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20 things that were invented much earlier than you probably thought



Some products, especially those that use technology, seem like they were invented recently.

Batteries and Fig Newtons have been around for over 200 years.
Batteries and Fig Newtons have been around for over 200 years.
  • However, many pieces of today’s technology have been in development for decades.
  • Vaccines seem like a relatively new medical innovation, but they have actually been around for over 200 years.

Though modern science and medicine have made great advancements in recent decades, many of their predecessors date back far earlier.

Vaccines , for example, have been around for hundreds of years the first one was created to treat smallpox. Today, vaccines help control a number of infectious diseases, and have become the single greatest tool in eradicating them.

Take a look at all the products that were invented earlier than you’d think.

Chris Weller contributed to a previous version of this post.

Vaccines were first developed in 1796 by Edward Jenner, who was searching for a way to treat smallpox.

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Edward Jenner introduced the first vaccine before the turn of the 19th centurya rudimentary version of the cowpox virus to eliminate smallpox.

Amilkmaid named Sarah Nelmes approached Jenner with several cowpox lesions on her hand. Jenner drew fluid fromthe lesions, then scratched itinto the skin of an 8-year-old boy, his first test subject.

Though the boy came down with a fever initially, his illness quickly abated. When Jenner later introduced the smallpox virus, the boy was immune.

The first battery was invented in 1800 by Alessandro Volta.

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Volta initially called the device an “artificial electric organ,” in response to the prevailing theory at the time that animal tissue was necessary for conductivity.

Instead, he used stacked metal disks and brine-soaked rags. They conducted electricity. The battery was born.

The microphone was invented in 1876. German clerk, Emile Berliner, built on Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone invention.

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Shortly after Alexander Graham Bell unveiled his newly invented telephone, German clerk Emile Berliner realized the device’s transmitter was fairly weak.

So, with only a rudimentary knowledge of electricity, Berliner set to work on a so-called loose-contact transmitter, which amplified the noise that came from Bell’s existing model.

Bell’s company, the American Bell Telephone Company, was so impressed with Berliner’s work that it hired him as an assistant in its lab.

Josephine Garis Cochran invented the dishwasher in 1886.

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A few days after Christmas in 1886,Josephine Garis Cochran submitted arequest to the US Patent Office.

Cochran went on to found a manufacturing company for her invention, which eventually became KitchenAid.

Artificial eye manufacturer F.A. Mueller created the first contact lenses in 1887.

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In a weird transition from ordinary eyeglasses, the contact lenses of the late 19th century were made entirely of glass and meant to cover a person’s whole eye.

They were initially called “scleral lenses,” referring to the white of the eye.

Fig Newtons were first sold in 1891. A cookie maker from Ohio, Charles M. Roser, crafted their recipe and the tech to bake them.

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Roser sold his recipe to Kennedy Biscuit Works , which would later become Nabisco.

The mass production of Fig Newtons became possible through a machine that used two funnels: the inner funnel that supplied jam and the outer funnel that pumped out the dough. Roser would later patent it.

New York inventor Jesse Reno designed the first escalator in 1892.

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Reno’s first model was installed at the Old Iron Pier at Coney Island as a ride. The invention quickly gained favor among the Industrial Revolution’s miners and factory workers, who could spare their legs the long journey to work.

Jell-O was created by Pearle Bixby Wait, a carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer, in 1897.

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AP Photo/Dan Goodman

In reality, gelatin itself has been around since the 15th century, but the traditional Jell-O we know and love today was created at the dawn of the 20th century.

In 1899, Wait sold Jell-O to the Genesee Pure Food Company, which purchased the product due to its similar name with a product the company already owned, Grain-O. By 1902, the Genesee Pure Food Company was marketing Jell-O as “America’s Most Famous Dessert,” and had introduced dozens of new flavors.

Nabisco introduced Triscuits over a century ago, in 1903.

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Since the wheat crackers were baked near Niagara Falls, Nabisco advertised them as being ” baked by electricity .” There’s even a theory that electricity is where Triscuits get their name the “tric” in electricity.

