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  • According to The Book Of General Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson, the technological use of the term "bug" existed long before the famous incident in which a moth shorted out a Harvard supercomputer in 1947. The word was used to mean a fault in a piece of machinery as early as the 1800s, and it appeared with that definition in Webster's dictionary in 1934. The moth incident was merely a coincidence that brought the metaphor to life.
    • Indeed, Grace Hopper's log entry is a gleeful lampshading of "bug in the system."
  • A lot of technological devices are subject to this trope. One reason for this is that when a technology is first invented, it is often not immediately released to the public, either because it is too expensive and impractical, or because the inventors had no idea that it could be such a mainstream success. It usually takes a while for the cost to come down, or for someone to realize that the idea has potential and to decide to market and sell it, causing awareness of it to shoot up. This often leads to the false assumption that that the technology was invented at the same time that it became popular, when it reality it may have been around for several years or even decades beforehand.
  • Possibly the best example is the mobile telephone: devices that a modern observer would recognize as such have been in limited use since the 1950s, and the basic idea is much older than that. New tech appearing on the market is less often the result of a new idea and more often a new way to make an old idea economically feasible. Mobile phones hit the general consumer market in the 1980s and 1990s,note  but the first true mass-market phone that launched the device into the ubiquity it enjoys today was the Nokia 5110 (nicknamed the "brick") launched in 1998. The term "mobile phone" itself was first attested in 1945.
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    • A wealthy character uses a car phone in a 1960 episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. (The episode in question concerns Lucy accidentally giving the man an exploding cigar, and then desperately trying to retrieve it before he smokes it.)
    • The movie Sabrina (the original 1954 version) shows Bogart's wealthy character using a car phone.
    • Car phones are often seen in Perry Mason. Paul Drake has one.
    • Conspiracy buffs often point to the short time between the shooting of JFK and Cronkite's iconic break-in to As the World Turns, believing that "instantaneous communication didn't exist before the Internet/cellphones." But it did, and there was a telephone in the press car. Reporter Merriman Smith grabbed it and called United Press International the moment he heard the shots. News outlets got the word through UPI teletype. Cronkite was on the air ten minutes after the shooting. And it would have been sooner if the news bureaus hadn't all started sending at once, fouling up the UPI transmission. ABC Radio Network News broke the story four minutes before Cronkite.
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    • The May 1968 issue of Sugar and Spike, Sheldon Mayer's long-running comic book, showed an insanely wealthy man with a car phone. He talks to his stockbroker while driving, worrying the babies in the car, who yell "'Bye!" to get him to hang up — the stockbroker thinks it's "Buy!" and thereby hangs the rest of the tale.
    • There's a British newspaper cartoon from the 1920s based on the fact that people were predicting mobile phones to become commonplace. Rather incredibly, it accurately predicts the social faux pas of mobile phones going off in awkward moments such as "at the theatre" and "at your wedding"!
    • The cell phone dates to the 1980s. The mobile phone dates back much further; a CB radio is, after all, a telephonic device that is mobile. In Saving Private Ryan, the Tom Hanks character is seen using, depending on your point of view, either a small radio transmitter, or a large mobile phone. In fact, mobile telephony has been available commercially since the late 40s. Here's an infomercial by The Bell Telephone Company about the practical uses of mobile telephony, from 1948!
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    • The earliest theory of telecommunication can be dated back to Book of Job (between 7 to 2 BCE), where a verse mentioned the concept of sending message via lightning. Although the technology of telecommunication wasn't invented back then.
    "Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, 'Here we are'?"
    • Spiritualist visionary Andrew Jackson Davis, writing in 1856, predicted universal instant communication uniting the whole world, and businessmen who couldn't get to a meeting could communicate through "fleet lightning".note  Nikola Tesla also predicted that we'd be carrying phones in our pockets that would be able to transmit video and audio all over the world.
  • The first vending machine dispensed holy water when a coin was inserted. It was invented by a Greek named Hero of Alexandria who lived at the same time as Jesus. Born AD 10, died AD 70.
  • Steam engines were actually invented by the Greek mathematician Hero of Alexandria in the 1st Century AD. Called the aeolipile, it was more a curiosity than anything else. Steam engines were already in use in James Watt's day, but they were very inefficient and tended to explode. Watt made a modified version of steam engines already in use, which became the sort of steam engine that the Industrial Revolution (and Steampunk ) were built on.
  • The first intravenous injections by hypodermic syringe took place in 1760.
  • Compact Discs (CD) were released in Japan in 1982, United States in 1983, having their cultural moment in the second half of the 1980s through the early 2000s. The main push to develop it branched off from the first mass-market optical format (the LD analog videodisc) that was made public in 1972 and released in 1978.
  • A device similar in principle to a modern fax machine was patented in 1843, before the invention of the telephone.
    • The first commercial use of fax technology was in the 1920s; by 1927, newspapers were using fax to transmit photographs from Europe to North America. In 1939, subscribers in St. Louis could receive their daily newspaper via fax instead of door-to-door delivery. Both the Allies and the Axis used fax to transmit weather charts, maps, orders, and other information. This was all done by telegraph lines and radio, not by telephone: North American phone companies resisted allowing fax technology for decades.
