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MicroprocessorI've got to admit, I'm impressed. It's the year 2001 and while we haven't received all the technological goodies we were promised, we're still living in a pretty advanced world. We still don't go to work using jetpacks, we still don't live on the moon, we still don't have instantaneous transporters or entire meals in pill form but for the most part I would say I'm happy with the improvements that have been made in the last century.

Apollo 15However there are sacrifices we've had to make to get these acheivements realized. The space station orbiting earth, the fact that a computer the size of a calculator can do everything that a state of the art PC could do 10 years ago, these advancements came with a cost.

The first PCs hit the home buyers in 1979 and were pretty sorry contraptions. They had about 64K of memory if any and their operating systems and programs were incredibly useless. But science kept at it, advancing and advancing until you get to the 1.5 GHz, 100 Gigabyte Hard Drive, 515MB RAM machines you see today in homes. Modems can dial you onto the internet where the world is literally at your fingertips.

This came with a cost. There's one distinct technology area that has been neglected time and time again so that these other advancements could be made. Now it's time to put 1 day's worth of NASA reasearch aside. It's time to hault our search for the faster smaller microprocessor. Just one day... that's all it will take. There's one area that gravely needs scientific attention. I am speaking of canning.

In 1810, 191 years ago, the can was invented by British merchant Peter Durand. It was a huge stride in food preservation and like many inventions it was necessitated by military needs. Now soldiers could carry food on the battlefield that would not spoil. Here's how crazy they were: they invented the can but no way to open it. Soldiers were so grateful for this invention that they lost fingers trying to open cans with their knives and aggrivated themselves smashing cans against rocks to try to ingest their contents.

Now get this: you know how long it was until the can opener was invented? 49 years! It took Ezra J. Warner to say, "Enough is enough!" and invent a can opener. It was 1858 before this was realized. And you know the can opener that's being spoken of. This was by no means a quality tool.

You're familiar with the early can opener. You've seen it in countless Warner Bros. cartoons. It's a rather dangerous looking sickle that one uses to hack into the top of the can, not too much better than a knife. So basically it was slightly more customized for the job than your average pocket knife, but people were still losing their fingers, just not as many.

Fast Forward 12 years to 1870. Twelve years of hard work pay off for William Lyman as he modifies the can opener. You're probably thinking, "Ah at last... the can opener we all know today!" but you're wrong. This twelve years of research only produced a continuous version of old chisel blade invented two decades earlier. Now you could slide it across the rim of the can with greater speed than before.

That was the best they could think of in 1870.
see column to right for a technology reference.

Moon Man 1

In 1969 astronauts were frolicking on the moon. Chris disagrees with me, saying: "You can't frolic on the moon!" But I've seen the footage and their activity can be best summed up in one word: Frolicsome. Chris

"You can't frolic on the moon!" Nate

Nate: "Of course you can frolic on the Moon. Haven't you ever seen the footage? There is some definite frolic-action taking place." Chris

Chris: "You know what the astronauts could have used? A carbonated toilet!" Nate

"Shut up."

And so a great war began!

An ally in the "Frolic" War

Paulmeats lets us know where his allegiances lie.

Chefelf: you've seen footage of the first moon landing, right?
paulmeats: eys, i think
Chefelf: how would you describe the astronauts?
paulmeats: pudgy
Chefelf: how would you describe their motions?
Chefelf: what would you say they were doing?
paulmeats: um
paulmeats: bouncing
Chefelf: would you say taht perhaps they may have been rather frolicsome? their motions that is?
paulmeats: ha
paulmeats: yes i would
Chefelf: good, that's all i wanted to hear
Chefelf: you know how to tell a guy what he wants to hear
paulmeats: eyah i do

I usually think of scientific advancements in simple terms. I figure that the people inventing stuff like this are of above average intelligence. If I could invent one from scratch I don't consider it a great advancement. I know how a bicycle works, but I couldn't make one if I had to. I have a basic idea of the inner workings of the camera but I could never in a million years construct one. I think the only thing on the list to the right that I am confident I could create is the traffic light. Mine would probably be like something from the Flintstones involving a number of different colored birds who say things to the camera like: "This isn't all it's cracked up to be."

1870 was obviously a pretty inspired year, but not in can technology. People where sending messages instantaneously to their relatives 5000 miles away while riding around on rubber tires and spreading artificially hydrogenated vegetable oil on their toast but still fumbling with their canned corn.

The Modern Day Can OpenerYet another 55 agonizing years pass. Mankind's inventive nature seems to accelerate with advanced communications and the first World War mixes a little neccessity in with general curiosity. It isn't until 1925 that the can opener as we know it was invented. The patented serrated wheel that travels around the can causing the lid to fall into the can to be retrieved later.