The first Oreo was created in 1912 inside a Nabisco factory in New York City.

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According to Gizmodo , Oreos were released as part of a trio of “highest class biscuits” that included Mother Goose Biscuit and Veronese Biscuits. However, neither of the other two biscuits remain today and Oreos have only grown in popularity .

The first drone was called the Ruston Proctor Aerial Target, and was launched in 1917.

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REUTERS/Josh Smith

The Ruston Proctor Aerial Target was a radio-controlled pilotless airplane, and was based on technology from the inventor Nikola Tesla.

The Aerial Target was meant to act as a flying bomb that could be piloted into enemies. However, it was never used in a combat.

Converse sneakers received their All-Star name in 1917.

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All-Stars, Converse, Chuck Taylors whatever you know them by originally started asthe shoe for basketball players, though they’re better known now as casual sneakers.

Cheesy spread Velveeta was invented by Emil Frey of the Monroe Cheese Company in 1918.

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At the time of its invention, it wasn’t supposed to even be its own product. Velveeta was originally created to stick in the cracks of broken cheese wheels.

Kraft purchased Velveeta in 1927 and marketed it as a healthier version of cheese, and the rest is history. Velveeta can now be found in cheesy bites,macaroni and cheese, and cheesy skillets, as well as in its original form.

A. H. Grebe, a radio manufacturer from New York, created the first car radio in 1919.

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Grebe tested out an early version of a car radio that would later come to define a budding car culture of the 1920s.

Grebe’s set up included the vacuum tube in the backseat, a small motor to power the vacuum tube, and a separate battery to power the radio itself.

R. Stanton Avery invented what would become stickers in 1935.

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According to The New York Times , Avery invented a machine to make self-adhesive labels with a $100 investment from his future wife Dorothy Durfee, who was a teacher.

Avery started a company in 1935 called Kum Kleen Products, but renamed it to Avery Adhesives in 1936. The brand still lives on today as Avery Dennison .

The first artificial heart was invented in 1961 by Paul Winchell and Dr. Henry Heimlich.

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With help from Dr. Henry Heimlich, comedian and ventriloquist Paul Winchell filed his patent for the world’s first artificial heart in 1961.

The device included a small battery pack worn outside the body that controlled the pumping mechanism within.

While Winchell’s design was accepted two years later, it wouldn’t be until 1982 that the invention would see the first successful implantation in a human.

The internet was actually created as early as 1969.

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Shortly before midnight on October 29, 1969, engineers from UCLA sent Stanford Research Institute the word “LOG” one letter at a time over anewly formed network called ARPANET.

It was a primitive system, but the setup held the core ingredients that would eventually create the internet as we know it.

The first cell phone was invented by Motorola researcher Martin Cooper in 1973.

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The prototype offered just 30 seconds of call time and required 10 hours to charge not to mention, it weighed almost 2.5 pounds.

Though GPS was made available to consumers relatively recently, it has been around since 1978.

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Known as Navstar 1, the first satellite to reach orbit did so in 1978. It has long since been taken out of orbit, but it helped usher in a new era of interconnectedness around the world.

Thanks to the 1978 launch, we can now yell at our phones for being too pushy with driving directions.

MP3 players were created by British inventor, Kane Kramer, in 1979.

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Two decades before Apple unveiled the iPod, Kramer filed a patent for his digital audio music player, which he called the IXI.

The device was roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes, featured a four-button control system, and could hold about three and a half minutes of music.

“In a matter of seconds,” the filing read, “a live performance at Carnegie Hall can be recorded and available in shops all over the world.


