Monday, September 24, 2018
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Borge Madsen filed a patent for the slide fastener, the plastic zipper that makes plastic bags resealable, for the Ziploc® bag on January 27, 1951. The patent was issued on October 14, 1952. A Ziploc plastic bag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) He sold rights to this and a couple of related patents to the Flexigrip company, which used them to make those plastic pockets for pencils in three-ring binders you may remember from school. But, where they really hit their stride was in small, resealable bags for storing food. In 1961, Flexigrip licensed a patented plastic zipper bag from a Japanese company,... (Read More ...)

Do you remember going to the shoe store, trying on Buster Brown shoes and stepping into an x-ray machine to look at your feet to make sure they fit? Shoe Fluoroscope, manufactured circa 1938, manufactured by Adrian Shoe Fitter, Inc. that was used in a Washington, DC Shoe Store. This machine is currently displayed at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) It seemed so efficient. Sure, the shoe store salesman measured your feet first to see what size you were, then checked to see if your toes were far enough from the toe of the shoe by pinching the... (Read More ...)

The story, as I first heard it, was that Orville and Wilbur Wright were bicycle mechanics who invented an airplane. First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) They were bicycle and printing press mechanics, repairmen, manufacturers and sellers, and used these revenues to explore how to build a machine to fly. But it wasn’t that they built the first human-powered flight, in any case. It was that they built the first fixed-wing plane that the pilot could control and steer while he flew. They recognized right from... (Read More ...)

I remember watching movies with my mother years ago, as an adult, and smugly telling her something I’d only recently learned. Emergency Numbers on a Swiss Telephone in the 1970s (Photo credit: Wikipedia) “You know the movies had to start using a “555-“ exchange because it isn’t real. People used to call the numbers they talk about in a movie or on tv. It bothered the customers whose phone numbers they really were, so movies started using 555- since those numbers don’t go to anyone.” She had never heard this before, proof that you can indeed learn things from your kids. When did... (Read More ...)

They’ve been tested in Washington, DC, Baltimore, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Albany since the 1990s. A pedestrian signal with countdown timer at a pedestrian crossing. This crossing is at the intersection of De Anza Boulevard and Lazaneo Drive in Cupertino. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Countdown timers at intersections are now being rolled out as standard traffic signage. In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration issued an update to their Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The 2009 edition of the MUTCD requires that all intersections that have pedestrian crosswalk... (Read More ...)

October 31, 1951 was the first large rollout of zebra pedestrian crosswalks in London, England. Crosswalk pavement marking variants per the U.S. FHWA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Starting in 1949, the Transport Research Laboratory in Great Britain tested a number of designs at 1,000 locations. But, it was the broad white stripes on the dark background of the road that people and cars could see the most readily. A Member of Parliament visited the laboratory, remarked on how the pattern looked like a zebra, and the name, zebra crossing, stuck. In the first year, deaths of pedestrians at intersections... (Read More ...)

“Oh, so you like the moguls, Mom!” my then-seven-year-old son, David, said, delighted that his Mom was off the bunny slope. A snow cannon at the Canmore Nordic Centre, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia) “Not really,” I told him, as he made his way down from the expert slope, passing me easily. “They just happen to be in front of me and I don’t know how to ski around them.” In November of 1946, the ski industry changed forever with the invention of artificial snow, initially frozen bits of carbon dioxide used to seed clouds and encourage the formation of snow. Vincent Schaefer,... (Read More ...)

Tappan Stove’s Radarange, built by Amana Corporation, was first sold on October 25, 1955, for $1,295. They sold poorly and were soon withdrawn from the market. A microwave oven with a metal shelf (Photo credit: Wikipedia) It wasn’t until 1967 when Litton redesigned them to fit on a kitchen counter and sold them for $495 that they took off. We bought our first microwave oven for $400 in the 1970s. It’s a luxury, really. Kitchens already have stoves. So, a microwave just lets you cook or heat or thaw food faster. When we bought ours, the store gave free lessons on how to cook with them. They... (Read More ...)

Born on a farm in West Virginia, Chuck Yeager’s first experience with the military was as a teenager at a military summer camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison, in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1939 and 1940. Chuck Yeager with Bell X-1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) As it happens, my husband spent our first anniversary at Fort Benamin Harrison in 1969, when he was there for a month of training as an Army officer, the year before he was sent to Vietnam, where he spent our second anniversary. In September 1941, Yeager enlisted in the Army as a private and was soon assigned to be an aircraft mechanic. Too young... (Read More ...)

On October 4, 1957, America got a wake-up call. Sputnik Satellite (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Russia had launched a satellite into space, Sputnik-1. It was put into a low earth orbit and could be seen from Earth throughout each of its 96.2-minute orbits. It was a sphere, 23 inches across. It sent beeping radio signals back to Earth for 22 days, until October 26, 1957, when the battery on its transmitter ran out. RCA engineers recorded it and drove the recording to New York City so it could be broadcast over the radio. Meanwhile, amateur student ham radio operators at Columbia University, who had... (Read More ...)