Being an inventor isn't difficult! Look at some of the simple, yet useful inventions that people have come up with:
1. Paperclips - If you look at it, a paperclip is just a piece of wire bent into a certain shape! Invented in the late 1800s, there have been numerous patents on different paperclip designs over the years. Some have more turns in the wire, and others use different materials with different elasticity to make new paperclip designs.
2. Post-Its - Invented and patented by the 3M corporation; basically a piece of paper with adhesive applied to it. The adhesive was also a 3M invention, but the true innovation in Post-Its was to add the adhesive strip to a piece of yellow paper. It's a simple, useful invention. Before the patent expired in the 1990s, 3M was the sole manufacturer of this profitable invention.
3. Rubber bands - Simple, useful, cheap! First invented in the 1800s, rubber bands took the world by storm. They were patented in 1845 by Stephen Perry. No one has since improved on the basic rubber band design - maybe there's a new invention waiting to happen!
4. Stapler - The stapler was first invented in the 1800s, and it has evolved over the years and each variation has been patented at various times. This simple invention is a real life-saver in the office, yet we take it for granted. The mechanism behind the stapler is so useful that today we even have medical staplers, which are used to staple tissue together during surgery.
5. Sticky Tape - Invented in 1926 by the 3M corporation. It's a relatively simple invention on hindsight, just the application of an adhesive to a tape roll. There certainly was some research work done to come up with the correct adhesive, but the key innovation was to use this adhesive on a tape. This invention was so successful that it has become a common everyday item.
6. HTML / Web Browser - What you're using to see this web-page! It's a very simple idea if you think about it, but it wasn't invented until 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee. Before that, the Internet was just a collection of text information stored in different formats. This invention literally changed the world, and believe it or not, it's not patented. This was because in the early in the 1990s, software was thought to be unpatentable. That's not the case nowadays and software patents are regularly granted for software inventions.
7. Play-Doh - invented and patented in 1965, this popular toy is now sold by Toy giant Hasbro. Look up the Play Doh patent to see how it's made! (US Patent 3,167,440, titled "Plastic Modeling Composition of a Soft Pliable Working Consistency")
8. Lego - These simple, yet ingenious toys, took the world by storm. It's hard to find someone who hasn't played with these in their childhood. Legos were protected by patents, which gave the Lego company a near monopoly on this simple toy. The patents have only begun to expire (as of 2007), allowing other competitors like MegaBlocks to make building blocks which can connect to Lego bricks.
9. Cable Organizers / Cable ties - If you've ever dealt with a mess of cables coming out of your TV or your computer, you know how useful these simple devices are. Hundreds of variations exist today, including cable organizers made with Velcro, plastic cases, and so on.
10. Fruit Juicers / Citrus Juicers - How did people squeeze juice from an orange before we had juicers? We take our morning glass of O.J. for granted, but it was the simple hand-powered juicer that first made it possible.
Photo credit: photos are from the Wikimedia Commons