/ Best unsung inventions

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jess13 08 Feb 2020

As an antidote to the 'worst design' thread on the other forum

I nominate cable ties - those little plastic things that have a tooth and ratchet system for tying things together.

Toilet and sink U-bends - a genius thought of that one - stops all the smells coming back from your drains.

Mushy peas as a partner to fish and chips or meat and potato pies (add a bit of mint sauce and life is complete)

Lemony 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Three bar slide buckles, how utterly different would outdoor gear be without them?

1
Gordon Stainforth 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Modern LED light bulbs don't get the praise they deserve imho. They've changed life. One used to have to replace a lightbulb somewhere several times a month.

Oceanrower 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

I gave you a like but can't agree about mushy peas. Have two thirds of a like...

1
Padraig 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Sliced bread?

2
climb the peak 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Shwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres

Heineken 0% Beer

Merino Wool everything

17
wercat 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

antibiotics and vaccines - the former reached the troops a bit over ten years before my birth, the latter meant I didn't have the threat of polio like some older kids you saw around.

good old fashioned FM radio

Post edited at 19:20
plyometrics 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Compeed.

F*cking brilliant IMHO. 

4
summo 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Non stick frying pan. You only appreciate them when you have one that isn't. 

Tom V 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

I would have agreed about mushy peas/ fish and chips but a friend recently suggested I try picled beetroot and now the peas don't get a look in.

2
Pursued by a bear 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Pickled red cabbage is the thing. The perfect accompaniment to many things, but it and corned beef hash are just sublime together.

T.

1
Pursued by a bear 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Soap. Who credits the long-lost inventor of that?

T.

Andy Hardy 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Yeast, and it's 2 best by-products: alcohol and bread. 

Rob Parsons 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Modern LED light bulbs don't get the praise they deserve imho.

The invention of blue LEDs (the necessary precursor for the bulbs you mention) was recognized by the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2014.

mountain.martin 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

I was with you until you said "mushy peas" take a thing of beauty and great taste and ruin it.

Can I nominate one item for both threads? 

The smart phone

A device that I couldn't even imagine existing 15 years ago. If we had seen one when I was a kid in the 70's we would have thought it was witchcraft.

A device that can be so useful in so many ways but can also be so harmful in so many others.

plyometrics 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Oh, and cat’s eyes too.

What an amazing, and enduring, invention they are. 

ena sharples 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Malt Loaf. Just the best. Imagine being on your deathbed having invented that and thinking how many people you have cheered up.

Jenny C 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Mooncup

krikoman 08 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

My penis, it gives me hours of fun, and it also makes others laugh too.

5
bouldery bits 08 Feb 2020
In reply to climb the peak:

> Heineken 0% Beer

Brewdog Punk AF is my recommendation in this area.

Pursued by a bear 08 Feb 2020
In reply to krikoman:

Just like a willy only smaller?

T.

This memorable phrase was dreamt by a guy I shared a room with at university during a particularly unfulfilling dream. He's no longer with us, but that phrase lives on.

3
Queenie 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Andy Hardy:

3.... Marmite.

1
nufkin 08 Feb 2020
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

>  Soap. Who credits the long-lost inventor of that?

Donnie Darko did, as I recall

gravy 08 Feb 2020

sqrt(-1)

Jamie Wakeham 09 Feb 2020
In reply to gravy:

> sqrt(-1)

Aye.

felt 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Allen bolts/screws. A godsend for the cack-handed.

Billhook 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

The wheel.

Blue Straggler 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

What do we mean by “unsung” and by extension “sung”, in this context? 
 

I often sing the praises of cable ties, for instance. I don’t take them for granted. 

Rob Exile Ward 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

For the last few years my right foot has been increasingly uncomfortable as my little toe has started to curl under itself. I was about to discard £100s worth of boots and trainers, when I picked up a plastic toe separator from Boots, £1.49 for 2. Bliss!  So that has  probably been the biggest bang for a buck I've ever had.

deepsoup 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Inertia reel seatbelts are quite 'unsung'.

Before those came along there was a buckle to adjust the seatbelt to size, nobody ever wore them tight enough (if they wore them at all, in spite of the advice on the telly from one Mr J. Saville).  If you ever did do one up tight enough to work effectively, because there was no 'give' in it, it felt very restrictive.  Without the inertia reel I doubt it would ever have been possible to make seatbelt wearing compulsory, and even if it were most of us would be wearing the belt so loose as to be useless. 

Now we pretty much all wear a seatbelt all the time as a driver or a passenger in a car, for the vast majority of us they're comfortable enough to just forget we have them on and we don't give it a second thought.  Many thousands of lives have been saved.

GrahamD 09 Feb 2020
In reply to climb the peak:

> Shwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres

I bought some of those, but cant get the buggers on my wheels 

GrahamD 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Parsons:

> The invention of blue LEDs (the necessary precursor for the bulbs you mention) was recognized by the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2014.

