The Great Equalizer

For decades, starting in 1933, Guyatone was a moderately successful Japanese manufacturer of electric guitars and various guitar paraphernalia. Their biggest seller was the Volume Box: an effects pedal that allowed electric-guitar players to change the volume of their instrument on stage -since the sound man never got it right. The Volume Box was an oblong metal box with a …

Pigtails, Duckbills and Roasted Guinea Pigs

The invention of the duckbill speculum in 1845 revolutionized gynaecology. Up until then, doctors had been using the bills of actual ducks (usually dead ones). American doctor and animal rights activist J. Marion Sims felt there had to be a better way and set out to find it. After numerous experiments on volunteers (South Carolina slaves volunteered by their owners, …

The INTIEs of Project Alpha

After the First Consumerism Crisis and the utter failure of the HK 4250G Multi Blower in the early Seventies, Philips was getting desperate. Their engineers had run out of ideas and so had management. Out of good ideas, anyway. But sometimes bad ideas are better than none, so when one of the suits in the upper echelons of Philips proposed …

Reinventing the Wheel

The device we call a labeller or label maker today, was initially presented to the Swiss patent office in Bern as a ‘travel typewriter’ -and variations of this name in French, German, Italian and Rhaeto-Romance- from 1961 to 1963. Its inventor, Giancarlo di Saronno Originale, was a creative genius, but not a very practical one. And it was precisely the …

Right Here, Right Now, Back Then in 1977

When Instagram was founded, back in 1977, the company seemed destined for failure. Mainly because founder John ‘Clawless Koala’ Jonstontownson (nicknamed so because he once fought a clawless koala*) liked to do things differently. Idiotically, really. But don’t blame John Jonstontownson. Remember, he was a child of his era and many things went topsy-turvy in the 1970s: ugly became the …

Walkie-Talkie Etymology

Although the origin of the word ‘walkie-talkie’ seems straightforward enough, there’s still much debate amongst etymologists. According to one source (the one you’re currently reading) the story goes as follows. It all began in the 1890s, with the first moving pictures. At the time, these were called walkies, as most early films involved people or animals walking. People required little …