What do you think is the greatest invention ever? Of all time? The thing that you didn’t know how people could live without. What would be on your list? If we are talking about basic human necessity, I probably would go with the invention of the toilet. Which I assume was quickly followed by the invention of the plunger and/or the invention of room deodorizer. Or toilet paper. Though I would have to think that toilet paper probably was invented before the actual toilet, for reasons that are really too graphic and inappropriate to go into.
How about the refrigerator? Though I think that people did have ice boxes in olden times, before the invention of electricity. Their food was kept cold by actual blocks of ice. Not quite sure how they made the ice. Actually, I am not really sure about any of this and I am pretty much just making it all up. Electricity probably was the greatest invention, because through electricity, all of the other gadgets and gizmos and what have yous were able to work because they were powered by the electricity that was invented. Just think of the first family that had lamps in their house. They thought that they were just the coolest people ever. “Hey George, come on over at night and bring the Declaration of Independence!” Now, people can clap and their lights go on or off.
Forget about clapping — what about timers??? Husband #1 is a big fan of the timer. If we are giving credit where credit is due, Husband #1 is in charge of the timers in our house. Every Friday afternoon, approximately 30 minutes before we welcome the Sabbath Queen, you can find Husband #1 going from room to room setting the timers. Fortunately, when we did construction on the house 14 years ago, I made sure that each room got only one timer and one regular switch…meaning that only one light is controlled by a time, and the other can remain on all Shabbos. I did that because otherwise our entire house would be dark for a majority of the day, and that would be very depressing. Sorry, off topic. Back to inventions.
Remember when the answering machine came out? Wow, we thought that was the greatest thing in the whole world. Now people can leave you messages when you aren’t home! And you can hear them! And you can make your own message! I still remember my parents letting me put music on our answering machine. Of course, it was an inappropriate Depeche Mode song, but no one realized that at the time. And the answering machine I had in college — you could change your outgoing message every day if you wanted to!! And people left messages! And you could play them over and over again! Wow!!!!! These days, people barely speak on the phone at all because why speak when you can send a text? Yup, another invention. Texting. I still don’t understand how any of that works.
Storage on a phone? How can you have storage? Where does it go? Storage used to mean a filing cabinet (which probably was another useful invention at the time). You would take your old checks and bank statements and phone bills and put them into a folder and then file them and then be so proud of yourself. Now, storage means — what? A “cloud.” What is a cloud? Didn’t God invent clouds??? What is the average age of a person who understands all of this? And what about inventions that didn’t last that long? The eight-track tape? And the eight-track tape player? But I am sure that when it first came out, we all thought it was so awesome. And records? I still listen to my records when I go to my parents’ house.
Now I listen to music on my phone that I get from Spotify. The storage, that I don’t understand, stores all of my music on my phone and I can listen to it when I walk. So it was a great invention, but I don’t understand any of it. For now, I am hoping that the next great invention is the vaccine that ends this pandemic. That will be one invention that I totally understand…sort of…
Banji Ganchrow of Teaneck is fully aware that there are people reading her column who have no idea what an eight-track tape is, and that is okay…