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Inventions Trivia

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Rudyard Kipling, living in Vermont in the 1890s invented the game of snow golf. He painted his golf balls red so that they could be located in the snow.

The monkey wrench is named after its inventor, a London blacksmith named Charles Moncke.

Russian submarine designers are building military submarines out of concrete. Because concrete becomes stronger under high pressure, "C-subs" could settle down to the bottom in very deep water and wait for enemy ships to pass overhead. Concrete would not show up on sonar displays (it looks just like sand or rocks), so the passing ships would not see the sub lurking below.

Samuel Colt received a U.S. patent for his pistol with a six-chamber, revolving barrel on February 25, 1836. With a pocket knife, Colt had whittled a wood model while stationed on the S.S. Corlo.

The only change in the original design of Slinky since its launch in 1945 has been to crimp the ends as a safety measure.

The paper clip was patented by Norwegian inventor Johan Vaaler in 1899. Because Norway had no patent law at the time, he had to travel to Germany where he received his patent in 1900. His U.S. patent was granted in 1901.

Shampoo was first marketed in the United States in 1930 by John Breck, who was the captain of a volunteer fire department.

The pop top can was invented in Kettering, Ohio, by Ermal Fraze.

Silly Putty started as a mistake in a New Haven laboratory, and turned into a consumer hit in the 1960s by sheer chance. According to engineers, Silly Putty is a self-contradiction. Chemically, it is a liquid, but it resembles a solid. The molecular structure will stretch if the structure is slowly pulled. But if tugged, it snaps apart. The toy has a rebound capacity of 75 to 80 percent, whereas a rubber ball has only about a 50-percent bounce-back. A silicon derivative, Silly Putty won't rot; it can withstand temperatures from -70o F to hundreds degrees above zero. On top of all that, it picks up newsprint, often sharper than the original.

The popular drawing toy Etch A Sketch, invented by Arthur Granjean, was originally named "The L'Ecran Magique." Sales skyrocketed in 1960 after its name changed and some innovative TV advertising was launched.

Small island tailor shops were making custom print shirts for Hawaiian families for special occasions, such as weddings, in the early 1920s. When tourism came to Hawaii in the late 1920s, the Hawaiian shirt literally became a blank canvas for local artists. Designs depicting everything from romantic beaches and erupting volcanoes to exotic, tropical flowers began to appear. It wasn't until 1936 that shirtmaker Ellery J. Chun coined the term “Aloha” shirt. The name stuck. Today, Aloha shirts are considered American folk art. The older shirts are prized collector items.

The power lawn mower was invented by Ransom E. Olds (of Oldsmobile fame) in 1915.

Soviets are buying skateboards from the United States – but not for recreational purposes. They see them as an answer to some of the country's transportation needs, because the boards are less expensive than bicycles and require little storage space. The first boards went to school instructors so they could train pupils how to ride them.

The rickshaw was invented by the Reverend Jonathan Scobie, an American Baptist minister living in Yokohama, Japan. Rev. Scobie built the first model in 1869 in order to transport his invalid wife. Today it remains a common mode of transportation in the Orient.

Spacewar is generally considered to be the first video game. Programmed in 1962 by MIT student Steve Russell, Spacewar was a simple game with ASCII graphics where two players would blast lasers at each other. At the time, the game only ran on massive, million-dollar mainframes the size of a small house. Spacewar was circulated to other computer labs across the country, but only nerdy college students with access to mainframes could play it.

The Romans developed the postcard. Several examples were found in excavations near Hadrian's Wall in England. One was an invitation to a birthday party, another was a request for someone in Rome to send a soldier more socks and underwear to England!

Swanson executive Gerry Thomas came up with the idea of frozen dinners to get rid of 520,000 pounds of the company's excess turkey. In the early 1950s, Thomas sketched a drawing of a three-compartment aluminum tray, presented it to the Swansons—his bosses—and came up with the name “TV dinner.” The first TV dinner meal consisted of turkey, corn bread dressing and gravy, buttered peas, and sweet potatoes. It sold for 98 cents, about $6 in 1998 dollars. Although the company timidly ordered only 5,000 TV dinners initially, the Swanson company sold 10 million the first year.

The shoestring was invented in England in 1790. Prior to this time, all shoes were fastened with buckles.

Sylvan N. Goldman of Humpty Dumpty Stores and Standard Food Markets developed the shopping cart so that people could buy more in a single visit to the grocery store. He unveiled his creation in Oklahoma City on June 4, 1937.

The single-blade window cleaning squeegee was invented in 1936 by Ettore Sceccone, and is still the most common form of commercial window cleaning today.

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