If you’re one of those people who is always complaining about progress and refuses to get on board with new innovations…well, you’re just getting in the way.
There’s nothing that can stop innovation: it’s part of the cycle of life, technology, etc., EXCEPT for human stupidity. Yes, that’s right, many times, the only thing standing in the way between us and making our lives much easier is ourselves. DUMB HUMANS. Read on to learn about 5 great innovations that were held back by, you guessed it, human stupidity.
1. Kodak’s Digital Camera
This is a prime example of not striking while the iron is hot, and not having the foresight to let technology develop the way it’s supposed to. This did happen in the 1970s and 1980s so I guess we can forgive the executives at Kodak a little bit for not seeing the future, but still, they blew it in a pretty big way.
Here’s what happened: Way back in 1975, a young Kodak employee named Steve Sasson was given a specific job, to figure out whether the recently developed Charged Coupling Device could be used in any way. Sasson tinkered around with the device, played a bit of Dr. Frankenstein, and discovered a way to capture images and store them onto a digital tape. His new apparatus was made up of a Super-8 camera lens, a digital cassette recorder, an analog-digital recorder, and a whole bunch of batteries and circuits.
He was then able to hook his new device up to a TV and project a digital image. It took only milliseconds to capture an image but 23 seconds to record the image to tape. The image was rough, but Sasson figured that technology would advance quickly and the quality would improve rapidly. The world of photography was changed forever. There was one problem: Kodak executives were convinced no one would ever want to view photos on a TV set. Print and paper photography was so ingrained in our culture at the time that it seemed like a longshot to think every human being would one day own a digital camera.
So the first digital camera was patented in 1978 but Sasson was not allowed to talk about it publicly. It wasn’t until 1989 that Sasson and a colleague created the first digital camera that resembles the ones we use today. Even at this point, Kodak was still not interested in marketing the product because they believed it would eat into their film sales.
Obviously, we all know that digital photography caught on in a huge way, and while Kodak made heaps of money from their patent, it ran out in 2007 and the company fell on hard times. Kodak tried to embrace digital, but it was too late. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
2. Taxes Were Almost Relatively Easy…
Taxes are one of the unfortunate realities of life. It’s always painful when mid-April rolls around and we’re forced to crunch the numbers and weep as we drop those envelopes in the mailbox.
And, as Americans, if we screw up our taxes, we get in deep shit with the IRS and get audited, which is a whole lot of fun. Some people would be surprised to learn that in a whole lot of other countries, including the UK, Japan, and Germany, people have their taxes done for them by the government. It’s called return-free filing and you can double-check the government’s work if you so desire.
Unlike in the U.S., where the IRS is extremely unpopular and people’s disdain of the agency borders on blind hatred, Sweden’s Tax Department is one of the country’s most popular branches of government. So it’s pretty clear that the countries that have this system think it’s convenient and fair.
The U.S. considered streamlining the tax process in the late 1990s under The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act. President Clinton even signed a bill into law that stated that by 2007, the IRS would have a return-free system. Buuuut then the lobbyists stepped in and decided to rail against the law. Companies that make tax software, like H&R Block and Intuit, poured millions of dollars into lobbying against the measure. Their efforts paid off and in 2002, the IRS signed an agreement with a bunch of tax software companies that allows for a “free filing” system, even though less than 3% of taxpayers used the system in 2014…so there’s that. Thanks lobbyists!
3. Pregnant Women are Pretty Much Banned From Medical Research
This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. It seems like pregnant women should be at the forefront of medical research because, well, we want women to be healthy and to give birth to healthy babies. The basis for this reasoning dates to the 1960s, when the side effects of a drug called thalidomide caused horrific birth defects in children. This led the FDA to crack down on medical trials, and the agency banned women from participating in this type of research.
Congress repealed the ban in 1993, but the stigma of having pregnant women participate in medical trials persists today. Even though treatments, drugs, and dosages affect men and women differently, the ratio of male test subjects are still often much higher in clinical trials due to the concern of a woman’s hormonal effects during ovulation being “a potential complicating factor.” Women, not even pregnant women, made up less than 25% of subjects in clinical trials as recently as 2004. And many women who did participate had to prove that they were on contraceptives or were sterile.
The original intention was for a good cause, but it seems like this practice is very outdated. Bottom line: there is still a whole lot of research that needs to be done in regards to women’s health in general, let alone the health of pregnant women, and it ain’t happening.
4. Britain and Their Appliance Plugs
This is a very strange one. Between 1980 and 1989, almost 3,000 people in Great Britain had to be rushed to the hospital due to injuries caused by plugs that were not wired correctly. And 32 people died for the same reason between 1980 and 1988.
What in the world was going on across the pond, you ask? Well, it wasn’t until the 1990s that manufacturers in Great Britain were required to sell plugs with appliances like blenders, toasters, etc. Dwellings were not uniformly wired and there was no standard wall socket up until the late 1940s, so the Brits were accustomed to buying their appliances and their plugs separately and then wiring it themselves. By the early 1990s, 95% of British households had the standard three-prong plug that had been around since 1947, but companies didn’t want to lose out on money, so the separate sales continued (even though people were getting killed).
The government finally stepped in and put an end to it…and it only took about 45 years!
5. Planned Obsolescence
This may sound like an unfamiliar term, but trust me, you deal with this every day. Planned obsolescence basically means that everything you buy has an expiration date on it and will become obsolete at some point. But it wasn’t always this way, friends.
In the early 1900s, products were made to last. There are literally light bulbs that have been in use for over 100 years and they’re still going strong. So why did this change? In 1924, bigwigs from the world’s largest lighting companies (Philips, General Electric, and Osram) got together and dreamed up the “1,000 hour light bulb” that we’re familiar with today. The businessmen wondered why they should manufacture a product that people only had to buy once when they could make something that people would have to buy over and over again.
This business and manufacturing philosophy spread to other companies and that’s why we live in a world where you have to not only replace your burned-out light bulbs all the time, but also your laptop, your phone, and even your clothes. It’s now the industry standard.
Hey, the world belongs to big corporations, we just live in it.