Important People In History

Six Important People in History

There are six important people in history whose contributions make much of what you do in your everyday life possible, or at least very convenient. An expert in trivia could probably not name them, one or two perhaps, but very likely not all six.

These six important people in history are John Vaaler, Gideon Sundback, Ladislas Biro, his brother Georg Biro, Konrad Zuse, and Douglas Engelbart. Just what did they do that has a very great impact on your life? Maybe not as much of an impact as Adolph Hitler, Eli Whitney, Wilbur and Orville Wright, or Thomas Jefferson, may have made, but an impact nevertheless.

The Norwegian Clipper - Let's start with Johan Vaaler. Johan Vaaler, a Norwegian, was quite an accomplished person, having an in depth knowledge of mathematics, science and electronics, though electronics at the time was still in its infancy. His invention, so useful to us today, had nothing to do with science or electronics, but could be thought of as an exercise in geometry. Vaaler bent a piece of wire into a certain shape with the two ends twisted such as to form two members or hoops that lay side by side but in opposing directions. In 1899 Vaaler patented this little creation, the paper clip.

Zip It - We don't use paper clips every day, but certainly appreciate their usefulness. Something most of us do use every day, often more than once, was invented by a second of our most important people in history, a Swede by the name of Gideon Sundback. Sundback took a fastener, which was not terribly useful or reliable, but contained the seed of what he thought was a workable idea, that of interlocking teeth. Originally patented in 1913 as a "hookless fastener" and later refined and called a "separable fastener" Sundback's invention is known to all of us today as the zipper.

From Biro To Bic - Now we come to the two brothers, Ladislas and Georg Biro. Like Sundback, they took an invention which really didn't work very well, made some   fundamental changes, and eventually patented something we use most every day, and have used since the middle of the last century. Fed up with constantly having to clean fountain pens, clean up smudges, and being unable to write clearly and cleanly with ink on newsprint, Ladislas and Biro took it upon themselves to design a better fountain pen. After several partial successes, and not a few failures, they eventually patented a device which still had a problem in that it would only work when held vertically. A few more innovations such as incorporating a ball in place of a pen tip, and taking advantage of the principal of capillary action instead of that of gravity, they eventually were able to sell manufacturing rights to the Eberhard Faber Company, following World War II, and the ball point pen was born.

The First Programmer? - The next gentleman on the list, Konrad Zuse, was a true pioneer, following in the footsteps of Charles Babbage, known for his invention of the mechanical calculator. Zuse worked with the ideas of Babbage, improving upon them, and developing first his own version of the mechanical calculator, later developing a working electromechanical calculator, and eventually inventing the first, all electronic, fully programmable computer.

The Tail Of  Englebart - While Douglas Englebart did not invent the computer, he frequently used them, and invented or created a number of useful applications , especially in the area of interactive devices, that would make using computers easier and more efficient. His invention, one that most of us use today, was originally a wooden box with two metal wheels and a long, long tail, the device we know and love as the computer mouse.