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Brock: Modern inventions are more for pleasure than necessity

The longer I live, there is a growing list of inventions that I never could have imagined.

Most fail in comparison to the amazing new things my grandparents witnessed in their life, like automobiles, tractors, airplanes, spaceships, running water, electricity and telephones. Those inventions had a profound effect on their lives.

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One could argue that the good old days weren’t that good without them. Inventors like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright brothers are American heroes.

Most of the really important stuff seems to have been invented in the past century and inventions of the past 25 years are mostly improvements to items previously invented, or are comfort items.

My generation’s inventions and inventors simply don’t measure up in overall worth and fame to theirs, but may exceed them in creativity.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but it seems like every day I see something new, and I find myself wondering who would think of such a thing and, more often than not, think that there had to be a better use for their creativity.

Take water, for instance. It’s something that, as a kid, came from the tap and I recall wondering who thought of selling plain old water in a plastic bottle, and what kind of fool would pay for it. Now after a quick look in the mirror, I know exactly what kind of fool bottled water makers were targeting.

I never would have imagined that my trash bags or tissues needed to be scented to smell like lilacs, but somebody did that and even created scented bags that rats find repulsive.

Someone a lot smarter than I thought the seats in my car should be heated, which I can appreciate but never would have crossed my mind as necessary.

Cellphones were pretty amazing and I was quick to sign up, but with my lack of finger and thumb dexterity was a slow convert to texting.

The list of inventions that I never knew I needed continues to grow, and I often wonder how and where inventors receive their inspiration. Consider Martin J. Laverty, as an example who, according to the U.S. Patent Office, is credited with inventing another modern marvel — the self-flushing toilet in 1998.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at