In the modern age of fast progress it’s easy to forget there’s a first time for everything. Things we now take for granted like the simple act of taking a photo, calling someone on the phone, or even using toilet paper used to be a big deal for someone. A few decades ago video-chatting was a thing you could only see in sci-fi movies and a few centuries ago no one could imagine a world filled with planes, cars, and space rockets. We are surrounded by wonders of technological and scientific progress, and it’s about time we took a step back and reviewed the most prominent first times in human history. Some of the inventions are younger than you think!
It’s hard to imagine Apple tech looking anything but cutting-edge, but back in 1976 this was the look that helped Steve Jobs secure the deal with the Byte Shop. Built by Steve Wozniak, Apple I was the first ever desktop computer presented to the public. Its cost was set to $666.66 because Wozniak was into ‘repeating digits’.
Cell phone that changed everything
If you think your new smartphone is bulky, take a look at this sturdy fella that weighed more than 1 kg, working for no more than 30 minutes at a time. Yep, you wouldn’t take this little gadget on your morning run, that’s for sure. Martin Cooper, an engineer working for Motorola, created the first ever cell phone in 1973 and made the first call to taunt their rival company. This mobile phone took 10 hours to charge!
The oldest selfie
It seems that people have had a thing for selfies since the dawn of times. The word itself may be just 16 years old, but the first ever selfie was taken way before that. Back in 1839, Robert Cornelius, a chemist by day and a photographer by night, had to pose for a whole minute without moving to create the shot in the store owned by his parents.
Holy vending machine
Hero of Alexandria, a famous Greek engineer, was responsible for a number of ‘cutting-edge’ devices around the first century A.D. He was bent on creating all kinds of automatic mechanisms, so no wonder he came up with his very own ancient version of a vending machine. Using a lever system that was activated by a coin, the machine distributed holy water in the temples of Greece. It turned out some people were greedier than others when it came to holy water, so the engineer decided to control the process.
As soon as people figured out how to take pictures they started exploring the world surrounding them. It’s only natural that a spectacular phenomenon like lighting would get special attention. Photographer William Jennings wanted to explore lightning and find out whether it really was of a zig-zag form, thus, taking this memorable photo in 1882.
6th century toilet paper
It’s hard to imagine the times without this hygiene product, but Westerners have used anything but toilet paper until 1857, making do with lace, book pages, wool, hay, and even their own hands. Things were a bit different in the East where toilet paper was first mentioned in Chinese texts around 6th century. Although, historians believe it may be even older than that!
Lady in a barrel
Niagara Falls is a truly striking display of natural forces, so it comes as no surprise that people would want to conquer it one way or another. Annie Edson Taylor, a 19th-century adventurer, wanted to draw attention to herself as well as earn some money, so she figured – why not do this? She hopped into a specially constructed barrel with cushions and lead weights, and just rode into the falls. She came out alright (mind you, the lady was 63 years old), but didn’t make that much money from it.
The City of Lights
It’s hard to imagine the times when the infamous Sin City wasn’t covered in lights from head to toe. Nevertheless, the first ever Las Vegas neon sign was installed by Tommy Hull on his El Rancho resort in 1941. It read ‘Stop at the Sign of the Windmill’ encouraging travellers to stop by El Rancho’s enticing pool and casino. It worked like a charm!
Woman on a bike
These days you won’t surprise anyone with a woman driving a bike, but things were a bit different in 1937. Sally Halterman’s dream was to ride a motorcycle, so she fought like a Valkyrie to get the license. She had to pass the writing exam twice and lawyer up to even get to the driving test. There was some cussing involved, too! Nevertheless, she got her license despite being ‘too small’ and ‘too young’.
Just imagine the times when there were no McDonald’s burgers whatsoever…It’s hard, right? The first ever McDonald’s restaurant is relatively young – it was opened in 1948 and sold barbecue foods at first. Its creators, Richard and Maurice McDonald, soon transformed the menu and started selling Coca Cola, French Fries, orange juice, potato chips, and hamburgers. They didn’t use the famous arched McDonald’s logo until 1953.
It now takes about 2 seconds to take a photo of literally anything (and post it on Instagram if you’re agile enough), but back in the day things were a little bit more laid back. We can thank Kodak for introducing colour film to the masses in 1935, but the first ever coloured photo was taken much earlier. James Clerk Maxwell and Thomas Sutton took a photo of a Scottish tartan ribbon in 1861 by photographing it through three different filters: green, red, and blue. They superimposed the three shots together – and voila!