Some things are just perfect the first time around. Like when you do a messy bun to put your hair up in order to quickly wash your face and then you look in the mirror and you’re like, “wow this is the perfect messy bun.” But, of course, nobody will ever see it and you can never recreate its perfectness.
Okay, maybe not quite like that. We may always be adding new features to our smartphones or making mascara wands that do magical things to your eyelashes and creating razors with more and more blades every time you go to the store, but there are also lots of items we use every day that haven’t really been improved upon since the day they were invented. (Let’s be honest, razors haven’t actually gotten that much better since they added that moisturizing strip).
Here are some inventions that are almost exactly the same as they were the day they were invented because they just work super well.
Let’s begin with the almighty toilet.
The toilet is an amazing invention. Before the modern toilet was invented, people did their business in holes in the ground or chamber pots. If you were rich and fancy and lived in a castle, small rooms with a seat over a deep hole in the castle wall that led to the outside.
Yup, castles were surrounded by human poo! Remember that the next time you watch a Disney princess movie.
The first flushing toilet was invented in 1596, but flushing toilets didn’t really catch on until the design was patented in 1775.
That was when Alexander Cummings, a Scottish inventor, added the S-bend, which allowed the toilet to retain water and keep odors from getting too out of hand.
But since then, toilets haven’t changed much.
Although some toilets have been jazzed up with things like heated seats, built-in bidets, and different flush settings, for the most part, people still use the same original design.
Toilets are an amazing invention because they don’t use electricity, only water and gravity, which means if your power goes out there’s no need to worry that you won’t be able to flush.
You can’t really improve on scissors.
The early known scissors date back 4,000 years, and they looked basically the same as the scissors you’ll find buried deep in your junk drawer today.
The materials and designs may have varied, but the mechanics of scissors work exactly the same as they did 4,000 years ago.
Two blades connected to each other swipe together. It doesn’t get much more simple than that.
We have since made duller scissors for kids, left and right-handed scissors, and even scissors that cut paper into different shapes, but they are basically the same tool as our ancient ancestors used.
They probably couldn’t find them in their ancient junk drawers either.
In terms of effectiveness, you can’t beat a basic mousetrap.
The spring-loaded mousetrap was invented in 1898 and we haven’t changed it since. The basic design, as you probably know from watching cartoons, is this: bait is set under a spring-loaded jaw.
When the mouse takes the bait, it activates the jaw, which swings forward and breaks the mouse’s neck.
Although there are many different types of mousetraps, this basic design is still used commonly and is thought to be the most effective.
It’s thought to be the most humane way to kill a mouse, as it kills the animal instantly.
Other trap designs, such as glue pads, can result in a slow and painful death for the mouse. There are also humane traps that don’t kill a mouse at all, but that leaves you with the question of “now what?” Release the mouse outside and it’s likely to just come right back in.
Although it may be heartbreaking for some (and back-breaking for the mouse), it’s generally agreed that the original 1898 design is the best way to rid a building of mice.
The design lives on today exactly how it was built in the 1800s. The only thing that might be better is a housecat, because then you get cuddles, too.
Barbed wire is a super simple invention that hasn’t changed at all.
Stare out at a field in rural America and you’re likely to see a lot of barbed wire.
Barbed wire was invented in 1874 and it hasn’t changed since.
The design is simple: a wire with a little piece of wire wrapped around it, cut into spikes at the end.
Barbed wire is especially useful on farms: it keeps large animals away from the fence.
Once a horse accidentally backs their butt into a spikey wire, you can bet they aren’t going to do it again.
Barbed wire can also be used to keep people out: it’s hard to climb a fence you can’t grip onto without piercing your hands.
Barbed wire also played an important role in the American West during expansion. It was often hard to keep private land divided upon vast expanses of grazing fields. Plus, the train companies kept complaining that cows were wandering onto the tracks.
Unlike Europe, hedges don’t grow well in the American West and with so much area to cover, wooden or stone fencing was too expensive. Barbed wire was effective and cheap, and ranchers were able to divide up their land and livestock from their neighbors with fewer disputes and train crashes once they put up barbed wire fences.
