Things That Originally Looked Totally Different
You won't believe how different these everyday items originally looked!Knowledge
In this article we’ll be revisiting technologies, places, and everyday items we’re all familiar with, and seeing how they’ve transformed way beyond recognition over time. From the first telephones and headphones, to the bizarre original appearance of fruits. Let's investigate things that originally looked totally different!
Babies are expensive. $18,000 in the US, to be precise. That is, hospital fees for delivering a baby, not to literally buy one. If you are in the market for a baby, chances are you’ll need a stroller. And while all types of hot rods are available now, the original concept was quite different!
Back in the days of yore, parents didn’t have many options when it came to transporting their little terrors, besides carrying them, perhaps in a basket, or using a sling. Even Mother Mary sported a sling with baby, at least according to a 1306 painting by Giotto.
However, a strange series of events would eventually see the unexpected invention of the stroller. William Kent was an 18th-century British architect and furniture designer. Back in his day, he was kind of a big deal, so much so, people often employed him to design all types of things.
In 1733, the 3rd Duke of Devonshire employed William to design a transportation device to amuse his kids while on the go. To that, William whipped up a four-wheel cart, hauled by a goat, no less; you might call it a goat-kart.
Shockingly, despite the precariousness of allowing a farm animal to trawl your child around, those goat wagons reportedly became very popular among high society!
So, it's just as well that in the 1830s, American toymaker, Benjamin Potter Crandall, created a safer, parent-controlled, goat-free design. And while that, and later adaptations, which came to be known as perambulators, certainly made traveling with a baby a lot easier, it wasn’t initially a popular choice outside of the upper classes.
It took the ever influential Queen Victoria buying one in 1847 for strollers to become widely popular, and from there, it was plain sailing, right up until humans started putting chihuahuas in strollers.
It’s hard to imagine a world without phones. In fact, right now 91.4% of the world’s population have a mobile phone. Also, research has indicated that on average we spend around a third of our waking hours on the darn things. So, to whom do we owe the pleasure or rather blame?
It all started with cups and string. We all know that two cups or cans, joined by a taut piece of string, can transmit sound. It works because the speaking person’s voice vibrates their cup, and those vibrations travel along the stretched string, inducing the same vibration in the other cup, replicating the input sound.
Amazingly, those types of devices have been found to have existed in very basic forms since as early as 7th century Peru, constructed of gourds and twine. And while it seems like juvenile fun, its simple idea of sending sound information via a wire would inspire a whole new technology: the telephone.
Inventors knew long-distance communication could be achieved if they used those same principles on a much larger scale. But instead of using string, a series of genius inventors ultimately figured out that sound could be converted into an electric signal and transmitted through metal wire. The idea was there, it was just a matter of who would get there first. And, in 1876, Alexander Graham Bell officially invented the telephone.
Unlike your phone which probably fits snuggly in the palm of your hand, the phone Bell developed after several iterations was a hefty contraption, made up of 2 parts: a transmitter and a receiver. The transmitter had a cylinder piece, which you can imagine being like the ‘cup’.
The user would speak into that and their voice would create sound waves, causing a diaphragm inside to vibrate, which in turn vibrated a magnet inside an iron cylinder. It generated an electrical signal, which travelled through the wire, and magnetized a coil in the receiver, vibrating another diaphragm, and replicating the original soundwaves at the receiving end. And thus telecommunication was made possible.
Over the years, thanks to constantly developing technology, the design of the telephone has streamlined and has seen more redesigns than Madonna. Alexander Bell might’ve figured out telecommunication, but who is responsible for smartphones? And when exactly did the first smartphone appear?
The idea is generally credited to IBM, who in 1994 created the ‘Simon’. While the term ‘smartphone’ hadn’t yet been coined, IBM branded their device as a quote, ‘personal communicator’. It packed all the essential trimmings of a smartphone, such as calling capability, email, a calculator, a calendar, and a world clock, all eased by a touchscreen and a stylus.
In many ways, the Simon showcased technology that was way beyond its time, but unfortunately, didn’t sell very well. While it packed a ton of tech, it cost an eye-watering $900 and had a measly 1-hour battery life, which made it a no-deal for most people.