    • A similar device — a wire photo transfer machine — was used in the 1948 noir Call Northside 777. These were also invented in the 1920s.
  • The principle by which the microwave oven works was discovered accidentally in 1945 by Percy Spencer, an engineer building radar sets for the US military. The first commercial microwave went on sale in 1947 to restaurants; it wouldn't be for many years that it became popular in the home. This is partly because the original "Radarange" oven was six feet tall and weighed nearly half a ton, and needed water cooling. One of the larger consumers of the device was, in fact, the US Navy, who found that ovens without hot coils that could start fires were quite useful on their ships. They only started to become popular for home use starting in the late 1970s.
  • The first cash-dispensing machine was put to use in New York in 1939. It was unpopular though, and shut down after six months. ATMs returned in 1967, the first in London.
  • The answering machine was invented in 1935. It could also keep track of the time. The use of one in the 1979 Doctor Who story "Shada" is perfectly accurate.
    • In fact, the lyrics of the Rupert Holmes song Answering Machine, which hit the charts in 1979, shows that many of the cliches associated with such machines — getting cut off in the middle of a message, two people playing "phone tag" with each other because they're never at home when the other one calls, etc. — were already sufficiently well-established in pop culture that a pop artist could safely write a song about them and assume everyone who heard it would get the point.
      • Especially anyone who watched "The Rockford Files". It used an answering machine in its opening credits, starting in 1974.
      • Another example: the Mike Hammer Deconstruction Kiss Me Deadly, filmed in 1955, showed Hammer using an answering machine with reel-to-reel tape.
      • Stiller & Meara (Ben Stiller's parents) had an early 1970s comedy routine involving phone tag.
  • Many features of race cars; rear-engined cars were around in the 1930s, wings were being used on some cars in the 1950s, ground effects in the late 1960s, carbon brakes in the 1970s. Usually the innovative Lotus designer Colin Chapman gets credit for most of them and also 'inventing' on-car advertising, not just in F1 (where that was the case) but over the whole world. Such branding had been going on in the USA almost since cars were invented.
    • Carbon fiber was first used by NASCAR racer Junior Johnson in the late 60s, who had a connection in the aerospace industry. He was only briefly allowed to use carbon brakes because they would glow red from use, prompting officials to ban it fearing it would cause a tire fire.
  • Ancient Roman/Chinese Odometers.
  • Writer Harlan Ellison tells a story about his meeting Poet Laureate Carl Sandburg at a party in Hollywood in 1951. When he encountered Sandburg, the poet was in a side room at the party, surrounded by an open book, a roll of white butcher's paper, and a fountain pen/inkwell set. Sandburg would read from the book, scribble something down on the paper, tear the piece of paper off, and add it to a pile. When Ellison asked the legendary poet what he was doing, Sandburg looked up, smiled, and said, "Did you know, young man, that the typewriter was invented in 1829?" Turns out that a publisher had offered Sandburg quite a bit of money to republish his book of poems In Reckless Ecstasy... but wanted to do the poems in "the original longhand." Sandburg, it turns out, had used a typewriter when he originally wrote those poems in 1904, so he was copying his own poems onto paper because there was no "original longhand."
  • Synthetic performance fabrics were around before the Under Armour company was founded in 1995. Performance fabric garments (garments that incorporate a layered weave of a cushion material on top of a wicking material) have been around since the Medieval period, when very rich knights could afford silk/wool blend undergarments — under armour indeed.
  • First vaccination? 1796 against smallpox. It entailed giving the person the milder cowpox to give them immunity, but...
    • First, the original testing started around 1770, with 6 different doctors discovering the method entirely independently. But more importantly, there was a method of vaccination before that, but it was more dangerous. This method was common in the 1770s, and can be reliably dated to around 1550 in China. Some researchers believe it goes back even further in India — much further, with some claiming 1000 BC. There are two variants of the Smallpox virus; variola major is hideously deadly, fatal in 20-30% of cases; variola minor is only fatal in around 1% of cases. A bit of infected tissue (a pock) from a sufferer of the lesser variant was placed in a cut on the back of the hand (thus putting it far from the vital organs and less likely to develop into a full-blown case). The subject would thus catch the minor version and gain immunity from the more serious one. Occasionally somebody would die of the vaccination, so it wasn't a treatment to be taken lightly, but it was better than getting full blown smallpox. The cowpox method was better because it was universally nonlethal, and the first example of using one virus to protect against another.
  • This happens all the time with computer hardware and software. The mainstream company gets praise for "new ideas" that slightly less known companies came up with. Tabbed browsing in IE7 or Firefox? The very first web browser with a tabbed interface was NetCaptor, which implemented it in 1998. Intel's idea for a dual-core processor? Thank Sun Microsystems for that one. This also has a history of going back to the early days of Microsoft and Apple. The general public has no idea that Douglas Engelbart invented half the things all computers use now (GUI and mice, etc.) back in the 1960s, nor that the Internet began in 1969.
