Historically Game-Changing Inventions - Pt. 3

1. Barbie

Would you believe it if told that Barbie was designed by the same person who designed missiles? Jack Ryan, a Yale graduate who worked as an engineer at Raytheon, was lured away to Mattel, a leading global toy company after Ruth Handler, the president of Mattel at the time, gave him the position of head of research and development at Mattel. The doll, which approximately measures 11 inches, was modelled after the German Bild Lilli doll, which was given to men as a gag gift based on a cartoon character in a German newspaper. Patented by Ryan in 1961, Barbie was described in its patent as a "doll construction" by which the doll could be supported in a balanced and realistic position when it is not being used or when it is being displayed.

2. Artificial Reef Data Center

When you've been using your laptop to do work involving plenty of data, you observe that it gets hotter. Imagine the heat that is dissipated from servers that contain a world's worth of data, like Facebook, for example. While many of these companies prefer to move to colder countries than pay the exorbitant air conditioning bill, Microsoft took a different approach - to place these servers under the sea. Patented in 2016, Microsoft designed an apparatus that actively promoted marine life that comprises an underwater data center coupled to a network. A pressure chamber houses the data center with one or more components that promote and sustain reef life and the ecosystem in its vicinity.

3. CRISPR-Cas9

Dubbed the “CRISPR-Cas9 systems and methods for altering expression of gene products", this patented invention is a tool to edit genes. Developed at UC Berkeley, its purpose is to modify unicellular organisms. This preliminary technology was built upon and enhanced at the Broad Institute, a non-profit collaboration with Harvard and MIT, as specified in its patent. Nowadays, CRISPR is used to genetically modify livestock and crops apart from aiding in leukemia treatments.

The CRISPR works in three steps: a strand of RNA spots the desired section in the DNA of an organism, then, the CAS9 enzyme cuts the desired section, and another DNA strand replaces the cut section. The possibilities with CRISPR are endless: embryos, immune system cells which may then be injected into the ailing human body and other such priceless uses that we may get to see in the future.

4. Paper Clip

Paperclips, an everyday piece of stationery we use to this day, was invented by George Griffiths, who patented it in 1927 in America. They have a long history of modifications, all shaped differently. His invention, however, was similar to today’s paper clips, with an improvement in design of previously patented versions.

Griffiths himself begins his patent with the paragraph “My invention relates to improvements in paper clips of the type known generally as “Gem” clips and it has for its general object to provide a clip in which the portions of the surfaces which are adapted to contact with the sheets of paper or other like material held thereby are roughened so as to more firmly hold and grip such sheets.” The “Gem” paperclip, although a familiar name to many, was never patented.

The first-ever paperclip patent was granted in 1867 and was shaped like a triangle, and very different from the ones we use today. Since then, paper clips have flooded the market in many different designs. The most recently patented design, in 2014, can hold thick piles of paper together.

5. Electric Guitar

The first patented use of electric power for a guitar and other instruments with frets was in 1890 by George Breed, a Pennsylvanian Naval Officer. He submitted a design to the U. S. Patent Office for an electric guitar pickup - similar to modern pickups. It had two parts: vibrating guitar strings in a magnetic field. However, the purpose of this guitar was to "excite and continuously vibrate the strings", and not to amplify the guitar's sound through a speaker connected to it, the way today's electric guitars function. While the guitar was a creative attempt, it was cumbersome, heavy and produced an "un-guitar-like sound". While George Breed slowly lost his affiliation with the electric guitar, historians have come to give him credit for his role in the electric guitar's evolution.


  1. https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/who-invented-the-electric-guitar/

  2. https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/design/g20051677/patents-changed-the-world/

Image Sources & Patent Documents:

  1. Barbie: https://www.freepatentsonline.com/3009284.pdf

  2. Artificial Reef Datacenter: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/04/63/94/c34629105cc2be/US20160381835A1.pdf

  3. CRISPR-Cas9: https://patents.google.com/patent/US8697359B1/en

  4. Paperclip: https://patents.google.com/patent/US1654076A/en

  5. Electric Guitar: https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/88/d4/d0/40ff9f0d35b757/US435679.pdf

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