50 Inventions That Are Way Older Than You Think

21Fax Machine

Scottish inventor Alexander Bain received British patent in 1843 for his "Electric Printing Telegraph". The first device resembling the modern fax machine was the pantelegraph which was invented by an Italian physicist. He introduced the first commercial telefax service between Paris and Lyon in 1865, some 11 years before the invention of the telephone.

22Automatic Doors

In the 1st century A.D., Greek mathematician Heron of Alexandria invented the first known automatic door. He described two different automatic door applications. The first application was used to open temple doors. The device used heat from a fire lit by the city's temple priest. After a few hours, atmospheric pressure built up in a brass vessel caused it to pump water into adjacent containers. These containers acted as weights that, through a series of ropes and pulleys, would open the temple's doors at about the time people were to arrive for prayer. Heron used a similar application to open the gates to the city.

23Color movies

Even in the earliest days of silent film, color was used in motion pictures. The technique utilized in the earliest color films like "Vie et Passion du Christ" ("Life and Passion of the Christ") (1903) and "A Trip to the Moon" (1902) was stenciling, in which each frame of a film was hand-colored. The process to hand-color each frame of a film — even films much shorter than the typical film of today — was painstaking, expensive, and time-consuming. The first feature film with a sound was The Jazz Singer, which was released in 1927.


Humans made animated art tens of thousands of years ago. The 21,000 years old cave paintings in Lascaux, France were made in such a way that flickering oil light would create the illusion of motion on the cave-painted animals. When the cave was discovered in 1940, more than 100 small stone lamps that once burned grease from rendered animal fat were found throughout its chambers. A flickering flame in the cave may have conjured impressions of motion like a strobe light in a dark club.

25Checks and Credit

The check is older than cash. Ancient Romans are believed to have used an early form of check known as praescriptiones in the 1st century B.C. Credit predates the check and it actually predates writing. According to historians, the concept of using a valueless instrument to represent banking transactions dates back 5,000 years, when the ancient Mesopotamians used clay tablets to conduct trade with the Harappan civilization. While still cumbersome, a slab of clay with seals from both civilizations certainly beat the tons of copper each would have had to melt down to produce the coins of that era.


Although the Pythagorean philosopher Archytas of Tarentum (5th century B.C.) is the alleged inventor of the screw, the exact date of its first appearance as a useful mechanical device is obscure. Though invention of the water screw is usually ascribed to Archimedes (3rd century B.C.), evidence exists of a similar device used for irrigation in Egypt at an earlier date. The screw press, probably invented in Greece in the 1st or 2nd century B.C., has been used since the days of the Roman Empire for pressing clothes. In the 1st century A.D., wooden screws were used in wine and olive-oil presses.


Catheters were used as early as 3,000 B.C. to relieve painful urinary retention. In those times, many materials were used to form a hollow catheter, some of which were straw, rolled up palm leaves, hollow tops of onions, as well as, gold, silver, copper, brass, and lead. Malleable catheters were developed in the 11th century. In time, silver was used as the basis of catheters as it could be bent to any desired shape and was felt to have an antiseptic function.

28Ice Creams

During the 5th century B.C., ancient Greeks ate snow mixed with honey and fruit in the markets of Athens. In 400 B.C., the Persians invented a special chilled food, made of rose water and vermicelli, which was served to royalty during summers. The ice was mixed with saffron, fruits, and various other flavors. A frozen mixture of milk and rice was used in China around 200 B.C. They poured a mixture of snow and saltpeter over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup, for, in the same way as salt raises the boiling point of water, it lowers the freezing point to below zero.

293D Printing

3D printing has burst into the mainstream media in recent years, but in reality, it has been around since the 1980s. Patent for stereolithography process was filed in 1984 and the technology used by most 3D printers to date, i.e., fused deposition modeling was developed in 1988. It has been gaining mainstream attention because most of the patents used in manufacturing them have expired, which has made them affordable.

30Soft Drinks

Dr. Pepper was released in 1885, one year before Coca-Cola. Even before that carbonated lemonade was widely available in British refreshment stalls in 1833. The first company that sold carbonated water was established in Geneva in 1783. Even before carbonated drinks, in the medieval Middle East, a variety of fruit-flavored soft drinks were widely drunk, such as sharbat, and were often sweetened with ingredients such as sugar, syrup, and honey.


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