Since the invention of barbed wire, there have been small changes made.
Shortly after it was patented, a company made it more humane by dulling down the barbs.
But other than that, it’s stayed pretty much the same. So take a second look the next time you see that buff guy at the gym’s armband tattoo until now you had no idea you were gazing upon history.
The doorknob was invented surprisingly late, but it hasn’t changed much since then.
Here’s some good trivia. When do you think we invented doorknobs? They don’t seem very complicated, do they? I’d guess they were the kind of thing that’s been around for hundreds of years. But nope, in fact, doorknobs weren’t patented until 1878!
If you remember from earlier in this post, that’s one hundred years after the flushing toilet.
So for 100 years, you could use the toilet, but there was no guarantee you could use it alone.
Just kidding, people did have door opening and locking mechanisms before doorknobs, but they were usually just a pull and a latch.
The actual doorknob made life a lot easier.
For one thing, it allowed a door to remain closed, but not locked on either side. For another, they allowed people to more securely lock up their doors.
Before doorknobs, most people locked things in boxes inside of rooms rather than locking the room itself, since it was cheaper and easier.
But then, in 1878 someone finally invented the doorknob.
And the design hasn’t changed since then. Doorknobs are so common now, it would seem incredibly strange to encounter a house without them.
Nobody is quite sure who invented the plunger, but they did a good job because it hasn’t ever really changed.
The plunger was probably invented around 1932, although nobody is quite sure because nobody ever took credit for it.
I guess nobody wanted to be known for inventing such a…delicate item.
But since it’s invention, it hasn’t changed.
Well, that’s not entirely true. People have tried to improve on the plunger, but have had little success. You’ve probably seen those newfangled cone-shaped plungers, but they don’t really work any better than the classic suction cup model.
Plungers are great at unclogging toilets and drains.
They work with the S bend in a toilet to create suction which then unclogs the toilet and allows water to flow down.
Not only are plungers great at doing this job, but there have been several recorded instances of a plunger actually saving someone’s life. Paramedics have been known to use plungers to help give CPR.
The paper clip has stayed exactly the same.
Invented in 1899, the paper clip is a staple of office work. (Haha, just a little office supply humor for you).
Its elegant design is instantly recognizable to anyone, even if you’ve never used one in real life, you’ve probably seen a computer icon of one where you attach items to an email.
Before paper clips, people had a hard time attaching papers.
Stacks of papers were attached with either string or a long, straight pin. Neither of which are particularly useful: one was time-consuming and the other left holes in the documents.
But with the invention of the paper clip in 1899, people could keep their papers together and pull them apart without damaging them.
Although people have tried to improve on the paper clip, with a variety of different shapes, none seem to work as well as the simple design we all recognize.
Eyeglasses have been around for a long time, and they haven’t really changed.
Eyeglasses were invented in 1290 in Italy and they haven’t changed all that much since they were first invented.
They are basically a piece of glass in a frame that bends lights so that the wearer can more easily see.
But strangely, it took a really long time for people to figure out how to make glasses that stayed on your face.
For hundreds of years, glasses were meant to be held up by hand, or sometimes tied around your head.
But it wasn’t until the 1700s that someone had the idea to add wires that went over your ears to keep the glasses in place.
Although there have been improvements to glasses, the basic idea remains the same.
Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, which allowed glasses wearers to be able to see out of two different types of lenses at the same time.
The violin hasn’t changed much.
The violin was invented in the 16th century in Italy and its design has stayed pretty much the same.
Actually, most musical instruments haven’t changed very much since their invention.
Look back at an old painting or fresco and you’ll be able to identify most of the instruments.
Small changes were made to the design to account for musical trends.
In the 19th century, the fingerboard was made longer to produce higher pitches and tilted to make the instrument louder for larger theaters.
But the mechanics and design of the instrument remained the same.
Although one could argue that violins have changed a lot.
Since now they are available in electric varieties. But the traditional instrument has remained the same.