Many of us feel that the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to get going on life’s goals. But what’s the story behind the tools we use to accomplish our self-improvement objectives?
Whether you’re hitting the treadmill, cracking open a book or improving your diet, check out the five inventions that bring classic New Year’s resolutions to life.
Treadmill or Torture?
There’s a reason why the treadmill feels like such hard work—it started out as a means to use manpower to mill grains. (Hence the name, a combination of “tread” and “mill.”) In fact, treadmills were used as punishment in prisons starting in 1818, spearheaded by Sir William Cubitt, an English engineer.
The treadmill as we know it was popularized much later by another innovator—William Staub, who brought the idea of at-home training in the late 1960s. The PaceMaster 600 was born, and we’re betting the “get in shape” New Year’s resolution came not long after.
A Magical Solution for Healthy Eating
A staple in As Seen on TV, The Magic Bullet blender is designed to save counter space and provide a blender, processor, and juicer all in one (which the product’s infamous infomercial explains). Sounds perfect for any New Year’s resolution-er who’s determined to get healthy.
The Magic Bullet patent is registered with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to inventor Lenny Sands. According to Consumer Reports, it may not be all that and a bag of chips (which you shouldn’t be eating, right?), but it does have a large following and can help with diet improvement.
Becoming a Bookworm
Popularized by the Amazon Kindle, which was released in 2007, the e-reader has changed the reading game—giving readers seemingly unlimited access to their favorite prose.
But mechanical readers were around long before Harry encountered Voldemort or when Katniss volunteered as tribute. In 1949, Angela Ruiz Robles, a school teacher, invented the world’s first automated reader in Spain. Unfortunately, she never patented the design and it was never mass produced. The first mass-produced e-reader with a patent was far later when the Rocket eBook was invented by NuvoMedia in 1998.
Starting to Save
The handheld calculator has roots in a tool that existed far earlier in history—even before we started saying that “saving money” was our new goal. Back in the 9th century in China, people were counting with an abacus or a counting frame.
However, the modern calculator didn’t get its official start until Texas Instruments started developing (and filing patents for) them in 1966, and they’ve been making them ever since. But these days, there are plenty of high-tech gadgets available if you’d like to calculate how much you need to set aside to finally build that nest egg.
It’s Time to Quit
If you’re looking to quit smoking in the new year, an oldie but a goodie is available for you—the nicotine patch. The patch has been the smoking cessation tool of choice since the mid-1980s, when Frank Etscorn, Ph.D. was issued a patent on July 1, 1986. This was a few years after a team of doctors published the first study that showed the effectiveness of the patch on smoking cessation.
The patch hasn’t changed much since the ’80s, but now doctors are looking into additional uses for the standby—such as treatment for anxiety, depression or dementia.
Whether you’re looking to become fitter, healthier, richer or smarter, inventors, innovations and their patents have played a big role in the ways in which we achieve our goals. So next time you grab your e-reader for a walk on the treadmill, think of the innovators (and the smart patent filing) that are aiding your success.