    • The first virus that spread via modem was called Creeper and spread over ARPANET (the internet's predecessor) in 1971.
    • As much as it's become associated with it in recent years, the smartphone boom did not originate the term "app", which has been short for "application" in the sense of a computer program since at least 1992.
    • "The Cloud" isn't new either, just the name is. It's fundamentally the same system in use thirty to forty years ago: all the data is stored on a mainframe, and the users have terminals that can fetch it when they want it. Ask any PLATO user about this, or about computer communities and social networks.note 
    • Computer social networks go back to the 1970s and the communication services of the PLATO computer system, which was in use on many college campuses. In the late '80s - early '90s, computer Bulletin Board Systems or BBS came into general usage. They were called virtual communities. The first was the WELL in 1985, started by hippie entrepreneur and one-time Merry Prankster Stewart Brand. One of the few still in existence is New York's Echo. This "electronic salon" was written up in The New Yorker and the New York Times.
    • During the late 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s it made perfect sense to use Magnetic Tape, Floppy Discs, Compact Discs, and, towards the end, a DVD sent by either mail or courier to transfer large amounts of data. Modems weren't fast enough and it wasn't until the mid-90s that small businesses could afford desktop PCs powerful enough to justify the expense of a local network.
      • This sort of thing is still done today, although it usually involves amounts of data on the order of multiple terabytes.
  • Though credit for inventing movable-type printing goes to Gutenberg, a German, he probably got the idea from reports coming to him from China. The system caught on better in Europe because of a more manageable alphabet size, as opposed to thousands of glyphs for Chinese.
    • The Koreans essentially perfected the system a long time before Gutenberg, and used it for exactly the same purpose, while the Chinese usually preferred to carve entire pages for printing.
    • And page plate printing, where an entire page was carved on the printing plate, was known in Europe already in the 12th century. Gutenberg's innovation was movable type - i.e. every letter was a separate piece and therefore recyclable. It is far faster and easier to set a page from separate letters, print, dismantle the cast and then re-set a new page than carve each plate one at a time on separate wood blocks.
  • Reportedly Gustave Eiffel (who had supported him with money, tooling and other resources) told Coanda during the Paris Flight Salon and before the actual experiment: "Young fellow, you're born 30, if not 50 years too soon". Ironically, it took 29 years to He 178's first flight and 48 years to the first flight of B707, the first jet usable on a large scale for passenger flights.
  • The first electrically driven train was first used in the late 1800's.
  • If you owned a Livermore Data Systems "Model A" in 1964 then you owned a modem. If you'd kept it you'd also find that it would still work and could probably load this page, though it might take a while. Here's a demonstration.
    • Bell came out with one in 1958.
    • It does take some time at 300 baud, but it would take even five times longer with the 56-baud protocol that had been in use in telegraphy prior to that. Émile Baudot (from whose name the term "baud" comes from) patented his 56-baud multiplexing teletypewriter in 1874.
    • On that note, digital communication is much older than modern computers. The electric telegraph was one old example (for a single simplex line, it could send 0 (off) or 1 (on). The dits and dats used by Morse Code were simply an early method of encoding something meaningful into that signal.
    • Binary text encoding predates electronic communication. Braille was invented in the 1820s, and Louis Braille got the idea of using cells of raised or lowered dots from a military cipher called Night Writing.
  • An episode of Columbo from the 1970s shows a murderer using a VCR as part of his fake alibi. (He's a wealthy technology buff, and one of the few to own such technology at the time. Columbo only figures it out because the guy is arrogant enough to show off his VCR to the detective.)
  • The Antikythera Mechanism, an artifact variously described as the world's first clockwork mechanism, first calculator, and first analog computer, was built sometime around 150-100 B.C..
  • MP3 players have been around since 1998, and iPods have been around since 2001, but the IXI Digital Audio Player goes back even further, to 1979.
  • Speaking of Apple, their first handheld computer was released in 1993. It was a tablet, no less; Apple also coined the phrase "Personal Digital Assistant" in 1992.
  • Huge numbers of inventions actually come from the Middle Ages — the cam, for instance, was invented then, and used, with water-wheels for power, for all kinds of industrial processes from fullering to saw-mills to mechanical wood-pulping, which led to the first large-scale paper production in Western history. The medievals also invented a plow that sliced and turned sod as it went along, and a chest harness that let horses pull much heavier loads. They invented eyeglasses around the 1100s, and in 1010 a monk named Eilmer of Malmesbury flew 600 feet with a hang glider.
  • Television is both this trope and Newer Than They Think; the so-called "Baird" system was actually invented in the 1880s by a German called Paul Gottlieb Nipkow. (Code discs used to detect the rotation of shafts are called "Nipkow discs" to this day.) Furthermore, the first regular, scheduled public TV broadcasts weren't from the 1939 New York World's Fair — the BBC TV service started three years earlier. The reason we think 1939 is that that's when the first TV sets went on sale to the general public.
    • Baird was well ahead of the game once he switched to CRT technology, indeed by 1945 he had demonstrated a 600 line colour TV that used triple-interlacing, a system not actually taken up until the late 60s.
