The Way It Was: Inventions

by John straka Published:

Some inventions work and others do not. I remember some that did not and I wonder about the future and what wonderful inventions will bring major changes to our way of life. There once was talk about a new kind of shaving cream. It would make a man's beard grow in and all he would have to do is bite it off. That is a joke, but when men dreamed of flying like birds, that was also a joke. Who knows what the future will bring? Long ago, men just let their beards grow and there was no need for shaving. For decades, men used a straight razor to shave. (I have the one my Uncle Tony used and it still looks like brand new.) Then came the safety razor and the electric razor and I wonder what's next.

The modern safety razor was invented and marketed by King Gillette. It had a replaceable blade that would be good for only a few shaves. Then it could be turned to the other side and used again, but it soon became dull and a new blade would be needed. Mr. Gillette often gave away razors for free, knowing that every razor needed to have new blades, and that's how he made money on the deal. Now, electric razors or disposable plastic ones are used.

The idea of there being no need to spend a lot of time and effort preparing and eating three meals a day has come up and been discarded more than once. Imagine taking one pill in the morning, a second one at noon, and two at supper time and not having to buy, prepare and eat three meals each day. The pills would be expensive, but look at the time they would save. Impossible? So was the idea of talking to another person at a distance of thousands of miles. The invention of the telephone changed all that.

I keep thinking about disposable clothing. Why not? Wear it awhile and throw it away. We do that with paper gowns used in exam rooms. What about edible packaging? Ice cream cones work that way. So do sandwiches. We eat the bun that holds the burger.

One idea I really like is the automated haircut. You put your head into a thing like a large hair dryer and it records the length and position of every hair on your head. That information is then transferred to a magnetic strip on a plastic card. When you need a haircut, go to a kiosk, put your card in the slot and your head in the machine, and in seconds your hair looks just like it did the day your head was electronically surveyed.

A recent invention allows a doctor to put a prescription into a computer and send it to the drug store. A machine in the store gets the pills out of stock, prints a label on the bottle, and drops your pills out a chute, ready for pickup.

The cost is directly added to your credit card. If you think that puts lots of drug store employees out of work, just think of all the people who are hired to make and service such machines.

Take that idea a step farther. What about a phone booth size machine where you breathe through a tube, stick your arm into a sleeve, put a plastic card into a slot and attach a clip to your ear. The machine then analyzes the results and spits out pills to cure what ails you. We already have X-rays and machines that monitor breathing, blood pressure and heart function. We also have implanted pacemakers and insulin pumps.

New organs are being grown in laboratories. Will they someday replace organ transplants from human donors? Dentists today replace teeth with implants.

I like the idea of putting a dome over an entire city. That idea has been tried, with the dome being supported by inside air pressure. Will it some day become a reality? If people some day colonize the moon, they will need a structure like that.

Animals are now having a chip implanted under the skin. It identifies the dog and its owner. If humans have implanted chips, they will just buy what they need in the store, and when they walk out, pass through a reader that deducts the cost of their purchases from the buyer's bank account. I think it will take a lot of time to get that idea to work.

I remember when labor unions opposed new inventions because they would lead to unemployment. Instead, every invention creates new and better jobs.

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