Mashup inventions have changed all of our lives. Imagine how crowded nightstands would be if they needed to contain a stereo, speakers, a clock, and an alarm signal. Or how the pockets could swell if people didn’t have a single small accessory that folded a multitude of tools into one convenient knife. And it’s even hard to remember what life was like before most people had access to a phone, computer, camera, video recorder and more, all in one device that fits in your palm. with one hand.
The clock radio, multi-tool pocket knife, and smartphone are all examples of mashup inventions: the combination of two or more ideas in a different setup to create something new and productive, says Bernie Carlson, professor of history at the University of Virginia whose work includes the study of inventors and technology.
Carlson calls these crossed inventions a phenomenon of the twentieth century. Before that, he says, the goal of most designers was to optimize an item to do a job well.
“So there were no Italian Renaissance sporks,” he says. “There were either forks or spoons because you were doing something to do the best job possible. But in the 20th century, the idea of giving the customer the power to choose between different options took root and inventions became much more open. “
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Mashup inventions cross all genres – from industrial machines like the bulldozer (part tractor, part tank treads from World War I) to foods like cronut (part donut, part growing) in from sports (frisbee golf, water polo) to transportation (the amphibious car) to pop-culture novelty favorites (beer hat, anyone?) and even baby gear, like recent skateboard-stroller hybrids.
Here’s a look at five mashup inventions that have stood the test of time and are hard to imagine living without.
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Considered by many to be the gold standard of mashup inventions, the smartphone has revolutionized modern technology. Originally introduced by IBM in 1994 as the Simon Personal Communicator – with email and fax capabilities, a calendar, a touchscreen, and a stylus – the smartphone took a leap forward in 2007 when Steve Jobs unveiled the first iPhone. Shown as a combination of three products – mobile phone, personal jukebox, and touch-controlled desktop Internet communications device – Apple iPhone compatible users can take photos, listen to music, view their e-mail. Email, browse the web and more in one portable device – all with the swipe of a finger.
“An iPod, a phone and an Internet communicator,” Jobs said when announcing the deployment. “An iPod, a phone – you get it? They’re not separate devices. This is a device.”
The iPhone and its competitors – from Samsung, LG and others – have continued to evolve, adding more mashup features such as built-in GPS, location services, video chat, health monitoring, built-in stereo speakers, payment processing and more.
READ MORE: Steve Jobs originally envisioned the iPhone as primarily a phone
Multi-tool pocket knife
Originally designed as a simple, easy-to-carry foldable knife for Swiss soldiers in 1891 by Swiss inventor and cutler Karl Elsener, the famous red-handled multi-purpose pocket knife started out as a rather simple mashup.
“There was a big blade, a can opener, a screwdriver and a reamer on one side. On the other side there was nothing,” says Carl Elsener Jr., great-grandson of the inventor. The New York Times. “It was very strong but a bit heavy, so my great-grandfather decided to make a more elegant knife for officers that had a corkscrew and a second blade.”
Its popularity with soldiers led Elsener and his company Victorinox to patent the handy tool in 1897 as a gadget that combines a blade with a host of other tools – from screwdrivers and can opener to scissors, cleaner. tooth and more.
American GIs discovered the all-in-one tool during World War II, translating its hard-to-pronounce name from “Schweizer Offiziersmesser” to “Swiss Army Knife”.
Like the smartphone, this mashup also continues to evolve, with subsequent models adding more features. A discontinued model called the Super Timer combined tools for 31 uses (fish scaler included) with a Swiss quartz watch. “The idea was to combine two famous Swiss products in one package,” said Jim Kennedy, president of the company that markets Victorinox knives in the United States. The New York Times when the product was launched in 1992.
Among the mashup accessories included on Swiss Army Knife models – and competing ones – over the years: a tracheostomy blade (for choking emergencies), a wood saw, an orange peeler, tweezers, a fish scaler, a magnifying glass and a wire stripper.
READ MORE: 7 Historical Figures You Didn’t Know Were Inventors
Historians credit French aviator and engineer Henri Fabre with the first successful seaplane flight in 1910 outside of Marseille, France. Called the Seaplane, his airplane and boat mashup featured an ash wood frame covered with cotton and plywood floats. It took off and landed in a lagoon on the Mediterranean coast.
It was the start of sustainable design. According to the US Naval Institute, two of the three planes first purchased by the Navy were seaplanes. After experimenting with the performance of these hybrids, the Navy launched a seaplane in 1917 during World War I designed to fight German submarines. In the 1930s, however, improvements in air and anti-aircraft defenses caused ground bombers to take their place.
The first transatlantic flight was made in 1919, on the NC-4 seaplane, piloted by the US Navy and the Coast Guard. Unlike Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo flight from New York to Paris eight years later, this one was neither fast nor non-stop: the flight took three weeks, with multiple Atlantic stops needed for repairs. , parts deliveries or delays due to bad weather.
Today’s seaplanes are mostly smaller planes with landing gear allowing both land and water runways.
READ MORE: 6 Little-Known Aviation Pioneers
In the absence of a file with the US Patent Office, details of the origins of the clock radio remain obscure.
Time The magazine reports that James F. Reynolds and Paul L. Schroth Sr. invented the clock radio in the 1940s. Thomas Churm, in his blog Online Clock, reports that this might be correct, but after exhaustive research did could not come to a separate conclusion, noting that Bulova claims to have invented the clock radio in 1928. Harvard Business School gives the honor to Benjamin Abrams, founder of Emerson Radio and Phonograph Corporation.
According to Churm, the earliest clock radios weighed 25 pounds, and evolved from wooden console cabinets to more compact models that could fit on a nightstand to the plastic versions still present today. The Sony Dream Machine, released in 1968, took things up a notch with its popular digital version, and modern clock radios have added more mashup features, such as smartphone docking stations and docks. charge.
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Most people don’t buy a stand mixer just to make ingredients for cakes or cookies. With the standard flat beater, whisk and dough hooks, the iconic mashup kitchen tool has accessories that allow it to function as a pasta press, spiralizer, food grinder, shredder, grain mill, juicer, sieve, ice cream maker, sausage stuffer and more.
The popular prototype of the KitchenAid model dates back to 1908, when Herbert Johnston, founder and engineer of Hobart Manufacturing Company, created a mess to avoid manual mixing work. Its patented design, titled “Mixing Machine,” featured movable and removable bowls, according to Smithsonian magazine.
The first 80-quart Model H, intended for commercial bakeries (and used on Navy ships during World War I), was launched in 1914 and could mix, beat and fold dough and dough. The following year, Hobart started its KitchenAid division with the 10-quarter C-10, adding the five-quarter H-5 in 1922 which sold for $ 189.50 (nearly $ 3,000 today). The K model – the iconic silhouette still in use today – was introduced in 1937, driving sales to new heights, with more and more accessories being introduced over the next decades. Along the way, it spawned a host of competitors from Sunbeam, Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach and more.