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BEACON Senior News

The best inventions we take for granted

Jul 04, 2018 03:02AM ● By Jan Weeks

Sue Hughey remembers how the automatic dishwasher changed her life.

Human knowledge doubles approximately every 13 months, so those of us who have been around for a few years have seen some amazing innovations. In the last 50 years, we’ve seen television go from tiny, black and white sets to monster screens. Personal computers, only a dream in the 1980s, have shrunk from desk-sized behemoths to smaller than a pack of cards.

So what are the best inventions of the past 50 years? Not surprisingly, computers top the list, but there are also more mundane inventions that we now take for granted, such as Ziploc bags, aluminum foil and cordless phones.

Often, our favorite inventions are the ones that have affected our lives personally. Sue Hughey remembers how the automatic dishwasher changed her life.

“They didn’t come standard in houses then, and I had eczema so bad for years from having my hands in soapy water,” she said. “My fingers would crack and bleed and were always covered with Band-Aids. After my husband bought me a portable dishwasher, my eczema went away in no time.”

She did some research and found that the first hand-powered dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane, a wealthy matron who was tired of the servants chipping her china.

Local artist Lee Bowerman treasures his cordless drill set, which includes a charger, flashlight and carrying case.

“I’m a mural painter so I don’t take a lot of tools on the job but occasionally need a drill, sander or saw. It’s nice to have a compact case with those tools handy,” he said.

He also praises the variety of tapes—striping tape, painter’s edge tape and Gorilla tape—as well as disposable paper coveralls, paper shoe covers and lint- and static-free synthetic rags.

“How did we get by without them?” he wondered.

Mike Shults, a retired Realtor and skilled handyman, loves the backup camera on his truck, and said his cell phone is invaluable for staying in touch with clients.

Pat Martin got married in 1958 and remembers her first plastic bag. She and her new husband were stationed at an Army post in Arizona.

“My mom sent me a plastic bag about 9 inches by 12 inches—no Ziploc—from Oklahoma Gas and Electric. I used that thing for years, thinking I might never see another one,” she recalled.

Martin also remembers coming across aluminum foil for the first time.

“When I was a kid back in World War II, we would strip the foil from the inner part of cigarette packages, roll the pieces into a giant ball and turn them in for the war effort,” Martin said.

Martin also mentioned Velcro, that ubiquitous staple for everything from “tying” shoes to “zipping” tents.

Hand-held blow dryers head the best invention list for reader Joyce Finley.

“Back in high school, we had a hair dryer with a slip-on hood like a plastic bag that connected to the base with an expandable tube,” she said. “I was in heaven when they came out with one that had a hard hood, like in the beauty salons.”

Heated rollers were high on her list, too.

“I didn’t have to factor in time before work to wet and set my hair, then sit under the dryer for half an hour,” she said.

Now, of course, anyone can achieve great-looking hair with a round brush and a blow dryer that can fit in an overnight case.

Look around today and notice all the things that make your life easier and better and take time to appreciate them and the inventors who had what at the time seemed like impossible ideas and brought them to life. We truly are surrounded by everyday miracles.