    • H. P. Lovecraft watched a demonstration of TV (RCA, in a local department store) in 1933. He liked it, but said it flickered like D. W. Griffith's old 1898 Biograph silent films.
    • The origins of cable television are Older and More Rural Than They Think. It began in the 1940s as a way for viewers in areas with poor reception to get TV signals (a single large antenna would be set up and houses were connected to it). And some people might be surprised to learn the age of some leading US cable networks, like USA (launched in 1971), HBO (1972), TBS (1976), Nickelodeon (1977), Showtime (1978), ESPN (1979) and CNN (1980).
    • The origin of subscription television, like HBO and Showtime, dates back to the earliest days of the medium. The Zenith Radio Company started experimenting with the concept as far back as 1931, and had a working system by 1947 called "Phonevision" that used telephone lines to unscramble the signal. The first "Phonevision" station signed on in Chicago in 1951, and existed in some form or another until 1969.
  • The oil lamp is already known to be an old invention, around for at least centuries, even millennia, but many would be surprised to find that the forerunner to the modern oil lamp is probably the fourth big technological breakthrough of man, after controlling fire, shelter, and clothing. The oil lamp in a primitive form of oily moss in a hollowed out bowl-shaped stone dates back to around 70,000 BC. This means that it predates the wheel, often erroneously associated with cave men, by nearly 65,000 years! It also predates the extinction of the Neanderthal by as much as 40,000 years.
    • Sewing needles have been found in Kostenski, Russia, dated more than 30,000 years ago. They were made of bone.
      • Some technology is ridiculously old. Plywood? 3500 BC. Toothpaste? 5000 BC. Braided rope? 17,000BC.
  • The first plastic was created in 1856. Granted, it was of such poor quality that plastic was not mass-produced until the early twentieth century, and the earliest plastics would likely be considered hazardous materials today, but it was around in the 1800s...
  • Drilling for oil originated from China around the 1st century. Though at the time, they started out drilling for salt. They even had derricks made of bamboo that closely resemble modern ones.
  • Sunglasses, yet again a Chinese invention (although they were just dark glasses at that point; they offered no corrective vision properties.)
    • Even before that, the Inuit had a kind of sunglasses to prevent glare from the snow.
    • Even the Cool Shades trope is Older Than They Think. It's become shorthand for The '80s, but the wearing of dark glasses to look "cool" was being done in the 1930s and possibly earlier. The iconic shape of the Ray-Ban Aviator was first seen in 1936 and became popular when General Douglas MacArthur brought them to the public eye as early as mid-WWII.
    • Check out the Ray-Bans on this dude. He was buried in them, so we know they were made from shells. They are normally associated with Tlaloc, a rain deity.
  • If the theories of the Baghdad Battery are correct, then the use of electricity is a lot older than we think, pre-dating Volta's cell by over a thousand years.
    • Many people think the battery is a relatively new invention, no older than the early 20th century or late 19th century. However, a few clay jars with structures strongly resembling modern batteries (and have been tested to produce an electric charge) known as the Baghdad Batteries, date back to anywhere from 250 BC to 250 AD. Their use, however, remains unknown (but electroplating jewelry is a good candidate).
  • Spam is much, much older than the Internet. The dentists Maurice and Arnold Gabriel sent out hundreds of unsolicited telegrams advertising their services in 1864; in the modern times it is also known as direct mail marketing (to those sending it) and "junk mail" (to those receiving it).
  • For many years, it was believed that Public Key Encryption was invented in 1976 by Diffle and Helman. In actual fact, it was invented in Britain three years earlier by James Ellis, Clifford Cocks and Malcolm Williamson who were working at GCHQ (the British equivalent to the NSA). As their work was heavily classified, it was not until 1997 that this could be revealed.
  • If you ask someone when was color photography invented, a typical answer would be something like "I don't know, maybe in the 50's?" The answer would be correct, except that it refers to the wrong century. Color photography was first developed in the 1850's. By the early 20th century colored photos were possible in comparable quality to the photography of the 70s. It was not too common until then just because it was very expensive and the equipment often unwieldy, yet color photos exist from WWI, the Russian Empire and The Great Depression.
  • LEDs first became commercially available in the 1970s, but in fact the first LED was produced in 1907.
    • In addition, the first commercially available blue LEDs were put into the market in the 1990s: They were the among the first produced in 1907.
  • The first open heart surgery was performed in 1893.
  • Electric instruments were introduced in the late nineteenth century, the first being Thaddeus Cahill's Telharmonium. It was, in all regards, a room-sized synthesizer.
    • Also, there are recordings of purely electronic music that sounds like something a surrealist would have made no earlier than the 1970s that happen to be from 1913.
  • The first motorbike was Daimler-Maybach Reitwagen built in 1885. Its creators considered the concept a dead end, however, and abandoned their invention, focusing on cars instead. Boy, were they wrong.
