Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It's sticky picking the best inventions

Sometimes a song dances through my head and I just can’t shake it — the song, not my head.

And I keep hearing that same song, over and over again, from the time I wake up until my attention is diverted by some event taking place – like letting the dogs out to run in their pen, or eating breakfast.

The song that bugged me for several days recently was, “The Greatest Invention,” and it is entirely possible you never heard it – unless you saw “New Faces of 1956.”

I not only saw it (it was not quite as good as “New Faces of 1952,” but almost) but after I saw it I went out and bought the original cast album, which has always been my wont after seeing a Broadway musical.

And I have played it over and over.

The lyric of one of the tunes goes, “The greatest invention in the whole wide world is a boy and a girl in love.”

That sounds a little cheesy, but it’s a cute song. Another of its lines is: “Do you know who invented the telephone? Don Ameche. Gee, that’s peachy. No, it was Alexander Graham Bell. Do tell.”

(If you ever want to hear the album you’ll have to come to my basement, where I can play it on my old LP HiFi system. But I digress).

But it got me to thinking: What was the greatest invention of all time?

Now, I could have done a lot of research for a column like this, but there’s one problem. I don’t do research.

So let’s just agree that it really could be a boy and a girl in love. But there must be some other possibilities.

Thomas Edison would be a good place to start. His incandescent light bulb certainly was one of the greatest inventions of all time. Except that our screwy federal government is trying to do away with them.

My disapproval of this preposterous scam is monumental. But I am fighting back. Every week I go to Target and buy two packages of bulbs – 40 watt and 100 watt. I figure I will have enough to last until we get somebody running the EPA who has a brain at least the size of a pea.

Eli Whitney was another great inventor, if you like a little cotton gin on occasion — perhaps with a splash of tonic water.

But what strikes me is the number of great things that surround us of which the inventors are totally anonymous.

Think about it. Who invented the Thermos bottle? Its value to society is that it keeps things hot and it keeps things cold, and it knows one from the other.

Color TV is another great invention, especially on that day sometime in the future when it will bring the Browns into our living rooms in the Super Bowl in living color.

Don’t laugh. It will happen. They are headed in the right direction. You read it here.

I have a personal nomination for the greatest inventor in history, and I’m not kidding. Perhaps you know his name. If you do, let me know and I will drop him a note to congratulate him.

He is the guy who invented (are you ready for this?) the postage stamp you don’t have to lick. You peel it off a sheet of waxy paper, stick it in the upper right hand corner of the envelope and, PRESTO, it’s ready to go.

Every time I pay a bill I peel off a stamp and mail it. And I totally, and I mean totally, ignore those tear-stained admonitions in the upper right hand corner that every company prints on its return envelopes: “please don’t use a stamp.”

Are they insane? Of course I’m going to use a stamp. They must be nuts.

And in the upper left hand corner I place a little peel-off label that has my name and address.

I once wrote a column about the proliferation of those return address labels that arrive with every “tin cup” letter asking for money.

I calculate I have more than 10 million of those labels because I never throw them away, and everybody is always writing and asking for money. I may send them some and I may not. But I keep their labels.

By the way, that column never ran because I had too many more important  things to write about. It is still in the computer though. But I checked and it is 44 inches long. Way over my limit today.

But if you ever find out who invented stamps you don’t have to lick, let me know. And let’s not assume it was a man.

It might very well have been a woman.


Blogger Candace on Lean Living n More said...

Hey Jim! I am so excited that you brought up the issue about our government deciding that China would be making all of OUR light bulbs, and that you are far from happy about it. President Obama complains about companies outsourcing work to China and other countries...what the HECK did he do?? It's a downright UNAMERICAN decision if you ask me!It's obvious to me that China decided they wanted a big favor due to all that we owe them. Owing Communist China ANYTHING is a really bad idea, if you ask me! They should have put it up for a vote - before they started borrowing anything from them. When we got to the point where we needed money from China - we should have been made aware...not after we owe them trillions! I think that we should ALL be on the Mall in Washington with our pitch forks, clamoring for someone to be thrown out to us so that we can, well...I think you get the picture! This is one of the most asinine decision that has been made by this administration, though there are MANY others. G.E. was doing a fine job making them, and many people had jobs in the making of them. Please do some of that which you said you don't do...research that is...and fill the public in on just how DANGEROUS these mercury filled 'low light' bulbs really are. I believe that you and our community will be amazed at the just how risky the little things are!!!

Blogs: ImJusSayin76 and Candace on Lean Living n More

March 13, 2012 at 1:20 PM 

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