1925, ah what a year. The Sardine can with a key was invented 36 years before the standard serated wheel can opener. There it is! end of story. Can you think of a better way to open a can? I don't believe that you can. The technology was there, why not use it to open cans that don't have sardines in them? It's okay for sardines, but not soup? They didn't see how this could be expanded to other tin areas?

So we wait a little more. Years and years pass. Empires rise and fall. World Wars begin and end. In the late 1920's the world sees the birth of the Rocket Scientist and if forever given a standard by which to measure their in-laws. Also in the late 20's sliced bread is invented and is apparently the pinnacle of mankind's time on earth. 1929: Penicillin. 1930: Baby Food. 1942: Velcro. 1945: ENIAC, world's first super computer and the Atomic Bomb.

Finally in 1959, 34 years later the pull tab is invented by a frustrated Ermal Cleon Fraze who couldn't open his beer while on a picnic. There it is again. Good enough for beer, not good enough for soup. Sometime after this the pull tab begins appearing on cans of catfood. Apparently it's a great help to open a can of Fancy Feast but just wouldn't suffice for tuna or beef stew.

Fancy FeastWhat really gets me is how patient humans were. No one complained. Why? People mindlessly plopped a can of fancy feast into their cats' dishes in a matter of seconds then clumsily attempted to open their own food for five minutes whithout seeing this. Humans, the species that brought us the Riverdance and the Eggwave saw no need to create something that would actually help anyone.

So man travels into outer space. Man lands on the moon. The electric Can opener is invented. Why are they still going on with this ridiculous can opener thing at this point? Abandon the damned can opener and fix the can. Be proactive rather than reactive. It would be like instead of getting emails in our homes, emails were transmited exactly like telegrams and a courier would arrive at our house to read us our email. Actually that would be pretty cool, but only if they dressed up like it was 1910.

Top OpenerSome genius in the 1990's even invents a can opener that seems to be the reverse of the standard 1959 model. Instead of cutting the top of the can it cuts the side of the can. Great. What an innovation, there's nothing more relaxing than horizontal frustration as opposed to vertical frustration.

In the year 2000, 190 years after the invention of the can, we start to see pull tabs appearing on cans of soup. Well thank the lord for that! What was the delay? And why do we only see it on certain brands of soup? You won't see it on a store brand. Campbell's may be the only company even doing it. Is it the cost? Is it an extra 10 or 20 cents? I'll pay the extra money. They should make the pull tabl tax. I think the only thing George W. Bush could do to win me over would be to give us an extra tax that went into this technology. I'd pay it, hell I'd pay double.

I'm not sure what makes me more upset, the fact that it took so long to invent or that I didn't think of it either until I saw it on a can of soup myself. Perhaps it's all well and good. I talk a big game, but I don't have any money. It doesn't affect me as much as it could considering that just about the only soup related item I can afford is Ramen noodles.

Things invented between the invention of the can in 1810 and the "new style" can onpener in 1870:

  • 1827 The Camera
  • 1836 The Propellor
  • 1839 The Bicycle
  • 1843 The Fax Machine
  • 1851 The Sewing Machine
  • 1852 The Elevator
  • 1867 The Typewriter
  • 1868 The Traffic Light

In 1870 many other great strides were made including:

  • 1870 The First Caesarian Section
  • 1870 Margarine
  • 1870 The Telegraph
  • 1870 Modern Rubber

Some inventions between 1870 and 1925:

  • 1876 The Telephone
  • 1877 The Phonograph
  • 1878 The Microphone
  • 1879 The Light Bulb
  • 1889 The Sardine Can with KEY
  • 1898 The Flashlight
  • 1900 The Automobile
  • 1901 Radio Transmission
  • 1903 Powered Flight
  • 1905 Theory of Relativity
  • 1911 The Refrigerator
  • 1923 The Electric Guitar

Moon Man 2

A new ally in the "Frolic" War

My good friend Lupschada tells us her feelings on the matter.

Chefelf: i have a question for you....
Lupschada: what up?
Chefelf: have you seen the videos of the moon landings?
Lupschada: as in, the first??
Chefelf: yeah
Lupschada: um, I guess so, once upon a time
Chefelf: how would you describe their actions? the astronauts that is
Lupschada: logey?
Lupschada: molassessy?
Lupschada: I don't know.
Chefelf: would you say that they were "frolicking?"
Lupschada: what are you, some kind of communist?
Lupschada: frolicking? um
Chefelf: frolicking?
Lupschada: well, they were pretty bouncy
Chefelf: but were they bouncy in a frolicky way?
Lupschada: er, frolicking I suppose
Chefelf: good that's just what i wanted to hear
Lupschada: for the love of Mike, why?
Chefelf: no reason, just taking a general consensus
Lupschada: um, okay.

Join the discussion in the Chefelf Forums!

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