or how many souvenirs you stuff your suitcase with on that return trip – retractable handles and wheels make it more convenient to tow your luggage. Another hidden benefit? Less money on bellhops at hotels!
The personal computer and, later, the Internet, revolutionized the way we work and communicate, from desktop publishing and email to accounting and home printing. When those two inventions join forces and merge together into a pocket-sized contraption, something magical happens. You simplify life. There’s not much a smartphone can’t do, once you download a slew of fancy apps, that is. From following instructions to finding directions and checking email to checking flight times, a smartphone can help anyone do important and mundane tasks.
2 Global Positioning System
Latitude and longitude in the palm of your hand! Global positioning systems have been used by the U.S. military for more than 30 years. In 2000, President Bill Clinton granted access to nonmilitary users. This spawned an industry of small GPS units for cars, giving disoriented drivers directions on the fly, without the need to consult an atlas or printed directions. GPS technology also has been integrated into web-based and mobile phone applications to help users locate the nearest restaurant, movie theater, bathroom, you-name-it.
1 Microwave Oven
The microwave oven put doggie bags on the map, and these energetic cubes perhaps fuel the take-out industry. And no longer does day-old pizza have to be eaten cold! In 1945 Percy Spencer, an employee of Raytheon, noticed a chocolate bar in his pocket melting after working on some radar technology. This messy episode led to a patent on a home-use microwave. The first ones were sold in 1955, but it wasn’t until 1967 that households had access to the countertop version we know today. Popcorn was the first item to be cooked in machine during the building phase, but for the most part, microwaves were first intended to reheat already-cooked foods. Today, snacks and meals are made specifically for this kitchen staple.