Sharing History: Firsts

If you read the Technology and Science timeline in my book Making History, you will note how many times the word “first” is stated during the 1930s, 40s and 50s, especially for inventions that changed people’s daily lives. Frozen foods, synthetic rubber, air conditioning, screw-on bottle caps, nylon, water fluoridation, masking tape, weather satellites, microwave ovens, radar, scuba gear, tape recorders, Xerox copiers, the Univac computer, contact lens, electric blankets, transistor radios, burglar alarms, DDT and plastic are just a few of the new-fangled products introduced to Americans during these decades.

A participant in one of my classes, “Josie,” shared about introducing microwave ovens to the public in the early 1950s. Josie worked as a secretary, not a scientist, but she was an attractive young blond so she was asked to help demonstrate the easiness and efficiency of the microwave oven at a Home Show. At first she was delighted – it was a welcome break from typing and filing, and seemed quite glamorous to the 22-year-old. “But it became old fast,” Josie read. “My job was to boil water in a glass, alternating with cooking a hot dog, over and over again – I must have cooked hundreds of hot dogs and boiled hundreds of glasses of water – all the while smiling and repeating my patter, which was only one line: “The microwave makes cooking so easy anyone can do it!” The only real direction I got was to “look pretty” and I guess I did because they kept me there three days.”

How about you? Whatever your work, what technological advancements helped you to do it better? Compare your daily life in 1937, or 1967, or 1997, with your daily work today. What has changed? How are you more efficient? What inventions or new ideas came along during your working life that improved the quality of your work, or made it easier?

If you’d care to share a story about this topic, please leave a comment here. At the end of each month I’ll gather up the Sharing History comments and pick one at random from a drawing, and send the winner of the drawing my e-book: your choice of a Making History Workbook.

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