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Inventions Trivia

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Table tennis was originally played with balls made from champagne corks and paddles made from cigar-box lids. It was created in the 1880s by James Gibb, a British engineer who wanted an invigorating game he could play indoors when it was raining. Named "Gossima," the game was first marketed with celluloid balls, which replaced Gibb's corks. After the equipment manufacturer renamed the game "Ping-Pong" in 1901, it became a hot seller.

The standard escalator moves at a rate of 120 feet per minute.

The "black box" that houses an airplane's voice recorder is orange so it can be more easily detected amid the debris of a plane crash.

The bicycle evolved from a tiny wooden horse with a front wheel that was invented in France in the 1790s. The design was improved in 1817, by Baron Karl von Drais, who developed the steerable front wheel. In 1839, Kirkpatrick Macmillan added pedals.

The Super Ball® was born in 1965, and it became America's most popular plaything that year. By Christmas time, only six months after it was introduced by Wham-O, 7 million balls had been sold at 98 cents apiece. Norman Stingley, a California chemist, invented the bouncing gray ball. In his spare time, he had compressed a synthetic rubber material under 3,500 pounds of pressure per square inch, and eventually created the remarkable ball. It had a resiliency of 92 percent, about three times that of a tennis ball, and could bounce for long periods. It was reported that presidential aide McGeorge Bundy had five dozen Super Balls® shipped to the White House for the amusement of staffers.

The thermos was the first commercial vacuum bottle to be patented. It was first sold in Germany in 1903, and didn't get its well-known name until 1904.

The British import Spirograph was introduced in the United States in 1967 by Kenner and has racked up millions of dollars in sales. It was invented by a British electronics engineer, Denys Fisher, who was inspired to create the toy while doing research on a new design for bomb detonators for NATO.

The U.S. record for the greatest number of patented inventions is 1,093. The record is held by Thomas Alva Edison.

The carbon arc lamps which have been used in the lighting of U.S. motion picture sets since the silent film era were originally called “Kliegl lights” after their inventors. They were the brothers John and Anton Kliegl, who emigrated from their native Germany to America just as the infant film industry was picking up speed. In 1897, they established a family firm, Kliegl Brothers, to produce and market lighting equipment. The final “l” was dropped, and the brothers' design of Kleig lights became the preferred standard in stage as well as screen production.

The umbrella was invented more than 4,000 years ago. There is evidence of umbrellas in the ancient art and artifacts of Assyria, Greece, Egypt, and China.

The Chinese are credited with inventing the first toothbrushes in the late 1400s. The bristles were made of hog bristles, which were highly effective and popular. The invention of nylon replaced them.

The United States Patent Office has on file a patent for boots with pockets--for use by nudists.

The Chinese invented eyeglasses. Marco Polo reported seeing many pairs worn by the Chinese as early as 1275, 500 years before lens grinding became an art in the West.

The Waring blender was invented by Fred Waring, the society band leader of the 1930s.

The classic metal tokens that roam the streets of Atlantic City in the game Monopoly were not part of the original game. When Monopoly was first introduced, it didn't include any game pieces, only suggestions that players use small household items like buttons and pennies.

The windmill originated in Iran in A.D. 644. It was used to grind grain.

The classic toy wagon was designed by Antonio Pasin, who founded his company in 1918. Pasin wanted to give his wagons a modern flair, and chose the word "radio" for what was then a new form of communication, and "flyer" for the wonder of flight – hence, "Radio Flyer."

The word "yo-yo" itself was a registered trademark of Duncan until 1965.

The coffee filter was invented by Melitta Bentz, in Germany in 1908. She pierced holes in a tin container, put a circular piece of absorbent paper in the bottom of it, and put her creation over a coffee pot.

The world's smallest guitar is the nanoguitar, created in 1997 by a professor at Cornell University to demonstrate new technologies that could be used in electronics and fiber optics. The nanoguitar is 10 micrometers long (about the length of a human cell), and has 6 strings that are 50 nanometers (one-billionth of a meter) wide. If plucked, the guitar makes a sound in audible to humans.

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