Any fan of Survivor knows you can actually survive without a lot of what we might call comfort items. These would be things like a bed, running water and a toilet. Of course, on Survivor, you need only to be voted off the island to return to all those comforts. What could you live without? There are some items whose origin story is a bit murky. Things like the nail and the wheel just seemed to appear. There wasn’t someone called Alfred Nail or Stanley Wheel who can lay claim to those inventions and yet where would we be without nails and wheels? There are many inventions that we can trace a direct line back into history and uncover the origin story. It’s always good to know where things come from if for no other reason than showing off at your next cocktail party.

The Light Bulb

The credit for who invented the light bulb often goes to Thomas Edison. However, if we’re being honest it should really be who invented the better light bulb. Before Edison plugged in his incandescent lamp, there were at least 22 previous illuminating incarnations of the light bulb. What Edison did was improve on the design and the distribution capabilities. Those early versions were tethered to cumbersome batteries. Edison did away with all of that and found a way for the power to flow. In fact, his first patent for the light bulb was titled, “Improvement In Electric Lights.” This was 1878. Of course, it is Con Edison that many of us use for power every day.

The Telephone

Who invented the telephone? That would be Alexander Graham Bell, right? Not so fast. Just as with Edison and the light bulb, Bell had some help from fellow inventors working on the same kind of systems. However, in the race to file patents, Bell wins hands down. It was 1875 when Bell was granted the patent for “Transmitters and Receivers for Electric Telegraphs.” A year later Bell was back at the patent office for “Improvements in Telegraphy.” That was also the year that Bell famously said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you” over the telephone and it was heard distinctly by Mr. Watson. From that moment forward, it was pretty much “Katy bar the door” with regard to telephone development and that took us all the way to the Smartphones of today. You will show your age if you remember a time when you needed to call an operator to make a phone call. Plus, you had to actually dial phone with your finger. The horror!

The Internet

Fun fact: This year’s high school graduating class never lived in a time without the Internet. The official Wikipedia definition of the Internet goes a little something like this: “The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link several billion devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies.” Translation: It’s that thing we use to post pictures of cats playing the piano and to swap Crockpot recipes. Okay, the Internet is a lot more than that and it’s clear we would all be totally lost if it suddenly went away. For the record, the first official Internet exchange happened in 1969. Back then, the net was called ARPANET and the hook up was between three California universities. Yes, this was the original nerd herd that sent messages back and forth in between math classes. It would take another ten years before the Internet started to expand into a worldwide concept. Naturally, the rise of personal computers helped spur growth. After all, you can only play computer solitaire for so long. Today, billions log in on a daily basis just as you have done already. Now you know.