Top 10 Most Bizarre and Surprising Reasons Behind Everyday Inventions

Tags: #inventions ,   #AirConditioning ,   #CocaCola ,   #Bicycle ,   #Braille

Dan N. Scarborough

Dan N. Scarborough

Last updated:  2022-12-01 18:00:09

If you've watched a life hack video on YouTube, you'll know that people always develop unique new methods to accomplish things. Sometimes that means adapting an existing tool or object to a new purpose that makes it even better. Of course, this adaptability is nothing new. Sometimes something designed for one reason is better suited for something else. With that in mind, let's look at the surprising reasons why these top ten rather ordinary products were invented.

10. Air Conditioning

From cooling the ink to cooling the head

We can all understand how essential air conditioning is on a hot summer day. Its extensive use has been associated with a significant decrease in heat-related mortality during the previous 60 years. Therefore, it is a significant invention for which many people are grateful. And to think it was created to do nothing more than speed up the drying process of ink!

Willis Carrier's original design, created in 1902, was intended to regulate humidity in a Brooklyn printing business as the ink blotted and leaked. The temperature was reduced by Carrier's cooling system, allowing the ink to dry quickly and cleanly. Carrier felt he had a good idea and expanded it beyond the print shop and drying ink. But who knows whether or when he would have finalized his invention if it hadn't been for that printing shop?

9. Candy Land

The popular board game was invented to ease the loneliness

Candy Land is one of the board games that, like Monopoly and Scrabble, appears to have been around for a long time. And while it seems to be a fun, lighthearted game for children, the underlying tale behind it is far more tragic than its cheerful themes suggest. Candy Land was created to divert and amuse children in polio hospitals.

Eleanor Abbot, the inventor, had the disease herself and understood how lonely children in polio wards were. The game was released in 1949, and Abbot spent practically all her income on school supplies and other equipment for underprivileged children. So far, more than 50 million units have been sold.

8. Bicycles

The great famine caused the invention of the bicycle

The bicycle has been so long among us that we don't even question its origins. To comprehend the history of the bicycle, you should first return to July 15th, 1815, when Mount Tambora erupted in Indonesia. Because of the tremendous amount of debris in the atmosphere, this discharge resulted in the "Year Without a Summer" in 1816. It reduced global temperatures by up to five degrees.

During the Year Without a Summer, crops withered, and people were starving. This had a significant impact on horses throughout Europe as well. Back then, the horse was the primary form of transportation. Unfortunately, many succumbed to starvation, with others consumed by their masters. This prompted Baron Karl Von Drais to develop his running machine, a forerunner to the bicycle that lacked pedals. It could be used to transport people instead of horses, and it would never go hungry.

7. Money

Money was used for keeping records of the people's debt

Before anyone put portraits on coins and paper, people traded all types of products and services. In reality, money was developed to account for people's debts. Money is around the same age as society, which makes sense. The concept that humanity had a barter system before money is not supported by anthropological evidence. How would you bargain with someone who didn't want a chicken if you were a chicken farmer and all you had were chickens? What if everyone already had a chicken? Thus, a different method of the transaction was required. Anthropologists have never identified a historical record of such barter communities. Hence, money systems based on debt have always existed.

Old legal papers assigned valuations to everything, including limbs lost in battle. If something was lost or destroyed, it had a monetary value attached to it. Money was invented to account for what you needed to pay someone appropriately and concisely. Because the worth of something in a transaction was set and recognized, no one could argue about it. 

6. Roller Coasters

Fighting against Satan using the railways

Rollercoasters were not developed with screams and panic in mind, despite being faster and more complicated than before. Quite the contrary, in fact. The rollercoaster was developed by LaMarcus Adna Thompson to keep you on track and away from sinful temptations like drinking and gambling.

Thompson, a devoted Christian, feared the world was going to hell in a handbasket in 1884 in Indiana. He considered brothels and saloons wicked and felt compelled to provide the world with pure entertainment. After a voyage to a coal mining village, he was motivated by those coal mining cars to construct a roller coaster. He called it the Switchback Gravity Railway on Coney Island, and the rest is history.

