Things That Were Invented in the Last Century

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Anything computer-related is obviously a relatively new development in human history, but you might be surprised to find that other creations you see as mundane—or barely notice at all—were introduced to the world not too long ago. We’ve gathered a small collection of unexpected things that were invented in the last century.

Waffle-Soled Running Shoes

The popularity of athletic shoes was on the rise in the late 19th century and early 20th century. People were constantly improving shoes to aid sports performance. Early running shoes had spikes to help the user to keep their traction on the ground. However, Bill Bowerman—a prominent University of Oregon track coach—wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to make even lighter running shoes that could be used on different surfaces and that wouldn’t damage the track. After keeping a vigilant lookout for inspiration, he finally had a breakthrough in 1971, when he noticed the pattern on the waffle iron his wife was using to make breakfast. Within a few years, the Nike Waffle Trainer had gained great popularity for its comfort and utility. This innovation would spur the growth of Nike into the sneaker giant we know today.

Sliced Bread

Ah, yes—if you’ve ever heard the phrase “It’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” you may have assumed that this product was conceived a long, long time ago. In reality, bread that was pre-sliced for the buyer was not sold until 1928. A Chillicothe, Missouri, man named Otto Frederick Rohwedder created the machine that could cut loaves uniformly. Naturally, use of the contraption spread rapidly across the country and changed how Americans ate forever. Before, people mostly made their bread at home or bought it from local bakeries—now, the majority of people consume commercially produced bread.

Helicopters

People have dreamt of flying far before it became remotely possible, and in the early 1900s, this dream became reality with the Wright brothers’ invention of the airplane. However, machines that resembled helicopters were still being developed, although figures such as Leonardo da Vinco had mulled over the idea of helicopters centuries earlier. It wasn’t until 1939 that Igor Sikorsky created the modern design we recognize today, with its large primary rotor on top and a smaller stabilizing rotor on the tail. Now, helicopters are used for all kinds purposes, including capturing news footage, fighting fires, and rescuing people in remote areas.

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