  • Electric cars are a futuristic concept, right? Wrong. They even pre-date those powered by internal combustion! In 1828 Hungarian engineer Ányos Jedlik built an electric toy car. The first electric car capable of carrying a person was demonstrated in 1881 by Gustave Trouvé in Paris, and in the 1890s electric cars and gasoline-electric hybrids became quite popular. Some people were even sure that no one would be interested in "dangerous" internal combustion engines. Combustion, however, proved to be a better alternative due to the low efficiency of early electric engines and batteries.
    • Henry Ford bought an electric car for his wife because his Model T, like all early internal-combustion-engine cars, required a hand crank to start—a dangerous task needing much brute strength. It was not until the invention of the electric starter, which made driving accessible to the general public, that the electric and steam-powered car disappeared.
  • Leonardo da Vinci inventednote  the following: tanks, robots, calculators, solar power, and parachutes, along with many other things.
  • Ford is often misattributed as having introduced mass production to automobile manufacture. The company was simply the first to use an assembly line, which it borrowed from meat packing plants; the first mass-produced car was the curved dash Olds, which was introduced six years before the formation of Ford Motor Company.
    • Ford borrowed his assembly line design from James Taylor, an engineer, who was tired of seeing three people taking a break while only one was working. His design, Taylorism, is very close to Fordism, the main difference being that Ford cared about his employees - better pay, more time off, etc. (this is pretty standard today and it's accepted that taking your employee's well-being into account boosts productivity, but it took Ford to show that). Then in the '80s came Toyotism, created by an engineer at a Toyota factory (that also used Taylor's system), which made the employee responsible for his machinery (if the machine breaks down, the employee has to repair it himself).
    • Two concepts Ford used are older than the Industrial Revolution:
      • Interchangeable parts, where several copies of a product could swap parts around without a problem, was done by Honore Blanc in 1778. He demonstrated this with muskets to both Europeans and American colonies. Eli Whitney also did so in 1801 with muskets again, but he never was able to discover a process to streamline it.
      • Mass production happened during the Civil War. Both sides ordered tens of thousands of weapons that were needed in a short time and those orders were more or less made.
  • You know those slowly spinning balls covered in a bunch of mirrors? You probably know it as a disco ball. Well actually, they date back to at least the beginning of the 20th century, where they were used for fancy dances. One can be glimpsed in the flashback scene in Casablanca.
  • Using computers as dating services did not start with the rise of the internet in The '90s. It has been around since 1941, and originally used paper forms that were input into a computer. There were several romantic comedy movies and TV episodes made about computer dating services.
  • One of the first wristwatches was owned by Elizabeth I, meaning the first wristwatches existed in the 1500s.
  • The Carthaginian navy used serial production in the 3rd century BC. The process was reverse-engineered and adopted by the Romans during the I Punic War (264-241 BC).
  • The heavily abbreviated txt spk used in instant messaging and cellular phone texting? Dates back to the 1800's with telegraph operators chatting to pass the time at work.
  • People may think that BlackBerry or Nokia invented the smartphone. It was actually IBM back in 1992.
    • The term "smartphone" is also older than most think, most people assume it was coined in the 21st century, but usage of it dates back to 1997.
  • Vocaloid was not the first singing synthesizer software. The honor of the first computer to sing goes to the IBM 7094. And in terms of software, Vocalwriter and Lalavoice predate Leon and Lola by several years. And if we're talking about just speech and not singing, the first speech synthesizer dates back to 1939!
    • "Vocal fry" capabilities (introduced in the 5th generation of the software) aren't new either: it was a standard function in UTAU for years.
  • Cracked's 7 Modern Conveniences That Are Way Older Than You Think mentions Persian air conditioning, Roman shopping malls, Neanderthal medicine, and more.
  • Although cassette tapes are most identified with The '80s, they were actually introduced in The '60s. The misconception has arisen because it was not until 1985 that sales of pre-recorded cassettes outstripped those of phonograph records - and, sadly, the honeymoon was a short one, since compact discs (CDs) were being mass-marketed only two years later. Blank cassettes, however, are another matter entirely. Portable cassette player-recorders and Compact Cassettes (originally designed by Phillips, which licensed its format for free) took off in the mid-1960s, and by the early 1970s everyone had one. Dolby noise reduction and improvements in playback mechanics made them a part of high-end stereo systems at the same time. The Sony Walkman was as ubiquitous for its time as the MP3 player became later. It wasn't until the 1990s that blank cassettes were surpassed in sales by blank CDs. Blank cassettes are still made and sold today.
  • CDs are also most identified with The '90s, but were actually introduced in 1982.
    • Vehicle mechanics were among some of the first users of CDs. CDs can store the entire repair and maintenance manual for a vehicle without taking up much physical space. This eliminated a lot of the guesswork experienced mechanics used to do and made vehicle repair take less time.
  • Jello shots are over 150 years old. Folklore has them invented by Tom Lehrer in the 1950s as a way to smuggle alcohol into the Army base he was working in at the time, but a recipe for "Punch Jelly" can be found in "How To Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant's Companion", a book of cocktail recipes published by bartender and ur-mixologist Jerry Thomas in 1862.