5. The Webcam

Another great invention developed thanks to coffee

Cameras are standard these days, and we assume that any smartphone or laptop will include one. However, once upon a time, the webcam concept was quite original. Even in the early days of the internet, video chat was a possibility. Still, it was never the original purpose of the camera.

Back in 1991, no one had access to the internet at home. Researchers at Cambridge University shared a single coffee pot, which quickly ran dry. Therefore, people frequently found themselves smelling a freshly made pot only to arrive and find it all gone. So one of the researchers installed a camera on the pot and assigned it its own computer to monitor it. People could then see if there was coffee or not. Thus, the first webcam in history was born as a coffee monitoring system.

4. Candy Canes

That's one way to keep the choir boys quiet

The candy has been there for over 300 years, contributing to the mystery surrounding its origins. Apparently, no one bothered to have any record about it, though. No one knows where the candy came from, but some versions seem more plausible than others. According to one of them, the candy was created not so much as a Christmas tree adornment as it was to keep choir boys quiet and distracted during service.

However, the original canes were neither curved nor minty. Instead, they were little more than sugar sticks. It was reported that around 1670, the choirmaster of Cologne Cathedral in Germany gave them their trademark bent and distributed them to children. A change to the story states that only the children in the choir were hyperactive.

3. Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk was once a medicine elixir

While that may not seem like the most nourishing option, choco milk isn't without historical precedent. Surprisingly, it was brought to the world as medicine. Hans Sloane visited Jamaica in 1687 and stayed for over a year. He wrote about the many plants he tried, including cocoa, which the British had yet to encounter. Sloane's experience was terrible; he supposedly despised a local beverage consisting of chocolate and water. However, it turned out quite good when he tinkered with the recipe and added milk and sugar.

Sloane naturally advertised his new concoction as medicine, as it appears that every beverage invented before 1980 was sold in this manner by someone. (More on that later.) It's worth mentioning that Sloane did not originate this; Jamaicans cooked it with milk as well; it just appears that Sloane never tried it. However, he popularized it in Europe and marketed it with dubious therapeutic claims. 

2. Braille

Braille saved lives in multiple ways

Braille revolutionized the world for the blind and weak-sighted. While inventor Louis Braille deserves a lot of credit for it, the method that bears his name wasn't actually his creation. To find the truth, we must journey back in time to Charles Barbier, a soldier in Napoleon's army. Braille was inspired by Barbier's night writing method, which was not intended to assist the blind in reading. Instead, it was to allow soldiers to communicate without being shot.

Before Barbier, soldiers in combat had to use lantern lights to read communications at night. You don't have to be a brilliant tactician to realize that lighting a lantern on a battlefield at night is a bad idea. Barbier invented a method for soldiers to read messages without becoming targets, devising a grid system that troops could learn. Sections of the grid represented specific letters, so the reader knew what letter it represented if a raised dot was felt in a specific place. This method could convey an entire message without requiring anyone to be shot by torchlight.

1. Coca-Cola

Curing the morphine addiction by using cocaine

Coca-Cola once included cocaine in its recipe - a fairly well-known story. Maybe the people at the time didn't know or didn't care that it was made with it. After all, cocaine was a widespread prescription for many years and was also found in various other items. However, Coca-Cola was more than simply a drink that could get you high as a kite. It was made for a reason, and that reason was medical. Coca-Cola was meant to help you wean yourself off morphine.

John Pemberton was the doctor who created Coca-Cola and had a morphine addiction. Pemberton was a Confederate soldier and must have suffered some injuries. He started taking morphine to relieve his pain but quickly discovered that the morphine had become the problem on its own. Consequently, he invented French Wine Coca to help wean himself off morphine. This sophisticated drink had wine, cocaine, and kola nuts. He sold it with the idea that it could cure almost anything. Pemberton quit the wine business when Atlanta became a dry county in 1886 and advertised his new beverage as a "temperance drink." The same excellent cocaine flavor, but no alcohol. And he has given it the name Coca-Cola.

Interestingly enough, some everyday items we take for granted were initially designed for something completely different. From air conditioning to Coca-Cola, the famous inventions went through the repurpose into the service we know them for. However, it is unclear whether we'll be using all those useful contraptions if they weren't invented the way they were. 

What's your favorite item that started as something completely different? Which items would you add to the list?

Cover photo: FrankPfeifferPixabay 


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