Disproving daft chain email messages about invention dates

I don’t know if this is a pet peeve of mine or not, but on one of the many mailing lists I’m on, someone posted an email this morning about “grandpa talking about all the things that have been invented since he was born”, with us supposed to be surprised at the end when we find out he’s only 59 years old.
Problem is, it’s about 90% wrong and as is typical with chain letters, no-one ever actually checks to see the veracity of the information, they just blindly forward it along, not just polluting people’s inboxes but further disseminating the misinformation.
Instead, I just took a little bit of time and pointed out the inaccuracies. Thought it might be interesting to post it here too, for posterity (as it were). If not, well, move along, citizen, nothing to see here…


I’m going to cite the line from the message in bold, then my answer immediately below it. I haven’t included reference links because I just kept using Google to search for “when was XX invented?” and using the first or second citation displayed.
Ready for this? Let me start with the intro to set the tone and I’ll do the math for you: Grandpa is supposedly 59, meaning he was born in 1951…
How old is Grandpa? Stay with this — the answer is at the end. It will blow you away. One evening a grandson was talking to his grandfather about current events. The grandson asked his grandfather what he thought about the shootings at schools, the computer age, and just things in general. The Grandfather replied, ‘Well, let me think a minute…
I was born before… television
First invention credited to John Baird in the UK in 1923.
before penicillin
Invented by Flemming in 1928, Commercial vaccine dates to 1938.
before polio shots
Jonas Salk, 1954. That’s one of the very few that’s accurate, actually.
before frozen foods
Clarence Birdseye, patented in 1929, first quick frozen foods sold in 1930.
before Xerox
Xerography was invented by Chester Carlson in 1937.
before contact lenses
First glass contact lenses, 1887, F.A.Muller. First plastic contact lens? 1936, by William Feinbloom.
before Frisbees
Invented by Walter Morrison in 1948. Patented in 1950..
before the Pill
Depends on how you look at it, but probably 1952 by Frank Colton at G.D.Searle Labs. Okay, that works too, just barely.
before credit cards
First known credit card, “Charg-It”, was introduced in 1946, actually.
before laser beams
That one’s true, the invention of the laser beam is credited to Gordon Gould in 1957.
before ball-point pens
First patent for a ball point pen was in 1888, to John Loud. Biro filed his British patent on the more modern style ball point in 1938.
I stopped here — the email is a lot longer — but I have to say that it does frustrate me that there’s so much drivel, so much misinformation on the Internet presented as fact. I can’t but misquote the mantra of Tim Leary: think for yourself and do your own research.
There. I feel better now. 🙂

One comment on “Disproving daft chain email messages about invention dates

  1. Why do you trust Google on those dates? I’m just kidding. Fortunately, I don’t get any of the chain emails you describe, and I think I’m glad. I have my own father, who is a grandfather who tells me his own version of what has been invented since he was born. My dad’s version is much more colorful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.