Greater Boston’s 7 most ingenious inventions

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/04/08/greater-bostons-7-most-ingenious-inventions/

When you think tech innovation and invention, Silicon Valley and the City by the Bay may be the first cities that come to mind. But some of the most life-changing inventions and innovations were born right here in the Bay State. Here’s a list of some of Greater Boston’s top technological innovations:

7. Tupperware

Tupperware party (Wikimedia)

Tupperware party (Wikimedia)

What would you do with your soup or leftovers without this handy invention? Tupperware was invented by Earl Silas Tupper who spent much of his life moving around Massachusetts farms before settling in Leominster, Massachusetts, to work in a plastics factory. Like many inventors, Tupper worked for years on a variety of new ideas, many of which failed. After World War II, Tupper produced his first Tupperware bowls and became successful through a partnership with Brownie Wise, who sold Tupperware at home parties.

6. Vulcanization

(Wikimedia)

(Wikimedia)

Vulcanization is the process by which rubber tires are made. Living in Woburn in the late 1830’s, Charles Goodyear began experimenting with gum mixtures. As legend has it, he walked into the general store to show off his latest sulphur-and-gum mixture when some of it flew out of his hand and onto the stove. When he peeled it off, he discovered that the rubber was leather-like, dry and springy- he had discovered weatherproof rubber, which is essential in making tires. The Goodyear tire is named after Charles for his discovery.

5. Microwave

(Wikimedia)

(Wikimedia)

Percy Spencer had no formal schooling beyond fifth grade, but he went on to become one of the most respected scientists of his day. He learned physics and engineering on his own while in the Navy during WWI, and his boundless curiosity and observational powers propelled him into a position at the newly-minted Raytheon in the mid 1920s. One day, Spencer was standing next to a magnetron when it caused a candy bar to melt in his pocket. He placed some popcorn kernels near the tubes and watched them pop, and thus, the microwave was born. Raytheon’s first microwave arrived on the shelves in 1947.

4. The first telephone call

Actor portraying Alexander Graham Bell in an AT&T promotional film. (Wikimedia)

Actor portraying Alexander Graham Bell in an AT&T promotional film. (Wikimedia)

Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish immigrant who came to America to teach as a professor at Boston University. On June 2, 1875, Bell’s assistant, Thomas Watson, twanged a clock spring in their experimental device and Bell heard it in the second one. Less than a year later, Bell said into his device, “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you,” and Watson heard it in his device, making this the first use of the telephone in history.

3. Email

The telephone wasn’t the only communication device to get its start in the Bay State; the first email was sent in Cambridge in 1971. MIT graduate Ray Tomlinson was working for a consulting firm, when he began tinkering around with communicating between two computers on the Arpnet, the proto-internet. After showing his email system to a colleague, he reportedly said, “Don’t tell anyone! This isn’t what we’re supposed to be working on.” I guess you could say that word got out.

2. Facebook

(Courtesy of Flickr)

(Courtesy of Flickr)

While Facebook may have located its main offices on the West Coast, Facebook famously got its start right here in Massachusetts (if you’re looking for an entertaining re-telling of this story, watch this).  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was a Harvard underclassman when he created Facemash, an online algorithm used to rank the “hotness” of his fellow students (yes, even geniuses can be juvenile). He was later approached by some students to create a social networking and dating site called Harvard Connection, but Zuckerberg eventually quit the project to work on The Facebook, a social-networking website. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard his sophomore year to devote himself to Facebook full-time and make it the world-wide social network we know today.

1. World Wide Web Consortium

Internet map (Wikimedia)

Internet map (Wikimedia)

Although Al Gore may like to take credit, the World Wide Web, aka the Internet, aka what you’re using right now, was actually invented by Tim Berners-Lee while working at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.  Berners-Lee came to Cambridge in 1994 to work at MIT and help create the World Wide Web Consortium, to create standards for building browsers, websites, and devices that access the internet. Berners-Lee didn’t patent any of his work or have licensing fees, and this helped the Web spread quickly across the globe. So if you’re using the internet right now, you can thank Berners-Lee, who is still a researcher at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, more commonly known as CSAIL.

NBPEconomic

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