  • When you picture cameras in the 1900s, you probably picture the bulky cameras that need to be seated on a tripod in order to take pictures properly. True, they had those. However, the 1880s saw Kodak develop a portable camera for consumer use. The 1920s saw the development of cameras which look no different from modern cameras in both function, size and portability. Eva Braun was a skilled photographer with a Rolleiflex camera (still in limited production today) and one of the reasons there are so many private pics of Hitler floating around.
  • Selfies - self-portraits taken using either cameras held at arm's length or aimed into mirrors - are seriously thought by some to be a brand-new innovation brought about by Twitter, Instagram and the smartphone. In truth, selfies of the exact same type being taken today are known to have existed at least since the start of the 20th century, if not earlier (there is a well known selfie of Anastasia - yes, that one - taking a selfie at the age of 13. She later complained how her hands shook from the weight of contemporary cameras). In some cases the image quality (exposure, focus) is even superior to those being taken today. The only difference is the ability to distribute such images instantly.
    • In all likelihood, Selfies have been around as long as there have been mirrors. Even a painter or drawer can do a selfie if they're patient enough. Here's a 1960 painting by Norman Rockwell looking at himself in the mirror while painting himself - a triple selfie.
    • The selfie stick was first sold commercially in 1983 by Kenji Kawakami, creator of chindōgu - and was in fact listed in his first book on chindōgu after it flopped. DIY sticks have been seen dating back to 1925.
  • Beauty Revealed is a nudies pic sent in 1828.
  • In the 2000s decade, a number of cable operators began promoting the "new" ability for owners of DVRs to watch one channel while recording another, and of setting DVRs to record multiple channels at different times. Ignoring the fact that owners of VHS and Beta recorders had this ability as far back as the early 1980s (and indeed it was the major selling feature back in the day when people used to have to make a choice to watch one show or another, with no guarantee of rebroadcasts later). This ability was lost when these selfsame cable companies introduced new tech that removed the ability for people to watch one show while recording another or set multiple-channel recordings.
  • The invention of incandescent light bulbs are generally attributed to Thomas Edison, though the idea behind them goes back to at least 1802, when Humphry Davy of the Royal Institution of Great Britain used the (then) world's most powerful battery to heat a strip of platinum into incandescence. Edison can claim credit for perfecting light bulbs, however. He outsold all his competitors due to the superior quality of his bulbs, which is probably why he gets the credit for "inventing" light bulbs.
    • In the UK, however, everyone knows that the light bulb was invented by Joseph Swan, whose lights were used in homes and streets about a year before Edison filed any patents.
  • Continuing the subject of Edison, a French scientist named Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville had created a sound recording device twenty years before the phonograph. The trouble was; he didn't intend the device to reproduce the sound; it was recorded as a line on paper. By the time it was realized other materials can be used that would allow to play the recording, Edison had his device out, and de Martinville remained obscure. It wasn't until 2008 that they managed to play his recordings by scanning the lines and processing the data.
  • Windows 8 wasn't the only Windows that was lambasted for its radical GUI change as Windows 95 received some concerns and criticism for a radical GUI change: the introduction of the Start Menu.
    • The Windows 95 GUI wasn't as nearly hated as the Windows 8 GUI. The Windows 95 GUI was similar to other GUIs of the time and not much different from Windows 3.11. Windows 8 tried to make a desktop/laptop function like a tablet/smartphone and failed, badly. Desktops and laptops are several times larger, heavier, faster, and vastly more versatile than tablets and smartphones. A smartphone can fit in a pocket. A laptop requires an attaché case or messenger bag.
  • The titular Götz von Berlichingen referenced here in Terms and Phrases has an iron prosthetic hand. Their history goes back centuries.
    • Götz von Berlichingen lost his right hand in the siege of Landshut 1516. He had made himself a working prosthetic hand with which he could use a sword, cooking utensils, dress, and even use a quill for writing. The prosthetic hand is still extant.
  • A couple of examples from the automotive industry:
    • In the 00's, GMC introduced an Envoy with a sliding roof and remarked on their innovation in print ads. Shortly afterward, Car And Driver pointed out that Studebaker had the same feature on a station wagon in the 60's. The exotic and now defunct Avions-Voisin did it back in 1934.
    • In the mid-80's, government regulations forced auto manufacturers to install a third brake light into their cars. The folks at Chrysler probably had a good laugh since they had used third brake lights on their cars in the 40's. (Although theirs were mounted on the trunk lid instead of the rear window.)
    • The Toyota Prius was the first highly fuel-efficient passenger vehicle, right? Wrong. Geo/Chevy had the Metro and Honda had the Civic CRX in the mid-1980s, easily achieving 50+ mpg in city driving simply by using smaller engines and more efficient transmissions. And they cost less than the average subcompact.