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Paypal to allow users to buy, hold and sell four cryptocurrencies




Bitcoin is up $400 to $12,296 today. Part of the reason is that Paypal hass received a conditional bitlicence from the New York State Department of Financial Services and will launch a service for users to be able to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency.
In the release the company said it “signaled its plans to significantly increase cryptocurrency’s utility by making it available as a funding source for purchases at its 26 million merchants worldwide.”
The company is introducing the ability to buy, hold and sell select cryptocurrencies, initially featuring Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin, directly within the PayPal digital wallet. The service will be available to PayPal account holders in the U.S. in the coming weeks.
“The shift to digital forms of currencies is inevitable, bringing with it clear advantages in terms of financial inclusion and access; efficiency, speed and resilience of the payments system; and the ability for governments to disburse funds to citizens quickly,” said Dan Schulman, president and CEO, PayPal.
“Our global reach, digital payments expertise, two-sided network, and rigorous security and compliance controls provide us with the opportunity, and the responsibility, to help facilitate the understanding, redemption and interoperability of these new instruments of exchange. We are eager to work with central banks and regulators around the world to offer our support, and to meaningfully contribute to shaping the role that digital currencies will play in the future of global finance and commerce.”

This is great news for crypto but I’m told it shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected In June, there was a report that Paypal was working on direct crypto sales.


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Nokia awarded contract to build 4G network on the moon




Nokia has been awarded a contract to establish a 4G network on the moon. The contract is one of several that NASA is awarding to companies as it plans a return to the moon.

The $14.1 million contract was given to Nokia’s US subsidiary and is a small part of the $370 million total awarded to companies such as SpaceX. The cellular service will allow astronauts, rovers, lunar landers, and habitats to communicate with one another according to Jim Reuter, the Associate Administrator for NASA’s Space.

Nokia Logo

The 4G network that Nokia will build will be miles superior to the form of communication that was used during the early missions to the moon.

This is not Nokia’s first attempt to launch an LTE network on the moon. It planned to do so in 2018 in collaboration with PTScientists, a German space firm, and Vodafone UK to launch an LTE network at the site of the Apollo 17 landing but the plan never came to fruition.


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Stripe acquires Nigeria’s Paystack for $200M+ to expand into the African continent




When Stripe  announced earlier this year that it had picked up another $600 million in funding, it said one big reason for the funding was to expand its API-based payments services into more geographies. Today the company is coming good on that plan in the form of some M&A.

Stripe is acquiring Paystack, a startup out of Lagos, Nigeria that, like Stripe, provides a quick way to integrate payments services into an online or offline transaction by way of an API. (We and others have referred to it in the past as “the Stripe of Africa.”)

Paystack  currently has around 60,000 customers, including small businesses, larger corporates, fintechs, educational institutions and online betting companies, and the plan will be for it to continue operating independently, the companies said.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed, but sources close to it confirm that it’s over $200 million. That makes this the biggest startup acquisition to date to come out of Nigeria, as well as Stripe’s biggest acquisition to date anywhere. (Sendwave, acquired by WorldRemit in a $500 million deal in August, is based out of Kenya.)

It’s also a notable shift in Stripe’s strategy as it continues to mature: Typically, it has only acquired smaller companies to expand its technology stack, rather than its global footprint.

The deal underscores two interesting points about Stripe, now valued at $36 billion and regularly tipped as an IPO candidate. (Note: It has never commented on those plans up to now.) First is how it is doubling down on geographic expansion: Even before this news, it had added 17 countries to its platform in the last 18 months, along with progressive feature expansion. And second is how Stripe is putting a bet on the emerging markets of Africa specifically in the future of its own growth.

“There is enormous opportunity,” said Patrick Collison, Stripe’s co-founder and CEO, in an interview with TechCrunch. “In absolute numbers, Africa may be smaller right now than other regions, but online commerce will grow about 30% every year. And even with wider global declines, online shoppers are growing twice as fast. Stripe thinks on a longer time horizon than others because we are an infrastructure company. We are thinking of what the world will look like in 2040-2050.”

For Paystack, the deal will give the company a lot more fuel (that is, investment) to build out further in Nigeria and expand to other markets, CEO Shola Akinlade said in an interview.

