You might have seen our latest MBNA advert - we’ve included it above, just in case you were making a cheeky brew while it was on.
It’s all about our clever eligibility checker - a quick way to see the MBNA credit cards you’re eligible to apply for, without affecting your credit rating. All pretty revolutionary, at least as far as credit cards go - which got us thinking about other brilliantly clever ideas. Here are some of our favourites:
You’re using one right now
From filling an entire room in the 1940s, to the smartphone you can carry in your hand, computers have evolved from simple calculators to become an indispensable presence in our homes, workplaces and pockets.
In the 17th century, Philosopher GW Leibniz mused about calculating machines (the abacus was popular back then), but it was mathematician Charles Babbage who created the first mechanical device in the 19th century.
The Analytical Engine had many of the parts you’ll find in modern computers... yep, in the 1830s people worried still about ‘memory’. It could make complex calculations, including multiplication and division.1
Roll the press
You might expect our next pick to be the internet, but wind back the handle of time and something else was arguably more critical to the sharing of knowledge, communication and the spread of literacy.2
Common by the 14th century, the printing press united earlier technologies including the screw-press, woodblock printing, paper milling and ink production, to make repeat printing easy and inexpensive.3
Mechanising the process is accredited to Johannes Gutenberg who, in the mid-1400s, built a press which printed evenly and featured a ‘moveable under-table’ to speed up the feed of paper.4
Let there be light
Electric light bulbs illuminate our lives in loads of ways. They’re lurking behind TV screens and inside cinema projectors. Our streets would be scarier without them, and things lost under the bed might never be found.
Infinitely safer than a naked flame, the first incandescent light was developed in 1802 by Cornish chemist and inventor Sir Humphry Davy, followed by the electric arc light in 18065 (still used in IMAX projectors).
Safe and effective domestic lighting wasn’t widely available until the early 20th century6, thanks in part to Thomas Edison’s research into carbon filaments, which were bright and long lasting.7
Aren’t thumbs funny things?
The scientific theory of evolution and natural selection is widely taught and accepted today, but when it was introduced by Charles Darwin in 1838, it shook beliefs that all life had been created by supernatural forces.
Darwin and his contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace, published separate papers on the theory in 1858, explaining the ‘struggle for existence’ where those with favourable variations are more likely to succeed.8
Thomas Henry Huxley applied the idea to human origins, using bones, fossils and ape anatomy to assert that we share a common ancestry, further shocking the straight-laced society of the 1860s.9
Not the centre of everything
It may be self-centred, but earthlings of the past assumed everything in space revolved around them. The ancient Greeks challenged that in the 3rd century BC, but their notions were largely ignored.10
It wasn’t until the 16th century when a mathematical model placing the sun at the centre of the solar system was presented by Nicolaus Copernicus, although it wasn’t published until the time of his death in 1543.11
In the following century, ‘father of science’ Galileo Galilei supported Copernican theory with observations made with a new-fangled telescope, but challenging accepted beliefs at the time landed him in jail.12
If at first you don’t succeed
We had to give a special shout-out to our favourite piece of office stationery, the sticky note.
Dr Spencer Silver was aiming to create a super-strong adhesive for stationery brand 3M when, in 1968, he created quite the opposite: a low tack, reusable, pressure-sensitive adhesive.
It wasn’t until 1974 that a colleague, Art Fry, thought of using the adhesive to anchor a bookmark. The idea stuck (pun totally intended), proving that creative thinking can turn a flop into a fortune.13