Nobel prizes don't really get the same coverage as the Oscars, do they ?

GrahamD 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

I'll add flat screens and velcro to the list.

Blue Straggler 09 Feb 2020
In reply to GrahamD:

> I'll add flat screens and velcro to the list.

Again on the same theme as my earlier question - if those are “unsung” then what is a “sung” invention?! I am not trying to be difficult/contrary, these are earnest genuine questions.

It seems we are talking about small (Velcro, intertia reel seatbelts) vs large scale (printing press, jet engine), rather than "unsung" vs "sung". Is that about the measure of it?

Post edited at 12:08
Tom V 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

Yes, a lot of these have had their praises sung for a long time. 

I agree with your point about cable ties but expect they will become a dirty word soon along with all sorts of other useful plastic devices.

Baron Weasel 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Rob Exile Ward:

Before I had surgery to remove a Morton's Neuroma those toe spacers improved my quality of life no end.

Wiley Coyote2 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Those big green plastic 'feet' with spikes on the bottom that you can walk round the garden in to aerate your lawns. I've no idea if they work but they make me chuckle every time I see them - which is more than I can say for a lot of comedians

deepsoup 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Is that about the measure of it?

No, I don't think so.  I was very much talking about 'unsung' vs 'sung'.

Smartphone - 'sung'.  I use it often, and often think back to before devices like it existed and how amazing it really is.

Inertia reel seatbelt - 'unsung'.  I use one every day, remember clearly a time before they were common but before now had really never given a moment's thought to what a brilliant invention it really was.  It's cheap and simple, unlike a smartphone it's easy to understand how it works, and it has saved the lives of many, many people.

Instead of sneering about how everyone else on this thread is doing it wrong, how about you contribute you own brilliant example of how to do it right?

Post edited at 14:01
AndyC 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

I'll offer Standards as something essential but pretty much universally taken for granted. Without them almost every facet of life would be a massive, anarchical mess.

David Riley 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Tom V:

>  a dirty word soon along with all sorts of other useful plastic devices.

Plastic is good.  It is a property not a material.  Making everything out of a plastic that locks up carbon for a long time is the way forward.

Although I've been manufacturing with 3D printers for many years.  I'm only just coming around to the view that my life ( and probably yours ) would have been so much different if they had arrived in 1980.  Which could have happened.  Billionaires and parasites on big business benefit from barriers to competition.  Everybody else loses.  Microprocessors removed barriers in electronics. The internet removed barriers in information, access to markets, and communication.  3D printers have removed the barriers in making objects.  I've spent tens of thousands on injection mouldings and been prevented from taking up so many projects.  A single person can compete selling against high street shops with a webpage.  Now an individual can make new devices.   So not that unsung.  But not sung enough,  3D printer.

1
Blue Straggler 09 Feb 2020
In reply to deepsoup:

> Instead of sneering

Show me where I've sneered. I've explained that I am not trying to be difficult. 

I am not contributing anything because I can't work out what the guidelines are. 

Instead of posting snippy sarcastic potshots, why not learn to take someone's posts at face value and not read into them what you want to see, based on who is posting?

 

12
wbo2 09 Feb 2020
In reply to plyometrics:

> Oh, and cat’s eyes too.

Percy Shaw patented in 1934

Tom V 09 Feb 2020
In reply to David Riley:

Good luck with persuading the rest of the planet that plastic is not a material.

HansStuttgart 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> Soap. Who credits the long-lost inventor of that?

Hugo Boss used to be a local south German soap manufacturer....

Pursued by a bear 09 Feb 2020
In reply to HansStuttgart:

'Scuse my ignorance, but who's he? 

T.

HansStuttgart 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

6-axes micromachining tools.

KuKa production robots

and the most important of all:

VLSI (very large scale integration)

and to honour Dutch history:

de fluyt (type of ship which enabled the Dutch to take over half of Europe's shipping trade in the 16th century.)

the Amsterdam Stock exchange. (The start of proper capitalism.)

David Riley 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Tom V:

> Good luck with persuading the rest of the planet that plastic is not a material.

Plastic could be made out of any substance and still be seen as plastic.

1
wercat 09 Feb 2020
In reply to HansStuttgart:

the other name now for VLSI is "tech" (ugh) which is much celebrated

Tom V 09 Feb 2020
In reply to David Riley:

You may be right, but the stuff that's reported as clogging our oceans etc etc etc is generally known as plastic. Whatever it's actually made from.

Anyway, as I said, good luck on your mission to re-educate the world on the true meaning of the word "plastic".

By the way, does it take a long time for you to use your local recycling system?

Post edited at 17:20
David Riley 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Tom V:

Glad you agree.

