By: Alex Moore
Nowadays, the words “innovation” and “creativity” get thrown around a lot in the business and academic world. But the road to making successful innovations is filled with challenges, opportunities taken or missed, and plenty strikes of luck. Often, people invent machines to face a recurrent problem. These inventions, in turn, spawn other inventions and innovation. These types of inventions have the most impact on society. Here’s looking at three inventions that have changed our lives forever.
The Sewing Machine
Although Elias Howe is credited with the invention of the sewing machine, he actually wasn’t its first inventor. According to Cambridge History, as many as four patents for sewing machine prototypes existed before he invented the machine that would cause a gigantic shift in easing the burden of domestic chores.
Howe’s invention was one born of necessity. He himself suffered from a type of disability that made his life as a physical laborer very challenging. In fact, at one time, this disability forced him to abandon the workforce. To pick up the financial slack, his wife took on odd sewing jobs to help the family make ends meet.
Howe’s challenges with finances, as well as his physical challenges, played a role in motivating him to create a more efficient sewing machine. Actually, initially, he was interested in making a machine that could knit.
Being told that he’d make more money from the invention of the sewing machine, he was persuaded to build the sewing machine. It took him a couple of years to figure out how a sewing machine works or should work, however.
In the beginning, he was only able to sew the seams of clothes. Eventually, he created the machine that earned him the patent number #4750 and allowed him to sew pretty much everything.
The Mill Museum website suggests that the invention of the sewing machine helped women prove that they could operate complex machinery. It also revolutionized the sewing trade and it became the symbol of the industrial working woman.
The Gutenberg Printing Press
Could you imagine having to write a book out by hand? In the 1400s, this was the way to do it, mostly. Making books of any kind required a great deal of patience and labor. While many people consider the Gutenberg press the first printing press, it wasn’t – it was one in a series, according to Live Science. However, it was the first movable type press of any importance.
The Chinese are credited with inventing the precursor to the printing press. More than half a millennium before Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, the Chinese used block prints to print out their works.
In fact, one of the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts, “The Diamond Sutra,” was printed using this method. In some respects, the Gutenberg press built on what the Chinese had already learned about the printing press.
Innovations often arise from the work or ideas of others.
And certainly, the hatching and development of ideas – lots of ideas – are some of the most important first steps the inventor can take, according to Innovation Management. More specifically, a person inventing something must be willing to have a lot of ideas (a few bad ones) to invent something worth having.
So it was with the printing press. This machine, which revolutionized the dissemination of information and of books in mass quantities, was the product of many ideas that had been adapted and improved upon. For example, a modified wine press gave Gutenberg the screws he needed for part machine and linseed oil and soot became the ink.
Quite fascinating, isn’t it?
This great invention that helped people move past the horse and buggy as a means of travel also spawned a great number of creative endeavors. According to a University of Michigan report, the automobile changed the landscapes of America.
The invention of the car necessitated the creation of the highways and byways that crisscross America. This, in turn, also had an impact on how communities got clustered together.
But cars brought more than just communities with them. The concept of the roadside diner and motels arose from the automobile industry, at least indirectly. Tourists traveling about the country needed places to stay and eat. What people now think of as modern businesses like McDonald’s or Holiday Inn really are in some respects the children of the roadside food shacks that began appearing beside the road in the early years of the automobile.
Naturally, these cars also needed a way to refuel, which led to the construction of gas stations and eventually, even truck stops. The way people interact with their communities and their neighbors today is thanks in large part to the invention of the automobile all those years ago.
Studying the innovations of the past gives us several instructive lessons about the nature of creativity. Often, the most creative ideas people have come about because the inventor was struggling with a problem. Other times, the inventor has a great number of ideas to build upon. And the best inventions often spark the need for other inventions and innovations. It’s a circular process that produces a never-ending cycle of new ideas and products.
Don’t let the fear of going over budget, the fear of standing up alone, or the fear of failing step in your way of creating something with the potential to change people’s life. That’s why we are here. To help one another, to create, to explore and leave a statement of our most courageous acts, out most enduring efforts, our most burning passions.
By Alex Moore
About the author
Alex Moore is a professional sewer whose reviews on beginner sewing machines can be found here. Alex believes that to be able to innovate, you must accept and work with what is, welcome error and failure, and risk starting all over again. No matter who you are, or where you are, you can certainly prove to yourself you can do it if you allow yourself to fail enough times.