I was just reading a very funny post over at Finslippy about the discovery of kitty litter. (Yes, that's what I said - go read it, you'll understand. And read the comments too, they're all hilarious).
It made me think, however. Of course, kitty litter was not a discovery but more of an invention. Before kitty litter there were shredded newspapers. No kitty litter. I guess a lot of people used to let their cats out in the old days so it wasn't as much of an issue.
But if you think about it, the idea of kitty litter was an idea that was just lying around on the ground waiting for someone to trip over it and discover it. You know, like in the cartoons where a light bulb appears over someone's head to indicate a brilliant idea. So in a way it did have to be discovered - because it was something that could have been thought of years before, but just wasn't.
Surely someone who watched their cat scratching in the dirt and gravel in their yard must have thought "Hey, if my cat needed to go in the middle of the night, wouldn't it make sense to have something like that in a box for her to use?" And maybe that person brought in some sandy dirt or something to do that, but never thought to make it a "product" that people would go buy - until one genius did.
It made me think about a lot of other things that should have been thought of sooner than they were. One that comes to mind is (sorry guys) stick-on sanitary pads. I had to use those ridiculous BELTS when I was a young teen! Surely this is an idea whose time could have come sooner than it did?
Or one-cup coffee makers - those little drip things you can put over a cup and make a real cup of brewed coffee for just one person. They had Drip-o-lators since the 1920's but nobody thought of making a one-cup version until much later. The invention of instant coffee might have been avoided altogether.
And disposable diapers! This was something that could easily have been invented a lot sooner than it was. I remember when I used to babysit back when I was a teenager, we had to use real diapers, pins (which often as not came undone and stuck the baby and made him or her cry) and those awful rubber pants that never prevented leaks very well.
I know there are more - can you think of other inventions like these, that are such obvious ideas, but nobody thought of them until more recently?