First Commercial Airbag (Nov, 1981)

Mercedes’ steering-wheel air bag

A combination of air bag and seat belt protects the driver who opts for Mercedes’ new safety package. The air bag is the only one offered as a production option by any auto maker.

In an impact of over nine mph, a pendulum sensor on the drive-shaft tunnel detects deceleration. A tiny pellet of solid rocket fuel then detonates; as it burns, it produces nitrogen gas that balloons a neoprene bag from the steering wheel. When the driver hits the bag, it deflates slowly. The driver is also restrained by his seat belt.

Recorder Logs Flight (Nov, 1937)

This is the birth of the airplane black box. Doesn’t look all that sturdy, does it?

Recorder Logs Flight
Flight analyzers installed on passenger planes of a leading American air line will record the craft’s altitude during flight, the amount of time a “gyro” or automatic pilot is in use, and the number and time of radio reports to the ground. In case of a crash, the records may help shed light on the cause.

First Air-Conditioned Auto (Nov, 1933)

First Air-Conditioned Auto

With all windows sealed, and a stream of fresh, filtered air at just the right temperature entering through a special duct, the world’s first air-conditioned automobile recently made its debut in a successful test run on New York City streets. It demonstrated a remarkable new system that promises all-the-year-round driving comfort, regardless of summer heat or winter cold. Air is drawn into this system through a concealed inlet, filtered to remove dirt and dust, blown over coils that chill or warm it as required, and admitted through grills to the car’s interior.

New Devices for the Household (Oct, 1934)

Apparently they had cellophane straws in 1934. Yet when my family went to Disney World in the early 80’s they were still using paper straws. I was impressed by them at first: “Cool they make straws out of paper!” then irritated when they got gummed up and stopped working. I remember thinking that Disney must have bought billions of paper straws in the 70’s and were still trying to use them all up even though everyone else had moved on to plastic.

New Devices FOR THE Household

NEW AIR CONDITIONER. No larger than a radiator, the air conditioner shown above, is designed for the home and will be marketed at a price anyone can afford. Chilled water from a small refrigerating unit is used to cool the air. Steam warms it. Diagram, right, explains the system

PACKAGE HANDLE. A number of packages can be carried easily with this handle. Snaps clip to the strings

PORTABLE SHOWER This shower outfit can be attached quickly to any faucet and is held to tile wall by rubber suction cup

HOME CANNER. All the operations of canning are done with the machine shown here. It opens and seals tin cans

Electric Wrist Watch (May, 1952)

Electric Wrist Watch

You never wind the mainspring of an amazing new wrist watch because it has none—it is powered by a tiny electric motor. No larger than a conventional wrist watch, the electric timepiece runs a year on a tiny battery which has less volume than a penny. The battery is designed so it can be replaced easily by a jeweler. Its power output is at such an even rate that the watch is said to keep better time than conventional watches using mainsprings. The subminiature electric motor (its coils are wound with 3000 turns of insulated copper wire only 1/6 the thickness of a human hair) develops 1/75,000,000 horsepower. Not yet in production, the watch was developed by Elgin National Watch Company.

Auto Has Windshield Washer (Mar, 1938)

Auto Has Windshield Washer
CONTROLLED by a small button concealed on the flange of the instrument panel, a new device for spraying two fine streams of water on the windshield to clear away road splash, mud, rain spots or insects is a featured accessory of an automobile produced by a well-known manufacturer. The entire mechanism is vacuum operated, and is said to be faultless in operation.

The complete windshield cleaning unit consists of an automatic pump and a water container mounted on the dash under the hood. Rubber tubes connect the water container to small pipes, installed in the wiper castings at the base of the windshield, from which the water is ejected when desired.

The Original Swiffer (Apr, 1934)

Mop Has Disposable Roll

A DUST mop that uses disposable dusting material has been developed by a Chicago, Ill., manufacturer. The mop features a roll of crepe wadding which is claimed to be superior to paper or cloth. As the outside layer becomes soiled, it can be torn off and a new layer made ready for use. Rolls are inserted in a special holder.

Thrills in Laying Deep-Sea Cable Across the Atlantic (Jan, 1924)

Neal Stephenson wrote a huge travelogue for Wired in 1995 where he followed the progress of a new world girding fiber optic network being constructed. Along the way explores every aspect of the process and history behind laying communications cables underwater. It is a wonderfully interesting read and I highly recommend it.

Thrills in Laying Deep-Sea Cable Across the Atlantic

WHILE, 57 years ago the world noted the fact that the steamship “Great Eastern” had completed its memorable work of connecting America with Europe by the first successful Atlantic telegraphic cable, the recent landing on the south shore of Long Island of a new line of communication attracted little attention.

Nevertheless, this latest undertaking marked the closer binding together of the New World and the Old, for, despite the advent of the wireless and the establish-ment of powerful radio stations, which are capable of spanning vast terrestrial distances, the fact remains that this newer method of electrical intercourse has not scrapped the older order of long-range telegraphy.

Traffic over the submarine cables linking North America with Europe has increased fourfold in the last decade, and yet, until recently, nothing has been done within that period to add to these undersea nerves of communication. The cost of the new cable, representing the present height of scientific knowledge concerning such things, has been put at $15,000,000; and to get it properly in place on the sea bed has required the service of specially constructed craft manned largely by a crew trained for that hazardous and extremely exacting work.

Check-Out Scanners and UPCs (Feb, 1978)

Apparently in 1978 time didn’t consider gypped to be an ethnic slur.

Checking Out Tomorrow

Americans spend more than $153 billion a year on food and other purchases in supermarkets and grocery stores, and have an abiding suspicion that they are getting gypped at the check-out counter. Their mistrust should be considerably allayed, and the waiting lines shortened, by the ever growing number of computers that are taking over the tally.

At a computer-equipped check-out line, all the clerk has to do is pass each item over a Cyclopean eye linked to a cash register and a scale. In a twinkling, the eye “reads” the striped UPC (Universal Product Code) symbol, by which the computer system identities the product, brand name and other pertinent information about the item. (The store manager can program into the computer price changes for specials or daily fluctuations.) Then the computer prints out both the name of the item (say, one 4-oz. can of sliced French beans) and the price on the receipt list.

New Thermometer Boasts Dial-Type Scale (May, 1938)

Thermometer Boasts Dial-Type Scale

A new type of laboratory thermometer, provided with a dial-and-pointer scale encased in stainless steel and mounted atop an eight-inch stainless steel stem, has been developed by a well known manufacturer in Newark, N. J. The unit is said to be the first dial-type thermometer with an all-metal temperature element sufficiently accurate for scientific use, accuracy of 1/2 of 1% over the entire scale being guaranteed by the manufacturer.