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Decades in the Trade

✦ In this world of ever-increasing velocity it is quite easy to find oneself feeling dizzy at times!


The advances in technological innovation have been profound, particularly in the past decade or so, to the extent that it is a genuine challenge to pinpoint much in our everyday lives that ISN’T impacted or wholly dominated by technology.


Just stop and think about it for a second – the dual advent of the Internet and smart phones in particular has meant an over reliance on technology that very much shapes our current existence. The increasingly consistent saying of “you live through your phone” is not so much a tongue-in-cheek jibe anymore but a genuine truism.


It is very much plausible nowadays to never leave your home yet still function perfectly well, with everything from e-commerce products, food delivery and groceries all just a click away from arriving at your door. You can pay bills, order and customise TV and media content, communicate with friends a block away or a continent away and even find love through a variety of dating apps, all from the comfort of your home.


You live through your phone | Brilliant-Online
The increasingly consistent saying of “you live through your phone” is not so much a tongue-in-cheek jibe anymore but a genuine truism.

Is it so far fetched to suggest that if technology innovation continues at this rate, it won’t be too long before the majority of us are indeed bunkered in behind our doors, rarely seeing the light of day with minimal person-to-person contact? That the trading floors of New York, London and Tokyo don’t very soon fall into a hush as online algorithms replace traditional rowdy traders? That journalists at global publishing houses and media companies aren’t replaced by artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, factory personnel and even supermarket staff are replaced by machines, likewise taxi drivers and maybe even pilots? A 2019 article by Financier Worldwide suggests no industry is immune from tech disruption so the answer is perhaps not.


The rate of adoption of such technological innovation across a range of products and services has been staggering and, from a timeframe perspective, mindbendingly rapid. It also prompted us at Brilliant-Online to ask the question as to what HASN’T really been impacted in this respect over the years, tying in conveniently with the fact April is Heritage Month.


The rate of adoption of such technological innovation across a range of products and services has been staggering | Brilliant-Online
The rate of adoption of such technological innovation across a range of products and services has been staggering.

We thought long and hard but struggled to come up with any viable list of products, services or trades that haven’t really changed or been reshaped by technology. It really is quite a tough ask.

Even industries traditionally driven by manual labour, such as agriculture or construction, have been impacted to a degree by technology – think of sheep herding, for example. While in biblical days the shepherd always required a crook (which, while it may have been an innovation at the time, doesn’t qualify as a technological one!) in modern times it is an industry that requires motor vehicles and computerised resources like radios and GPS.


However, after digging deep and thinking extra hard, we did uncover a few products, services and industries that are still holding onto their heritage and resisting change – for now at least...


Zip it!


One product that many people use every day without much thought is the ubiquitous zipper. On clothes, bags, camping equipment, work uniforms, shoes, boots, handbags, zippers are everywhere! In fact the company arguably most associated with the zipper, YKK Group of Japan, manufactures roughly 3 million kilometres worth of zippers every year! April 29 is National Zipper Day and this year marks the official 100-year anniversary of the zipper as we know it today so we thought we’d take a quick history lesson...


The life of the zipper started in 1851 when American inventor Elias Howe received a patent for an “Improvement in Fastenings for Garments”. However, Elias didn’t act on his discovery, allowing compatriot Whitcomb L. Judson to patent a complex hook-and-eye shoe fastener 42 years later. Judson’s device debuted at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair but met with little commercial success and, despite him often being regarded as the original creator of the zipper, his product was never used in clothing.


One product that many people use every day without much thought is the ubiquitous zipper | Brilliant-Online
One product that many people use every day without much thought is the ubiquitous zipper.

However, Judson had laid down the blue print that was taken up and developed by Gideon Sundback, a Swedish American design engineer who developed a hookless fastener using interlocking teeth that were easy to lock and release with an attached slider. Patented as a product in 1917, and with a few tweaks here and there over the years, the term ‘zipper’ was coined by the B.F. Goodrich Company and finally launched in 1923. It has been utilised ever since with little variation to the original design.


However, despite little or no intrusion or disruption from technology in over 100 years, even the zipper could be set for change as the newest innovation in interlocking closures comes from Tesia Thomas of ZiprShift.com. Her trademarked Klōs product creates a watertight, airtight seal that, if distributed for public and industrial consumption, could very much change the zipper landscape for good. Only time will tell...


Hang on...


Upon further reflection we realised there is another product prevalent in households all around the world that has largely been untouched by technological innovation and which has therefore held onto much of its heritage: the coathanger.


While there are several theories abounding to the invention of the coathanger, the most widely acceptable seems to be that of Albert J. Parkhouse of Jackson, Michigan who, on arriving at work in 1903, discovered all the coat hooks were taken and was prompted to take a piece of wire and fashion a design similar to what we know today in order to hold his coat. Bingo, that simple!


The coat hangar was "invented" in 1903 by Albert J Parkhouse | Brilliant-Online
The coat hangar was "invented" in 1903 by Albert J Parkhouse.

In the 120 years since, the shoulder-shaped, boomerang-esque coat or clothing hanger has provided people quick access to their clothing from functional, easy access storage areas while minimising wrinkles.


Sure, they may have evolved from the original wire design to incorporate wooden, foam and even satin-laced variaties, but the basic functionality has remained the same and been much loved since. The only impact expected on the traditional coathanger is an environmentally sustainable one where production focused on reduced plastic waste will see recycled materials utilised more, thus reducing waste, conserving energy and resources and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

The hanger still serves the same function but has evolved in terms of its manufacturing components
The hanger still serves the same function but has evolved in terms of its manufacturing components.

There is no doubt there are many other products out there, perhaps even industries, that have largely preserved their heritage and been untouched by the ever-increasingly prevalent innovation of technology. If you can think of any, please feel free to share them...

 

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