The Quick 10: 10 of Edison's Other Inventions

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Thomas Edison was a busy guy "“ you know he invented the incandescent lightbulb and the phonograph, of course, but he also had 1,092 other patents to his name (although some were inventions of his employees that were credited to him). Some were pretty genius and we still use them today. Others"¦ not so much. Here are a few from both categories.

pens1. His first-ever patented invention: the Electrographic Vote-Recorder. Voters would hit a switch to vote yes or no. It was a gargantuan flop.
2. Stencil-pens, later adapted into tattoo guns. It was originally just "a pen actuated by electricity."
3. Addressing machine, which I am sure direct mail companies of the late 1800s were giddy about (that's a joke). The invention was made specifically to address newspapers. It was made "with a strip of paper perforated with numerous holes to form letters or numbers, of an ink-pad containing a limpid ink and a presser, whereby the ink is forced through the holes in the paper, and in combination therewith I employ a lever and an automatic device for moving a ribbon-paper along progressively."

4. Paraffin Paper, AKA wax paper. Yep "“ amongst all of these very technical and scientific electric devices, Edison came up with the idea of coating some paper with wax to make it moisture-proof. Well, actually, this is one of the inventions thought to have been created by one of his assistants. The first use of this amazing paper was to wrap candies.

5. A method of extracting rubber from plants. And not from rubber plants, oh no "“ from herbs and shrubs "having a small content of rubber."

6. The Kinetophone. You can see where he was going with this one "“ the kinetophone was a phonograph inside of a cabinet, and while it played through a couple of ear tubes "“ very primitive headphones, I suppose "“ the viewer would watch images. After a few failed attempts, he gave up on the idea of "talkies."

7. Cement as a design substance. Edison tried building lots of things with cement, including the cabinets for his phonographs and a mail-order concrete house. He was definitely ahead of his time with this one, because now you see cement being used for all kinds of unconventional things (including houses). But at the time, it was simply too expensive to waste on seemingly frivolous things.

dolls8. The undersea telegraph. Edison really wanted to make this one work "“ a transatlantic cable that could transmit messages. After lots of experimentation, he determined that the vibrations from traffic was just too much interference for his invention "“ however, his discoveries helped Alexander Graham Bell perfect his own famous invention, so the undersea telegraph wasn't a total loss.
9. The microtasimeter, a device that could measure minute changes in pressure.
10. A phonograph doll. A precursor to Talky Tina and Chatty Cathy, Edison saw how a doll that could make noises would appeal to children and collectors. Each doll contained a tiny phonograph that could hold records that played six-second recordings. The problem? At $10 each, they were pretty pricey for 1890. And that was if the doll was wearing a simple undergarment-type of dress "“ for a full dress with shoes and a hat, it could cost buyers up to $25. And the dolls didn't have particularly dulcet tones "“ Edison himself once said, "The voices of the little monsters were exceedingly unpleasant to hear."

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August 11, 2009 - 1:32pm
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