      • The Honda CRX was the two-seat sports version of the Honda Civic. It used the same owner's manual as all other Honda Civics from back then, including the 4WD station wagon. The recommended shift speed from 1st to 2nd is 15mph (14mph for the 4WD wagon). Also: 25mph into 3rd, 40mph into 4th, and 50mph into 5th. For comparison, a c.2000 Acura Integra GSR, which is more than 1,000lbs heavier than a CRX due to safety requirements, has more than twice the engine power of an 80s Civic without needing a larger parking space. A GSR has an 8,100rpm redline (there's a limiter because anything much past that will destroy the engine within seconds) and can go from 0-70mph using only 2nd gear and can reach 105mph in 3rd. 4th and 5th are cruising gears.
  • In-line skates go back to the late 18th century, predating parallel roller skates. They were revived as "Rollerblades" in the '80s.
  • There is evidence that neanderthals used glue to fix points to their spears. It was made out of birch bark. They also used birch bark to make string to wrap the join, further holding things in place.
  • A lot of kids nowadays seem to firmly believe that they are the first generation of children to have wide access to video games. Until they get thoroughly schooled by their own parents, who were playing 3rd generation SNES console games or the like back in the 90s. And of course video games are considerably older even than that.
  • The first smart phone was the IBM Simon and was released in 1994.
  • Broadcast television in the United States is about a decade older than most people think. The National Television System Committee (NTSC) published their standard in 1941. By that point the UK had already started broadcasting five years earlier. The technology is even older—electrical television had been around since the early 30s—but didn't become viable until a universal standard for broadcasting and receiving was set. In both cases the adoption of the technology was slowed down by the Second World War. Production of sets in both countries was halted, and the BBC stopped broadcasting so the signal couldn't be used to guide German bombers. Stations did continue to broadcast in the United States (in fact they were required to broadcast a certain number of hours of content a week or risk losing their license).
  • Smelting metallic ores to extract pure metals first occurred during the Stone Age sometime before 6,000 BC. Of the seven metals known to antiquity, only gold and silver are commonly found in their elemental form. The other five (mercury, lead, tin, copper, and iron) usually need to be extracted from ores. Ötzi died in the Alps circa 3,300BC. Timewise, that's close to when Stone Age became the Bronze Age. The copper in the axe found with him is 99.7% pure. His hair also contains large amounts of copper and arsenic. Some of the earliest bronzes were copper-arsenic alloys.
  • One of the first commercialized optical mice was Mouse Systems PC Mouse, debuted in 1986.
    • Development of the mouse itself began in the early 1960s by SRI's Douglas Engelbart, while he was exploring the interactions between humans and computers. Bill English, then the chief engineer at SRI, built the first computer mouse prototype in 1964.
  • Modern dry cleaning has its origins in the "dry scouring" process patented by Thomas L. Jennings in 1821.
    • Although not technically "dry" cleaning because of the use of water at the end of the process to rinse away the dirt and cleaning product, the ancient Romans had fullonicae, large buildings where slaves would use ammonia and fuller's earth to whiten cloth.
  • Certain people dislike the idea that Google is going to launch an app that allows you to control your household objects from long distances because it would let them allow to control your house, but it was not even the first company to come up with that idea. BENELUX company Electrabel had already made such an app in 2011. One has to wonder why they did not get the same criticisms (not that they do not have a vocal hatedom though, but for other reasons).
  • The log cabin is an iconic image of the early North American frontier, but the concept goes back thousands of years to prehistoric (3500 BC or so) Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. The British Isles lacked that building tradition, and log cabins were believed to have been introduced to North America by Finnish immigrants to New Sweden (located in the lower regions of the Delaware River) around 1640. Other European colonists rapidly picked up the useful technology. Some Native American tribes also had log houses or open-framed summer shelters (the Seminole called these chikees).
  • High Speed Rail is this modern ultra futuristic thing that you read about in magazines about the future? Wrong! The first electrical trains to surpass 200 km/h (125mph) in trial runs were tested in 1903 in Imperial Germany, when there still was a Kaiser. The first French train to reach 300 km/h was tested in the 1950s. The Japanese Shinkansen was built and developed in the 1960s and had its maiden voyage in time for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics (though its top speed was initially limited to 210 km/h, as the World Bank made its credit dependent on the trains going at a speed not too far away from conventional speeds). President Lyndon B Johnson signed into law a "High Speed Ground Transportation Act" and introduced services along the Northeast Corridor that had faster end to end travel timesnote  between NYC and DC than the Acela has today. Streamlined steam trains were making travel times possible in the 1930s that are not available on many routes in North America and even Europe today. The world record for the fastest steam train is still held by a British engine from the 1930s at slightly above 200 km/h. The main thing that kept high speed rail from becoming the huge success it now is before the 1980s (France), 1990s (Germany) 2000s (much of the rest of Europe, including Kent in England and also in Spain) was the iffy infrastructure and economic considerations. The newest generation of trains can run well above 400 km/h without any changes, but they would become too inefficient at those speeds.
  • Mac OS X wasn't the first Unix system that could run on the Apple Macintosh. That would be A/UX, released in 1988. You might count SCO Xenix for the Apple Lisa as well, released in 1983.
