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QOD: Inventive

Gerry Thomas, inventor of the TV dinner, dies at 83

Mmmmmm....baked apples.

In his honor, a QOD: What's the greatest UNSUNG invention of the past 50 years?

So I don't mean the internet or your Xbox. Something, much like the oft-lambasted and quit unheralded tv dinner, that doesn't get as much recognition as it should for it's worth to our lives.

[survey idea shamelessly stolen from Fark]


The self-flushing toilet. No doubt.

The Spork, of course.

um. post-its?

those little reflective bumps that also divide traffic lanes?

Ziploc bags
Cordless phones
LCDs and LEDs
(I'd add velcro, but it's been overdone)

although I think it was developed during WWII...duct tape should be added to the list

the silicone spatula scraper

the little doily shower thingy that you can place one drop of soap on and it lathers for ever and ever...

Liquid hand soap

Self Propelled lawn mowers

Three letters:


the beer bong

lightweight waterproof synthetic fabrics


I second the one on ziploc bags.

Foam noiseblocking earplugs. (As someone who is working in an office right now, without them, with someone down the hall who has a fussy/loud baby)

the Itty Bitty Book Light

Voice-mail, makes it easier to make out with one girl while another one calls to leave you a message.

And I'd like to nominate the breast implant to the invention hall of fame please.

The Atari joystick.

On a more serious note, I'd say John Demming's theories on manufacturing.
Seems simple on the surface, build a quality product, listen to your customers, listen to the suggestions of your employees, and don't make what you can't sell.

He devoloped these in the 50's, Detroit ignored him, but the Japaneese listened. That's why they started to kick our ass in various areas. They have gone on to vastly change the economics of the world.

(Please forgive the nerdy suggestion, I'm a grad student and it's what popped into my head.)

Air conditioning.

Dude. Scotty just died. And you're talking about some TV Dinner guy?

I don't think A/C dates to the past 50 years, but God Bless It.

How about gel-ink pens?

Dean, I loathe Star Trek.

Those cloth things made of fabric with wings or a wheel attached that move when the wind blows and look like animals like bees or birds or something.

Those cloth things made of fabric with wings or a wheel attached that move when the wind blows and look like animals like bees or birds or something.


Yea, I think you have to be on acid to see them, though.

Pay at the Pump. Greatest invention of the last 20 years.

Alan, I have to agree with you. I thought that PATP gas stations were a single parent's Nirvana, especially since I can pump my own gas and not leave the side of the car ... until last night, that is.

I pulled into a gas station, on empty, not caring whether it was PATP or not. I has happy it was where it was, since the kids and I had driven for 45 minutes without even seeing a station and we were in the middle of Nowhere, NC. I had my card out, ready to get out and pump my own gas in the 97 degree soupy heat when the ATTENDANT came up to my window and asked me what kind of gas I wanted.

Imagine that. A FULL SERVICE GAS STATION! That ALSO has pay at the pump! Does life get any better???

Oh yeah, it does! The gas was $.19 - $.24 cheaper per gallon than the next 5 or 6 gas stations that I passed ... yeah, suddenly there were a plethora of gas stations but HA! It was too late! I got my fill for less and got more!!

Well, it seemed pretty nifty to me.

Teflon (if kept under 500 degrees)

I'm partial to "Get it yo damn self" service myself.

Speaking of self serve: I like the self serve shoe stores; don't want any heavy breathing chain smoking breath $5.00 an hour goof balls touching my feet.

TV remote control

"coozies" to keep your drink cold a little longer

Damn, people beat me to the punch with air conditioning.

Although, that's right-- it's really the greatest unsung invention of the past 80 or so years.

BTW, I'm sure you've all heard the theory that if it weren't for air conditioning, the U.S. Government would be a fraction of its current size. Back before A/C, Washington basically shut down for the summer, and Congress went home. No Congress, no taxes and/or pork to increase the size and reach of the federal government.

Is anyone surprised that right after air conditioning arrived in my swamp-ass hometown, the New Deal hit the streets?

Dave at Garfield Ridge

it's sick, I know. but I love those Swanson Hungry Man mashed potatoes.

Dave, I've always said that what this country needs is a Constitutional Amendment forbidding the operation of air conditioning in the Capitol building and Congressional offices between July 4th and Labor Day.

You're close with Pay-at-the-Pump...how about self-service at the grocery store? Paperless credit transactions in general are my favorite. Slide the card, sign with the lightpen, and go.

I think the greatest "unsung" invention of the past half century is the household circuit breaker. They may have been invented before then, but I know they weren't in wide use until about 35-40 years ago. Folks old enough to remember scrounging all over the house looking for a fuse to replace the one that blew will echo the sentiment, I think.

Other noteworthy candidates:
cellophane tape
modern plastic
automatic ice maker
pop-top cans
Liquid Paper (White-Out)
felt-tip pen

and, of course . . .
Easy Cheese (how'd civilization exist before cheese in a can?)

Instant oatmeal. Nothing like a hearty bowl of nuked goodness in the winter.

how about vhs/beta recorders and the legal victory over hollywood without it no ipods mp3 players dvd's blockbusters etc...

or for single guys the microwave oven to heat those tv dinners

Paper diapers - particularly when the kid has the runs

Velcro - a million uses

Duct Tape - SAA

the PC - from one invention, some much employment

Graphing calculators and CBLs - they transformed science education


I will only agree with Cowboy Blob on the "U Check" stations AFTER they perfect the technology...where I live, these things shut themselves down with an alarming rate, or else do the "Hey! You didn't bag that item!" (like you should care?) warning. Or they claim you've not scanned something that you already have. (The u-check stations where I live work at about the speed of a snail on downers; I think I try to scan things too fast and then I get aggravated because it can't accept more than one scan per 30 seconds)

Oh, and at the Kroger near me, even if you pay with a credit card, you still have to wait for a person to bring you the sales slip to sign. Super inefficient.

That said, I LURVE pay-at-the-pump and am so thankful it finally came to my tiny burg. Considering the creepiness level of the people that work in the gas stations here...

And I don't care how long it's been around, I bless the name of the man who invented a/c. (although I admit that "forced summer shutdown of the government" amendment might have some merit).

Drive-thru windows are another convenience I like - it's nice, after having been out doing hot work in the field to just drive through a place and get a big cold soda without having to park, leave my car, stand on line, explain to the minimum wage drone what I want, wait for him to fix it, get back in my car, and drive home.

Cruise Control
Socket Wrench

Magnetic media (all disks...)

Optical media (CDs, DVDs)

Inkjet printing

PVC pipe

scotch tape

Flash RAM

Unleaded gasoline



Doritos... :)