(September 30, 2015)
We take airbags, hand sanitizer, computer passwords and decaf coffee for granted, but they weren't always around. Can you guess when they were invented?
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The pop-up turkey thermometer was inspired by:
Consumer complaints about tasteless, overcooked Thanksgiving turkeys led California Turkey Producers Advisory Board member Eugene Beals to brainstorm a gadget that would tell home cooks exactly when the big bird was done. The Dun Rite turkey thermometer was modeled after heat-activated, fire-quenching sprinklers of the day, according to the National Teachers Association. Today, an estimated 30 million turkeys are sold with built-in, pop-up timers.
Seat belts in cars were first used by:
Various U.S. physicians advocated for safety belts more than 80 years ago and even installed them in their own cars, according to the medical website Medscape. But it took until 1966 for the U.S. Congress to mandate that car makers install them and until 1984 for the first state — New York — to require drivers and passengers to use them. Today, they save more than 12,000 lives every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Hand sanitizer was invented by:
Lupe Hernandez, a nursing student in Bakersfield, California, reportedly discovered in 1966 that alcohol delivered through a gel could disinfect skin when there was no access to soap and water. In 1988, Purell designed and marketed an alcohol-based hand cleaner to healthcare workers. Today you see containers of hand sanitizer everywhere you look.
The first child car seat was:
The earliest child car seats were designed so kids could look out the window — and not crawl around in the backseat. In 1962, Ames and American inventor Len Rivkin both came up with models. By 1968 car makers were designing crash-proof seats and by 1971, federal laws meant car seats had to strap down using seat belts and had to have a safety harness. Kids were required to use them in all 50 states by 1985, according to the group SafeRide4Kids.
Credit cards with embedded microchips were first used in:
While credit cards with magnetic strips have been around since the late 1950s, concern about theft and counterfeiting led to the development of early micro-chip-enabled cards in France. Starting in October 2015, U.S. retailers will be required by credit card companies to use payment systems that accept cards with an EMV chip (named for the organizations that developed it — Europay, MasterCard and Visa). Data stored on the chip is more secure, experts say.
The first fire extinguisher was:
Humans have been building simple pumps to douse fires for more than 2,000 years. But Captain George William Manby, of Great Britain, designed the first portable extinguisher using a 3-gallon copper tank containing a flame-stopping, pressurized potassium carbonate solution, according to the UK’s Fire Extinguisher Museum. Manby’s other inventions included a nearly unsinkable life raft and a rope system shipwreck victims could use to pull themselves to shore — a device that, like fire extinguishers, saved many lives.
The first car airbag was patented by:
A car crash that nearly killed his young daughter inspired this industrial engineer to design an inflatable cushion “against which a passenger may be thrust without incurring serious injury,” according to the European Automotive Engineers Cooperation. It would take 28 years before the first airbags were introduced. They became mandatory in passenger cars in 1998 and are credited with saving more than 28,000 lives.
The first computer password was set up in:
MIT’s Compatible Time-Sharing System — the lab that pioneered computer capabilities like email, instant messaging and file sharing — used the first known computer passwords to keep users from going beyond their allotted four hours of weekly computing time. Frustration soon led to the first known computer hack, when one scientist downloaded co-worker’s passwords and used them to get more time on the early machine, according to MIT.
Heating milk to kill germs was discovered by:
The practice of heating up milk so that it lasted longer has been around since the early 1800s. But French chemist and microbiologist Louis Pasteur recognized the process worked by destroying microorganisms that cause spoilage as well as diseases like typhoid fever, scarlet fever and diphtheria. Chicago made pasteurization of all milk the law in 1908; by 1920 it was routine across the U.S., according to Cornell University.
The earliest tampons date back to:
According to Tampax, the ancient Egyptians fashioned tampons out of softened papyrus, and around the 5th century B.C., the ancient Greeks made tampons out of lint wrapped around lightweight wood. Around 1929, Dr. Earle Cleveland Haas, a general practitioner in America, developed the first tampon produced and marketed to absorb menstrual flow.
When did Americans first get health insurance plans?
According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, in 1910, plan members could pay a monthly premium and receive a wide range of medical services from a particular group of doctors. It wasn’t until 1929 that the plans provided hospital care. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 was the start of employer-based health insurance.
Decaf coffee was first invented:
This German coffee merchant used the chemical benzene to extract caffeine from coffee beans. He went on to sell decaf made via his patented process, with the dubious slogan “Always harmless! Always wholesome!” according to the Max Planck Institute in Munich, Germany. Less-toxic compounds such as dichloromethane and ethyl acetatethe were later used to take the jump out of the java. But by the late 1970s, a water-extraction process pioneered by chemist Kurt Zosel, of the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, revolutionized decaffeination.
DEET as a bug spray was first used:
DEET was first used by the U.S. Army to protect soldiers in bug-infested areas. It became the U.S. military’s standard repellent by 1957. That same year, the first commercial DEET bug spray was introduced to the American public, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Superman, who saves the world, was first dreamed up by:
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s the first superhero to ever take over an entire comic book. Conceived by Siegel and Shuster, Superman first hit the streets in 1938 in Action Comics #1 from Detective Comics. He would go on to appear on radio, TV, movies, video games and even a Broadway musical.
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