The 10 Best Inventions of All-Time

Doc Brown

by Cole Pepper

Being a man, I’m a gadget guy. I already love the next thing that is going to make my life better. So, feeling a bit nostalgic, I look back on the 10 Best Inventions of All-Time.

10. WiFi and Cellular Telephony-This works with a couple of the other entries on the list, but think about how cool WiFi is. The ability to cram tons of 1s and 0s through the air to create something…anything…at a device near you is pretty awesome. I know that your iTunes folder would still exist without it, but you wouldn’t be able to suddenly download that A-ha song that you really want to hear without it. That, in and of itself, is enough to earn top 10 honors.

9. The Process to Make Fire-We go from hi tech to low tech. Fire is basic, primal. It’s also awesome for cooking meat, burning stuff and warming you. My brother loves to ask the question: have more man-hours been spent in all of time staring at a TV or staring into a fire. My response is always “does watching a fire on TV count? What about a TV on fire?” Put that in your pipe and smoke it. You’ll need to build a fire to do that.

8. Tempurpedic material-In my house, the bed and the recliner are made of this stuff. It clearly kicks butt. The bed is the best thing I’ve ever slept on and the recliner is the second best thing. I’m not a good enough writer to explain how much better Tempurpedic is than other stuff you put in beds and chairs, but it’s about this much better:

courtesy: the year 3000
courtesy: the year 3000

7. High Definition TV-Five years ago, I would have said television. But geez, high-def is so good that you can actually see the puck on a hockey broadcast without it having a comet tail superimposed on it. You can actually see that news anchor’s recent face lift scars. You can tell that the audience isn’t laughing at Jay Leno. I’m certain that there is a higher definition to come, but for now, HD is pretty awesome.

6. Smart phones-I think it’s true that thanks to smart phones, 75% of all office jobs can get 85% of a days work done while still on a golf course. That means that 22.5% of all reasons to procrastinate are 65% obselete. That also means that you’ll need to pull up that Calculator App on the smart phone to figure out what the heck I’m talking about. While you do that, I’m going to play Angry Bird-Star Wars Edition. ‘Cause that’s how I work smarter, cuz.

5. The Internet-If for no other reason than it give you the opportunity to read this blog, then snarkily post comments using a fictitious name, the Internet makes the top 5. That would be enough. But add to it sports scores, YouTube videos of primates smelling their fingers and illegal streaming of everything that has ever been broadcast and you’re off to a great start to a big weekend.

4. Television Remote-Okay, be a pessimist. Tell me that this is the root cause of the obesity epidemic. I’ll say that it is a great example of electronic Darwinism. Once, there were three networks plus PBS. If you were lucky, there was a local independent station with a creepy, future target of Chris Hanson who dressed up like Dracula to introduce the campy thriller movies on Friday night. We had very little need for a remote. Yes, the show we were watching was pretty cruddy, but we know that the other four shows on were just as bad. So we sat there. Then came cable and the chance that the other 30 shows weren’t so cruddy (of course, they were, but there was always hope). Then satellite TV and 500 options. Of course we need a remote. How else am I going to flip back and forth between Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow (British Edition) to see all of those family heirlooms/pieces of crap that someone should sell now while the market is up? Exactly. We need the remote.

1950s family watching television
Back in my day…okay, this wasn’t my day. But it was somebody’s day and that person wants you to get off their lawn.

3. Big Green Egg-Now we get to the heart of things. This gives me an opportunity to get personal and give some advice to all of the soon-to-be-married guys out there. When somebody asks you what you want as a wedding gift, tell them what you REALLY want. Yes, you are going to do the whole gift registry thing, but tell them what YOU want. It’s the only reason they are asking YOU and not your bride-to-be. Your answer should be the Big Green Egg. This smoker/cooker/grill is an example of an ancient device that is perfected with modern materials and manufacturing techniques. I barbecue a lot, as you might know. The following is a list of all of the things that I have cooked on the BGE that qualify as the best of that category that I’ve ever cooked: ribs, pork butt, chicken, brisket/burnt ends, turkey, lamb, duck, sausage, steak, quail. There may be more, but I’m getting too hungry to think about the rest.

Turkey on the Big Green Egg. Thanksgiving has never been the same.
Turkey on the Big Green Egg. Thanksgiving has never been the same.

2. iPad-I’m writing this post on my iPad, but that’s not why the Apple device rises to number 2. It’s the execution of a concept that has changed the way we consume information. Allow me to digress for a bit here. In the early history of humans (how’s that for an opening phrase in a digression?), we communicated information around the campfire. As we developed language and culture, the way in which we shared information changed. The prophet foretelling the future in the square, the minstrel, the town crier, the printing press, the telegraph, the radio then television all marked a step forward in the way we consume and disseminate information. What the iPad has done is set the standard for how we consume visual entertainment and information. We now are conditioned to see what we want, when we want it, wherever we are. As much as it’s great to play Angry Birds on a larger screen three times the size of your smart phone, its really about the ability to be absorbed into the viewing experience on an airplane, in a hotel lobby, waiting for a class to begin, or while you watch something else at the same time on TV. The iPad’s impact reaches well beyond what it does and into the realm of “what it changes.”

1. Air ConditioningPerhaps I wouldn’t feel quite as strongly about this as the #1 invention if I lived in Skagway, Alaska, but I don’t. I live in Jacksonville, Florida. Still, consider what air conditioning has done for the world. For starters, it has made a vast amount of warm climate land habitable for millions more people than before. Let’s face it, some folks can take the heat, some cannot. Now, even though you sink into mild depression every time the high temperature hits 80 degrees, you can still live in relative luxury all year long. Second, is it any coincidence that the life expectancy has gone up and the infant mortality rate has gone down as air conditioning has spread across the globe? I’m no doctor, but if a woman doesn’t have to bake in the heat of a 90 degree month while pregnant, I have to think that’s good for both mom and the baby. Third, two words: Summer Blockbuster. Why did the Summer Blockbuster phenomenon become part of the American culture? We like movies and we like to be comfortable while watching them. Voila! Finally, air conditioning (and similar technology) both makes ice cubes and keeps computers and other machines cool, so they last longer. What other invention can put a couple of rocks in my bourbon so I can sip it while surfing the internet in late June in Florida? Case closed.

Honorable mention
: the wheel, the microchip, rocket propulsion, the barrel, the airplane, carbon-fiber material, March Madness, hand held lighter, alternating current, cruise control, moister wicking material, fiber optics, camera phones, satellite technology.

Note: I did not include discoveries, like say DNA sequencing in this list, only actual inventions.

What did I miss?