Celebrating the Unsung Inventors of 5 Everyday Objects

Some innovations, like Levi Strauss blue jeans, carry the names of their inventors. But many everyday objects were created by people who don’t get the recognition they deserve. Here are five devices we take for granted and the geniuses responsible for the technological advancements.

1. Ballpoint pen

Before your favorite writing utensil sat in a mug on your desk, inventor Laszlo Biro and his chemist brother, Gyorgy, created the ballpoint pen in the early 1900s. They experimented with a new type of ink and a ball-socket before settling on the design they received a patent for in 1938. Michael Bich, of the Bic company, purchased the patent in 1945, and the rest is history.

2. Scotch tape

After creating masking tape a few years earlier, Richard Gurley Drew created transparent adhesive tape in the 1920s. 3M marketed it as Scotch Brand Cellulose Tape, which can still be found in kitchen junk drawers around the world. But Drew didn’t stop there; he and his team also received patents for reflective sheeting for road signs, surgical and foam tapes, and electrical insulation.

3. Air conditioning

Though summer days seem almost unbearable without air conditioning, the technology didn’t exist until just over 100 years ago. Willis Carrier, the “Father of Air Conditioning,” found inspiration for his cool device on a foggy train platform in 1902. He realized he could dry air by passing it through water or add moisture to air, changing the humidity of a room. Later that year, he developed the concept for the world’s first modern air conditioning system.

4. QWERTY keyboard

Nineteenth-century typists initially had a much different keyboard than the one we know today. The letters were positioned alphabetically in two rows, which caused problems when nearby letters were hit in quick succession. Christopher Latham Sholes fixed that issue by arranging the letters around popular keys, and he received his patent for the first typewriter with a QWERTY keyboard in 1868.

5. Optical mouse

Though most computer functions are accessed with a mouse, not many stop to consider where the modern optical mouse came from. Richard Francis Lyon, who worked for Xerox at the time, developed a mouse that used both a light and light detector to direct a cursor. He demonstrated his light-sensing mouse in 1980, and others added to the technology to create the mice we use today.

The next time you search the web with a keyboard and mouse or adjust the temperature on your air conditioner, remember the inventors who spent lifetimes researching and developing the technology that makes our lives easier.