1
HansStuttgart 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

Fashion and parfum company. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Boss

HansStuttgart 09 Feb 2020
In reply to wercat:

> the other name now for VLSI is "tech" (ugh) which is much celebrated

people tend to celebrate the products, phones, laptops, cloud computing, etc, but not so much the real wonder of the manufacturing.

Pursued by a bear 09 Feb 2020
In reply to HansStuttgart:

Ah, thank you. No wonder I didn't know of him.

T.

HansStuttgart 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

I wouldn't know either except for knowing people from this area. I don't care about fashion or perfume, but it was interesting to me that it evolved from a soap company.

Tom V 09 Feb 2020
In reply to David Riley:

yes, one down and a few billion to go.

LeeWood 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

The wheelbarrow. Cost 50 quid ? Ours are in constant use, no C02 emissions  

WaterMonkey 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

The Moka stove top coffee pot.

perfect coffee, no plastic waste and easy to use anywhere.

Aldi are doing one at the moment for £6! 

jess13 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Again on the same theme as my earlier question - if those are “unsung” then what is a “sung” invention?! I am not trying to be difficult/contrary, these are earnest genuine questions.

> It seems we are talking about small (Velcro, intertia reel seatbelts) vs large scale (printing press, jet engine), rather than "unsung" vs "sung". Is that about the measure of it?

Dear me are we upset  because its pissing down outside and we cant go climbing or is pedantry your hobby.

Definition of unsung :not celebrated or praised.

If you really want to be pedantic sung is the past participle of sing and I cant remember any songs praising cable ties or U bends hence unsung. I started this as a light hearted thread about things that we take for granted around us which enhance our lives. In most cases the inventors are unknown and whoever they were are definitely 'unsung'.

Tom V 09 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

To be really really pedantic there is more than one past participle of sing.

(I got most of this from my French teacher, not my English one)

Present tense : sing.

Simple past/imperfect: sang.

Past perfect: has sung.

and so it goes on: pluperfect, conditional, etc etc......

Post edited at 18:33
mbh 09 Feb 2020
In reply to WaterMonkey:

Are they? I must get one for camping. They are genius. I have a stainless (so to speak, it's pretty black!) version that I must have used every morning, more or less, for fifteen years.

Hooo 09 Feb 2020
In reply to mountain.martin:

> The smart phone

> A device that I couldn't even imagine existing 15 years ago. If we had seen one when I was a kid in the 70's we would have thought it was witchcraft.

Just a bit of pedantry... I had a smartphone 18 years ago. It was the stuff of science fiction when I was a kid in the 70s, but not witchcraft. If you'd told me then that in the far future of the 21st century I'd have a device like that I'd have thought it reasonable. I thought we'd have flying cars by now!

Bob Kemp 09 Feb 2020
In reply to HansStuttgart:

> people tend to celebrate the products, phones, laptops, cloud computing, etc, but not so much the real wonder of the manufacturing.

On which subject I'd like to nominate Maudesley's screw-cutting lathe, one of the central foundations of the industrial revolution:

https://www.airedalesprings.co.uk/inventor-profile-henry-maudslay/

mountain.martin 09 Feb 2020
In reply to Hooo:

Well, some devices were marketed as smartphones as long ago as the 90's, but what most people would recognise as a modern smartphone (large capacitive touchscreen, no stylus or keyboard) didn't launch until 2006, the iPhone was launched in 2007 and the first android device was 2008.

You must have had a lot better imagination than me if you envisaged the modern smartphone in the 70's. I thought the Star Trek communicator was amazing and didn't imagine I'd ever have a similar device, and that didn't do much more than voice. The idea that I have pretty much the whole knowledge of the human race accesible at my finger tips in a tiny device still amazes me now, and I can use it to navigate most parts of the world, take good quality pictures or videos, speak to someone on the other side of the world, and it's a torch.

Blue Straggler 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

> is pedantry your hobby.

Maybe I should put it in bold? "I am not trying to be difficult/contrary, these are earnest genuine questions."

So OK you meant "taken for granted". Sorry about my not taking Maurus Logan's cable ties for granted, I think they are a marvel and I find them really useful for all sorts of quick fixes etc. 

In the spirit of the thread, now that you have graciously explained that you actually meant "taken for granted", I nominated circular manhole covers. 

6
Naechi 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Electric chanters.

I don't know how long this has been a thing but more people need to know.  Actual mental scars from my dad trying to self teach bagpipes.

FactorXXX 10 Feb 2020
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> In the spirit of the thread, now that you have graciously explained that you actually meant "taken for granted", I nominate circular manhole covers. 

Metric or Imperial? 

Martin W 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

> I nominate cable ties - those little plastic things that have a tooth and ratchet system for tying things together.