“Paystack was not for sale when Stripe approached us,” said Akinlade, who co-founded the company with Ezra Olubi (who is the CTO). “For us, it’s about the mission. I’m driven by the mission to accelerate payments on the continent, and I am convinced that Stripe will help us get there faster. It is a very natural move.”

Paystack had been on Stripe’s radar for some time prior to acquiring it. Like its U.S. counterpart, the Nigerian startup went through Y Combinator — that was in 2016, and it was actually the first-ever startup out of Nigeria to get into the world-famous incubator. Then, in 2018, Stripe led an $8 million funding round for Paystack, with others participating, including Visa and Tencent. (And for the record, Akinlade said that Visa and Tencent had not approached it for acquisition. Both have been regular investors in startups on the continent.)

In the last several years, Stripe has made a number of investments into startups building technology or businesses in areas where Stripe has yet to move. This year, those investments have included backing an investment in universal checkout service Fast, and backing the Philippines-based payment platform PayMongo.

Collison said that while acquiring Paystack after investing in it was a big move for the company, people also shouldn’t read too much into it in terms of Stripe’s bigger acquisition policy.

“When we invest in startups we’re not trying to tie them up with complicated strategic investments,” Collison said. “We try to understand the broader ecosystem, and keep our eyes pointed outwards and see where we can help.”

That is to say, there are no plans to acquire other regional companies or other operations simply to expand Stripe’s footprint, with the interest in Paystack being about how well they’d built the company, not just where they are located.

“A lot of companies have been, let’s say, heavily influenced by Stripe,” Collison said, raising his eyebrows a little. “But with Paystack, clearly they’ve put a lot of original thinking into how to do things better. There are some details of Stripe that we consider mistakes, but we can see that Paystack ‘gets it,’ it’s clear from the site and from the product sensibilities, and that has nothing to do with them being in Africa or African.”

Stripe, with its business firmly in the world of digital transactions, already has a strong line in the detection and prevention of fraud and other financial crimes. It has developed an extensive platform of fraud protection tools, but even with that, incidents can slip through the cracks. Just last month, Stripe was ordered to pay $120,000 in a case in Massachusetts after failing to protect users in a $15 million cryptocurrency scam.

Now, bringing on a business from Nigeria could give the company a different kind of risk exposure. Nigeria is the biggest economy in Africa, but it is also one of the more corrupt on the continent, according to research from Transparency International.

And related to that, it also has a very contentious approach to law and order. Nigeria has been embroiled in protests in the last week with demonstrators calling for the disbanding of the country’s Special Anti-Robbery Squad, after multiple accusations of brutality, including extrajudicial killings, extortion and torture. In fact, Stripe and Paystack postponed the original announcement in part because of the current situation in the country.

But while those troubles continue to be worked through (and hopefully eventually resolved, by way of government reform in response to demonstrators’ demands), Paystack’s acquisition is a notable foil to those themes. It points to how talented people in the region are identifying problems in the market and building technology to help fix them, as a way of improving how people can transact, and in turn, economic outcomes more generally.

The company got its start back when Akinlade, for fun (!) built a quick way of integrating a card transaction into a web page, and it was the simplicity of how it worked that spurred him and his co-founder to think of how to develop that into something others could use. That became the germination of the idea that eventually landed them at YC and in the scope of Stripe.

“We’re still very early in the Paystack payments ecosystem, which is super broken,” said Akinlade. The company today provides a payments API, and it makes revenue every time a transaction is made using it. He wouldn’t talk about what else is on Paystack’s radar, but when you consider Stripe’s own product trajectory as a template, there is a wide range of accounting, fraud, card, cash advance and other services to meet business needs that could be built around that to expand the business. “Most of what we will be building in Africa has not been built yet.”

Last month, at Disrupt, we interviewed another successful entrepreneur in the country, Tunde Kehinde, who wisely noted that more exits of promising startups — either by going public or getting acquired — will help lift up the whole ecosystem. In that regard, Stripe’s move is a vote of confidence not just for the potential of the region, but for those putting in the efforts to build tech and continue improving outcomes for everyone.


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