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In 1986, when the journalists of an American consumer magazine wanted to compile a list of the 50 most important products introduced in the last century, they had to work their way through more than 100,000 products. The fifty little miracles left behind, things that had revolutionized the life of the common American, included not only running shoes and air conditioning, but to many astonishment also the tampon, better known as the roll of tampax. Its inventor had died five years earlier. But he would not have been surprised at the choice: he had already been on these kinds of lists in his life.

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Robert Moog, inventor of the modern synthesizer

One of the most beautiful moments in the life of synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog was undoubtedly the day in 1990 when musical friends introduced him to Leon Theremin in Paris. This legendary Russian was then 94 years old. "It was difficult to talk to him because he hadn't spoken English in 50 years," Moog said. "But I was just happy to be next to him." A definition of true love. The theremin is the only musical instrument that can be played without touching it.

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Vacuum cleaner

Hubert Cecil Booth

The young engineer Hubert Cecil Booth had been tinkering with engines for Royal Navy warships for several years and taking on the Ferris wheel of the Prater in Vienna when he received a strange invitation in 1900. An American inventor gave a demonstration in a London concert hall of a revolutionary method of cleaning carpets with compressed air. The man forced air into the carpet through the mouthpiece of a tube. He collected the dust and dirt that emerged in a container. The process could not prevent spectators from being enveloped in thick clouds of dust.

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The stethoscope or hearing tube that allows doctors to listen to the workings of the heart, lungs, and even viscera and blood flow, is nearly two hundred years old. The physician status symbol has outlived modern technology. Its inventor was called Laënnec, René Théophile Hyacinthe Laënnec in full, and he was of Breton descent. His father was a lawyer in Quimper, his mother died of tuberculosis when he was only five. An uncle with a medical practice in Nantes took him under his wing and gave him a solid medical training from the age of thirteen. In 1897, the doctor informed his brother that Théophile was doing well in Latin, chemistry, physics, anatomy and corpse opening and that he had already mastered a series of surgical procedures. He was 16 at the time. No wonder he was able to finish his medical studies in Paris smoothly.

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In 1982 there was no internet, no world wide web or google, no e-mail, chat box or text message. The BBS still ruled, the bulletin board system, a forerunner of the current newsgroups, but with modems and analogue telephone lines. In the age of the computer. It was on one such BBS that Scott Fahlman launched his idea on September 19, 1982, at 11:44 am to be exact. In the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where Fahlman worked as a 'research professor', such a BBS was an important social tool. A place where professors, teachers and students could communicate on important computer issues on an equal footing.

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Noise canceling

At the age of 30, American engineer Ray Dolby traveled through India on behalf of UNESCO at the end of 1963 to record sitar music in the ashrams. He was very annoyed by the quality of the recordings, which permanently produced a soft murmur. Traveling by bus and train to cities such as New Delhi and Bangalore, he had the idea of splitting the recording into two channels, one soft and one loud, and reversing them when playing. A simple type of compression that makes the listener perceive less noise.

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Roller skating

He's on all the skate websites, the K2 brand has a kid's skate line named after him, and every history of roller skating starts with him. In England he is a legend. The Americans pay tribute to him at their National Roller Skating Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. Only in his own country he is not known: Jean-Joseph Merlin from Huy. An unusual fame for a Belgian, especially when you know that he made musical instruments in the first place.

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Roll film

George Eastman came from a family that valued every dollar. His father died when he was five and his mother was left with two girls, one severely handicapped, and little George. From the age of fourteen, he was able to work as an errand boy for an insurance company for a fee of three dollars a week. A year later, he found work as an office boy at another firm, where he soon learned how to draw up policies and earn five dollars a week. But that too was insufficient to support the family. He studied bookkeeping in the evenings, and in 1874, as the youngest clerk, he was hired at a bank for $ 15.

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A zipper looks complex and it is. Successive technicians worked on the first copy for 31 years and it was the Swede Sundback who brought the adventure to a successful conclusion in the United States. Otto Frederick Gideon Sundback studied electrical engineering and in 1905, aged 25, traveled to the United States where engineers were short of engineers at the time. The first thing he did was delete all his first names.

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On October 11, 1999, after producing revolvers for 144 years, the American weapons manufacturer Colt threw in the towel. The company stopped producing revolvers - not other weapons - after 29 American cities filed lawsuits. They wanted compensation for the high costs of fighting crimes with firearms, a strategy adopted from the successful fight against the tobacco industry. "Weapons company Colt backs down", "Revolvers Rolls Royce disappears", "Cowboy revolver manufacturer gives in to gunfire", "Colts will no longer smoke in the US", were the beautiful titles. Five days later, the new president said he was only closing the production lines of the models he hadn't sold for years. Despite the growing anti-gun lobby offensive, the cities' procedures and the political fuss over guns, Sam Colt's invention is doing better than ever.

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