Dorothy Rosby
contributing columnist
I have a lot in common with the instrument maker, Johann Christoph Denner. He was born in August of 1655, and I was also born in August, though not in 1655. Denner invented the clarinet and I played the clarinet. And when I practiced, there were people who cursed the day both of us were born. But I don’t want to talk about that now.
I want to talk about National Inventors Month, which is celebrated every May to acknowledge inventions, inventiveness and inventors like Mr. Denner. Also, Levi Strauss who invented blue jeans in the 1800s. I have no idea what people wore on weekends in the 1700s.
And let’s not forget Clarence Birdseye who in 1930 patented a method for packaging frozen foods, paving the way for TV dinners.
Then there was Philo Farnsworth who, also in 1930, patented the television. Before 1930, couch potatoes had to lie in front of their radios all day eating out of tin cans.
And hats off to William Addis of Clerkenald, England who in 1780 made the first toothbrush using cow bones for the handles and bristles from the necks and shoulders of swine for the brush. No more cavities for Mr. Addis, but his breath must have smelled like a barnyard.
Zippers were patented in 1893. Prior to that people went around with their jackets open all the time.
The dishwasher was invented in 1850, but it took another hundred years before the technology became efficient enough for the public to notice. By that time, the food was really dried on.
We do owe a lot to inventors. Modern day inventors deserve to rest and celebrate this month. But come June 1, they need to get back to work. There’s still a lot that needs inventing, and I can’t do it. I wish I were an inventor, but I think I’d need more garage space and a basic understanding of a lot of things I don’t currently understand at all. No, I’m strictly an idea person.
And here’s one of my better ideas. Someone needs to come up with a sleeping bag stuffer. I can store 6000 books on an e-reader and 20,000 pages on a flash drive, but I can’t fit my sleeping bag back into the sack it came in.
I think someone should create a vending machine with a dollar bill iron attached. I have a recurring nightmare where I’m weak with hunger, clutching a fistful of dollar bills and lying at the foot of a vending machine that won’t accept my money because it’s wrinkled.
And I’ve been dreaming of a gizmo that would allow me to remotely change my cellphone from vibrate mode to volume 10 ever since I somehow dropped it in the trashcan.
Better yet, someone should invent a universal locator. I could just type in what I’m looking for and it would tell me where to find it, whether it’s my car keys, my glasses or the lid to my food processor.
And how about a one-click way to respond safely to spammers? I would love to be able to send every spammer who emails me 10,000 messages in return asking them if their mother knows what they’re doing. At the same time, I’d like a way to snatch back emails I wish I hadn’t sent—especially if I accidentally sent them 10,000 times.
Or maybe what I need is an undo button, like my computer software has, for every other part of my life. (I wish I hadn’t said that. Undo. I wish I hadn’t done that. Undo.) The inventor who comes up with that will make millions. Just remember, I thought of it first.
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of several humor books, including I Used to Think I Was Not That Bad and Then I Got to Know Me Better. Contact