First Versions – Original inventions of modern technology

First Versions – Original inventions of modern technology

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You could say that we’ve always had a vision of the future – where life is made as easy as possible. We want machines that move us around, cupboards that keep food cold, music we can take anywhere (and be the only ones listening to it) and faster ways to talk to each other when far apart. We, as a human race, identified the need to solve a whole bunch of problems in the early days, and gave it our best shot to meet these needs with various contraptions and apparatuses. The problem was however, we didn’t have the technology to invent the best and most elegant solutions!

We have put together a list of original inventions of modern technology that we use today. Some are outright ridiculous, however they were on the right track!

1. 1920s RouteFinder – before GPS

Invented in the 1920′s, this was the world’s first attempt at a portable navigation system. Called Plus Fours Routefinder, this little invention was designed to be worn on your wrist, and the “maps” were printed on little wooden rollers which you would turn manually as you drove along.  Imagine trying to get directions off this thing!


Ten years later in 1930, the Iter Avto was invented, the world’s first automobile navigator. The map passes the screen at a pace that is measured depending on the speed of the car.  The screen manually scrolls paper maps that are attached to a cable that’s similar to a modern mechanical speedometer. If a motorist made a turn, he would have to physically change the map and re-tune it to his current location.


Today, we have the technology of satellites and digital screens to make the navigation systems we use today much more user friendly.

2. FaceTime and Skype before the Mobile Phone and the internet

The ability to make a video call was something people of dreamed about having once the telephone was invented in 1878 by  Alexander Graham Bell.

This photograph comes from a magazine article published in 1956. The article describe the future of phones  – that one day there would be audio/video data compression and voice recognition as well as a touchtone, colour videophone that you can watch TV on!


Here are some early versions of Skype! Bell Labs developed the Picturephone that debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair. Definitely not the most elegant of designs, but they had very limited technology!




3. The first ‘eBook’ – before the Kindle and eBook we know today

“The Fiske Reading Machine will make books obsolete!” – they said back then. This contraption was invented to do away with bulky books. Below is a new’s article describing that ‘reading machine’, that was written in The Miami News, March 30, 1926:

NEW YORK, March 30 — (AP) — A “reading machine” that folds into the size of a fountain pen and is designed to do away with bulky books has been invented by Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske, retired, the Herald-Tribune says today.

Admiral Fiske has completed a working model of the invention, which he describes as likely to render obsolete printing presses and typesetting machines and to revolutionize the publishing business. The device is also expected to make eyeglasses unnecessary for many readers who now wear them.

The invention, which Admiral Fiske calls the “Fiske reading machine,” consists of an apparatus, not unlike a lorgnette [eyeglasses with a handle], on which are mounted a magnifying lens for one eye, a shield for the other and a rack to hold the reading matter.

The reading matter for use with the machine is produced directly from typewritten manuscript by photography and is so microscoptic as to be undecipherable with the naked eye. The admiral has had the first volume of Mark Twain’s “Innocents Abroad,” a book of 93,000 words, prepared as an example, and it appears as a 13-page pamphlet three and three-quarters by five and three-quarters inches in size.

Well, we are glad that the kindle was invented. That contraption looks like it would give a lot of headaches!


4. Miniature pigeon camera –  Before Google Earth!

In 1908, Dr. Julius Neubronner patented a miniature pigeon camera, activated by a timing mechanism. The invention brought him international notability after he presented it at international fair in Dresden, Frankfurt and Paris in 1909–1911. Spectators in Dresden could watch the arrival of the camera-equipped carrier pigeons, and the photos were immediately developed and turned into postcards which could be purchased.


5. Television glasses

Ok, television glasses never actually became a thing, but because we have such a great collection of whacky vintage original inventions, we thought we’d throw it in for entertainment value. That’s not saying they can’t be invented today! Maybe one of our junior inventors can see a way to make this a possibility!


Want to read more crazy invention facts? Read our post on 10 crazy inventor facts

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