  • Plumbing (and the related heating/cooling and sewage systems) has been around for at least a few thousand years. The main issue with having it widespread before modern times was the sheer cost of building and maintaining systems, so it was mainly seen in the lavish homes of the wealthy or public buildings like bathhouses. The Romans were proficient at plumbing (which is a necessity in cities above a certain size to keep disease and smell in check) and their word for lead ("plumbum") gives us the modern word, even though most Roman plumbing was made from masonry in one form or another. What the Romans didn't do—at least not to the amount it is done today—was high-pressure plumbing. Roman water mains usually didn't have pressure much above atmospheric pressure, and water rather dripped out of a leak compared to the explosive leaks of high pressure plumbing. This of course required all water mains to be built ever so slightly inclined, sometimes over hundreds of kilometers - no small feat without GPS and pocket calculators (or, at the very least, slide rules or abacus).
  • Most dental procedures go back centuries. False teeth, cavity filling and bridges were all common in the Roman Empire. Even root canals, the most complex procedure, have a history that dates back to the 17th century.
  • Email actually predates the moon landing. The first email was sent in 1962. And email in its modern form using the @ separator? That first came around in 1971.
  • Most major computer systems and video game consoles are designed in extremely powerful computers that allow simulation of the hardware before it's ever even built; some of the software is even written at this stage. That means that there was an emulator of most computers and consoles before they were ever built in hardware!
  • Although the recent trend of big companies creating their own bespoke typefaces was started by Google's Roboto, the world's first bespoke typeface was Times New Roman, designed in 1931 by Stanley Morison and Victor Lardent for the British daily newspaper The Times.
  • The first All-CGI Cartoon? Kitty, a 1968 1:24 minute long Soviet animation.
  • Human and oxen-powered paddle boats existed both in the Roman Empire and Han dynasty China.
  • The smartwatch dates back at least as far as 1984's Seiko UC-2000. And back in 2003, the then-dominant Palm operating system was forced into a wrist device with the Fossil Abacus Wrist PDA.
  • When one mentions multi-display setups on a PC, most people think the capability originated in 1997 with the first version of Windows 98. However, truth is, the capability has been available since the inception of the PC- it was possible to connect two displays to a OG IBM PC, by fitting it with both a CGA card and a MDA card, and this was back in 1981. The only reason the capability is not well known is because the setup was expensive, difficult to configure and operate (there was no wizard or setup program to guide you through the process, which additionally was undocumented), and required relatively more desk space than other single display setups since you needed to have two CRT displays, and additionally only professional grade software supported the configuration. Even worse was that many games will not run properly if at all if both graphics cards are installed, either because they did arcane things in the memory space reserved for MDA cards, or because they were poorly programmed and didn’t know what to do other than to error out if more than one graphics card was detected (or if the first detected card was the MDA one). This led to the misconception that a dual display setup was not possible until Windows 98 premiered. It's even possible to connect three displays to an XT (CGA, MDA and PGC). That goes firmly into Awesome, but Impractical territory, because there's no software in existence that supports such a configuration. Multi-monitor setups were also seen on Unix workstation computers in the '80s.
  • Channel surfing is usually thought of as something that started with TV remotes. (Remotes were available as far back as the early 50s, but really took off in the 70s and 80s.) In the 1930s, when everybody was listening to the radio, there were "dial twirlers", or people who had "dialitis" — kept going up and down the band to find something interesting. (However, it is an Urban Legend that people who were spooked by Orson Welles The War of the Worlds were those who twirled away from Edgar Bergen and The Chase & Sanborn Hour and landed on the Mercury Theater's Phony Newscast, missing the introduction that would have told them this was a play. Only a few people had this happen.)
  • Electronic cigarettes dramatically rose in popularity in the New Tens, but they have actually been around since 2003. A precursor to the electronic cigarette, marketed as the "smokeless cigarette," was sold as far back as the 90s.
  • While text messaging did not become a mainstream way of communicating until the mid- to late-2000s, the technology is as old as cell phones themselves. However, it wasn't used much in the early days of cell phones, given that it was very expensive (often over a dollar to send or receive one text) and the functionality was shoddy at best.
  • While anyone who was alive during the '90s will recognize CD changers that allow for uninterrupted playback of multiple discs, the concept existed in the much older record changers, which first appeared in the 1920s and were ubiquitous on low-end-to-midrange turntables through the early '80s. Unlike carousel or magazine CD changers, record changers stacked multiple records on top of each other and played one side, dropping them one by one, returning the tonearm once it reached the run-out groove.
  • Cartridge copiers (or dumpers) are usually associated with the 16-bit era since that's when the most famous commercial ones (like Magic Engine) were in use. However these little larcenous tools have been around since the first days of console gaming. Hackers in the late 70s designed a device consisting of an Apple II expansion card linked to an Atari 2600 cartridge (with passthrough) by a rainbow cable. This allowed a user to not only copy a cartridge onto disk, but to load it into the fake cartridge's memory to allow playback without the cartridge present. note 
  • "Elevator music" is usually associated with the rise of Stepford Suburbia in The '50s. The company that evolved into Muzak started in 1922, meaning that wired delivery of audio to businesses was basically developed the same time as radio (Muzak was originally called Wired Radio).
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