The trouble with cable ties, as others have been debating, is that they are wasteful.  Firstly, the length that is pulled through the ratchet is usually cut off and discarded.  Secondly, when no longer required pretty much the only option* is to cut them off and throw them away.

For many use cases hook-and-loop tape is preferable: you can the length you need off a roll with no waste, and it can be peeled apart and re-used multiple times.  Ironically, many if not most data centres and similar such equipment complexes deprecate the use of cable ties for cable management, and require that hook-and-loop tape used instead.  As well as waste concerns, hook-and-loop tape has much less propensity to cut in to cable sheaths under sustained vibration such as is often encountered in racks full of fan-cooled equipment and magnetic disk drives.

* Yes, it is sometimes possible to re-use a normal cable tie by poking around at the ratchet with a pointy thing - but who actually bothers, especially when the free end has been cut off snug so you've no idea whether the thing is going to be long enough for the next job, let alone whether the munged ratchet is going to hold properly next time?  And yes, there are cable ties available with a more easily accessible ratchet that you can even release with a fingernail - but the vast majority sold aren't like that, and it still doesn't get round the length issue.

Pefa 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Morphine? 

graeme jackson 10 Feb 2020
In reply to Naechi:

> Electric chanters.

> I don't know how long this has been a thing but more people need to know.  Actual mental scars from my dad trying to self teach bagpipes.


Keyboard player in my last function band had one. Made it a lot easier doing the ceilidh sets. That was probably about 5 years ago. He had an electric piano accordian too - could press a button to change the style and tone. Very cool device

Hooo 10 Feb 2020
In reply to mountain.martin:

It appears that you've fallen for Apple's marketing. The smartphone by any reasonable definition existed long before the iPhone. Apple just packaged and marketed it for non-techy people.

It's true that I wouldn't have imagined an iPhone in the 70s, but by the time I got my ZX81 (in '81) I was thinking about how it could be miniaturised to a pocket computer with a  Star Trek communicator built in - which is the essence of a smartphone.

The big invention that I never saw coming was the internet. That would have amazed me in the 70s. Not the concept, but the incredible volume of information and the tools to search it.

neilh 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Bar code. Revolutionsed logistics amongst other things.

wercat 10 Feb 2020
In reply to HansStuttgart:

that's why I hate the loudmouthed "tech" reviewers and pushers on TV.  Almost as if they now "own" the technology having submitted the engineering and scientific miracles to reduction into a mouthy assertion of empowerment over it rather than just being greedy showoff consumers

Post edited at 11:29
wercat 10 Feb 2020
In reply to Hooo:

when I built my microtan 65 computer around 1981 I experimented with saving and loading programmes via an illegal home made FM radio transmitter - there you are - the forerunner of mobile data!

I saw a demo of the internet (actually called that by the lecturer) on an adult education course at Durham University about 1982-3 - the idea of email seemd marvellous, albeit it required the university IBM or PDP11s.  We saw email between him and academics in the US.

Post edited at 11:33
wercat 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

thanks to websites with backend databases a lot of people depend on SQL for things that they do on the internet.  Good old DB2, back in the days of yore, though my first experience of relational data was a British product developed in the 70s, ARTEMIS which was even used by NASA and the US military and Eurofighter apart from Oil ang Gas companies, construction, nuclear etc

Post edited at 11:39
Kean 10 Feb 2020
In reply to Pursued by a bear:

> Soap. Who credits the long-lost inventor of that?

Hear bloody hear! Along with supermarket bags, they should ban bath shower gels! Huge retrograde step! What a waste!

> T.

Dave Garnett 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Poetry?

tom r 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Shipping containers.

The Wild Scallion 10 Feb 2020
elsewhere 10 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

Best unsung invention - autotune obviously!

wercat 11 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

I have a new candidate.   Tap Water.   Like loads of communities in the Eden Valley we can't use ours as of 8am yesterday, though we were not told until 7pm!.

Getting free bottled water needed for any purpose other than flushing the toilet is a 10 mile round trip at the moment for us and possibly further for some people because of the storm.

The situation could worsen today according to United Utilities this morning.

Post edited at 08:36
knillmic 17 Feb 2020
In reply to jess13:

usb ports. i so don't miss having to look for different cables for each single device.

Ridge 17 Feb 2020
In reply to neilh:

> Bar code. Revolutionsed logistics amongst other things.

Let's not forget the humble pallet, developed in the 1920s they weren't popular as labour was cheap. WW2 created the demand for handling large quantites of supplies and ammunition with limited manpower.

In Australia the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool found themselves with millions of blue US Navy pallets on their hands after the war, which is where CHEP pallets started life.

LeeWood 17 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

shame the pallet chain is so wasteful mind - we ve had frequent deliveries here where the've refused to take pallets back - even those in good shape; there's a lot of material in one pallet

elsewhere 17 Feb 2020
In reply to Ridge:

And freight containers.


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