For westerners, the 1950s was a decade of seemingly endless possibilities. It was a time of great optimism, driven by marketing, consumerism and modern science. American culture pervaded Europe even more than it previously had, bringing with it the latest consumer gadgets. Many of the inventions of the 1950s happen to be an important part of our lives today.
Dr. Harry Coover discovered cyanoacrylate, what we now know as "super glue," while developing a clear plastic gun sight for Kodak during World War II. Coover abandoned the idea because it was too sticky for the project. He and Dr. Fred Joyner rediscovered it in 1951 while working on jet engines. In 1958 the Eastman Company introduced the product as "Compound 910," but later changed its name to Super Glue.
Frank McNamara introduced the first credit card in 1950. It was called Diner's Club and was used only in restaurants. In 1958, American Express became the first general-purpose credit card.
Jonas Salk developed the vaccine for polio in 1947, but it was not ready to release to the public until 1955, according to Enchanted Learning. Before the vaccine, approximately one in 5,000 people contracted polio. Most of the victims were children.
Wireless television remote
Eugene Polley, an engineer with Zenith, invented the "Flash-Matic" in 1955. It was the first wireless television remote control. It was essentially a flashlight with a concentrated beam, according to Electronic House.
Gregory Pincus began researching conception and contraception in the 1930s. In 1951 Pincus met Margaret Sanger, a champion of contraceptives, who helped him secure a small grant from Planned Parenthood to create a hormone oral contraceptive. In 1955 Pincus and research partner Dr. John Rock announced at a medical conference they had created the first oral contraceptive.
In 1958 Arthur "Spud" Melin and Richard Knerr of Wham-O began marketing the plastic Hula-Hoop in the United States. They were not able to patent their invention, since a similar design had been used for centuries. But they did secure a trademark for the name "Hula-Hoop."
The black box
In 1953, while investigating the crash of the first jet-powered aeroplane The Comet, Australian David Warren argued it would be helpful if voice data was recorded in the cockpit. By 1957 the flight industry began to recognise the value of Warren's invention. Today they are standard equipment on planes around the world.
Secretary and artist Bette Nesmith Graham invented correction fluid after noticing how costly typographical errors were for business. She mixed up the first batch in her own kitchen blender. Graham started her own company in 1956 to sell what she originally called "Mistake Out."