Nolan Bushnell and Atari engineer Al Alcorn placed a prototype of their game in Andy Capp's Tavern, a Sunnyvale, California bar. Alcorn began work a home version of Pong. His project was code named "Darlene" after a female coworker who worked with Alcorn at the time. In the fall of 1974, Alcorn began developing the "Darlene" system. Several months later, Atari released Home Pong.
Not many people have heard of a glass harmonica, because there are only about 30 people in the world who can play it. It was invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin, and is made of up to 42 separate hand-blown glass bowls placed on a rotating spindle that the player rubs with his or her fingers.
In 1881, Procter & Gamble's Harley Procter decided that adding the word "pure" to his Ivory soap would give its sales a necessary shot in the arm. Analysis proved that Ivory was almost 100 percent pure fatty acids and alkali, the stuff that most soap is made of. Ivory's impurities were limited to 0.56-0.11 percent uncombined alkali, 0.28 percent carbonates, and 0.17 percent mineral matter. Harley marked his soap "99 and 44/100 percent pure," deciding that using the exact number sounded more credible than rounding up to 100 percent.
In 1889, the first coin-operated telephone, patented by Hartford, Connecticut inventor William Gray, was installed in the Hartford Bank. Soon, "pay phones" were installed in stores, hotels, saloons, and restaurants, and their use soared. Local calls using a coin-operated phone in the United States cost only 5 cents everywhere until 1951.
In 1901, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen won the first Nobel Prize for physics. He noticed that certain rays caused paper coated with barium platinocyanide to glow, even when the paper was in the next room. Baffled by the mystery, he called them "X rays."
In 1914, W.C. Coleman's young company introduced a lantern that changed American rural life and made Coleman famous. The Coleman Arc Lantern, at 300 candlepower, provided good light in every direction for 100 yards. It enabled American farmers and ranchers to work longer into the night, increasing food and fiber production during World War I.
In 1945, Percy Spencer discovered that when popcorn was placed under microwave energy, it popped. This led to many experiments with other foods, and ultimately, the birth of the microwave oven.
In 1962, the first 3-D embossing was put on a lunch box. The vinyl, zippered lunch bag with shoulder straps also made its first appearance in 1962.
In 1962, University of Utah student Nolan Bushnell received his first exposure to video games, playing Spacewar in the University's computer lab. Bushnell spent the next 7 years trying to reproduce Spacewar on a smaller, less expensive computer. When it was finally completed in 1971, Bushnell's Spacewar variation (dubbed "Computer Space"), bombed. People found it too complicated. Bushnell gave up on it, quit his job at Ampex, and founded Atari in 1972. Bushnell originally wanted to name the company Syzygy, but the name was already taken by a roofing company. That same year, Magnavox quietly released the Odyssey, the first home video game system. It had a game similar to Pong, and Magnavox later sued Atari (successfully) for "copying" it.
In 1966, Elliot Handler, one of the co-founders of Mattel, Inc. and part of the Barbie® doll empire, was the inventor of Hot Wheels®. Handler experimented with axles and rotating wheels being attached to tiny model cars. The innovative gravity-powered car he developed had special low-friction styrene wheels. Hot Wheels® have been clocked at speeds of up to 300 miles per hour.
In 1972, the first injection-molded plastic lunch box was produced by Thermos.
In 1973, Dungeons & Dragons was invented by Dave Arneson and Scott Gygax. The innovative game created a whole new fantasy/adventure category of toys, which quickly became a $250-million market.
The first woman to be granted a U.S. patent was Mary Kies. On May 15, 1809, she received a patent for a method of weaving straw with silk.
William Caxton, an English printer, established the first printing press in England in 1476.
The first wooden shoe comes from the Netherlands. The Netherlands have many seas, so people needed a shoe that kept their feet dry while working outside. The shoes were called klompen and they had been cut of one single piece of wood. Today, the klompen are the favorite souvenir for people who visit the Netherlands.
On August 24, 1869, Cornelius Swarthout patented the waffle iron.
William Shepphard patented liquid soap on August 22, 1865.
The fish bowl was invented by Countess Dubarry, Mistress of France's King Louis XV.
On February 14, 1803, Moses Coates patented the apple parer.
The game that would become Scrabble was created by unemployed architect Alfred Mosher Butts in the early 1930s. He called it Lexiko, then Criss Cross Words, and then sold the rights to James Brunot. In 1948, it was renamed Scrabble and was manufactured in a converted school house in Connecticut. Bruno sold the game to Selchow and Righter, who were bought out by Coleco in 1987; in 1989, Milton Bradley bought it. More than 100 million Scrabble games have been sold worldwide.
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