So, it sold only 50,000 units and was pulled from the shelves after just 6 months. It seems a touchscreen phone just didn’t excite people enough in ‘94. They were more occupied by the groundbreaking technology of flip phones; you can’t deny how fun they are!
Every good brand needs a good logo. And occasionally, brands might tweak theirs in order to appeal to the modern eye. However, here we’ll be discussing some logos that have changed way beyond recognition.
First up, we'll talk about the McDonald’s logo. The company began in 1937 when Patrick McDonald opened a hotdog and hamburger stand called Air Dome. However, in 1940 his sons, Maurice and Richard, took over and renamed it McDonald’s Bar-B-Que, represented by the logo below.
Realizing that their sales were mainly coming from their hamburgers, the logo was soon changed, but it wasn’t until 1952 that the name would officially change to simply McDonald’s. The first official logo of the McDonald’s brand is in the image below.
By 1960, though, it was sayonara to that logo, as the iconic golden arches were ushered in, inspired by the unique architecture that’d been utilized in their restaurants over the prior decade. And while the arches have certainly evolved since then, the core logo has essentially remained the same!
Another huge company that’s overhauled its logo is Apple. While the company might be known for its minimal and ultramodern designs, its original logo in 1976 looked more medieval than futuristic!
The present logo is very clearly and simply an apple. The same cannot be said for the original, designed by Ronald Wayne, which showed Isaac Newton sat beneath an apple tree.
Apple must’ve realized how, overly complicated it was as just a year later it was changed to the much more on-brand and now iconic design, which was simplified again from rainbow-colored to black and grey in subsequent decades.
Continuing our logo voyage now, besides ABBA, IKEA is probably the best thing to come from Sweden. And if you look at its blue and yellow logo, you can very clearly recognize its Swedish heritage.
However, when opening in 1951, founder, Ingvar Kamprad, actually wanted the red logo as he felt it represented the low prices.
Nevertheless, just 3 years later in 1954, IKEA traded that in for a brown logo. Which gives connotations of turd, as opposed to low-priced furniture. It wouldn’t be until 1967 that THE IKEA logo would be introduced.
If there’s one thing that can be said to change decade by decade, it’s beauty trends. And with those changing trends, there have been some hilarious changes in the technologies used to carry out the trends of the day.
For starters, for those who wear makeup, there’s now an excellent product known as setting spray, which prevents makeup from wearing off or running due to sweat or moisture. However, in 1947, such a wonder didn’t exist. So, Max Factor, the cosmetics company founded by Maksymilian Faktorowicz, fashioned a rather interesting solution, Hangover Heaven.
Mainly geared towards actresses on hot film sets, the contraption allowed them to cool their faces, all the while keeping their make-up in place. It was essentially a wearable ice cube tray, with sealed cubes filled with water that could be frozen. Not surprisingly, it didn’t catch on. Perhaps it just wasn’t “cool” enough.
Much to the trauma of most people who lived through the 80s, perms are back. But did you know the first proper perm machine wasn’t intended to curl hair, but to straighten it? In 1928, African-American hairdresser, Marjorie Joyner, patented a helmet like machine which clamped hair in 1 inch sections, and used an electrical current to heat it, resulting in the hair being straightened.
And while it allowed women of all ethnicities to sport straight locks, it could also be used to allow Caucasian women to sport curly ‘do’s too! Sure, the beauty of the result is very much open to debate, but the appearance of the device itself is undeniably terrifying.
Sprouting from the earth, fruit is one of Mother Nature’s best inventions. However, not all fruit we know today is as Mother Nature originally intended, beginning with bananas.
In their purest form, bananas were nowhere near as tasty and easy to consume as they are today, considering that they, like their wild counterparts that are still found in certain parts of the world today, originally had tough, thick skins, and huge seeds inside which would make them almost inedible.
The bananas we’re familiar with have been selectively bred over centuries by humans to drastically decrease the size of their seeds, by breeding the plants with the most favorable characteristics together. As a result, the seeds can barely even be spotted in modern bananas.
But even more modern varieties of banana have changed a lot in recent centuries. Between the 1870s and 1950s, the most popular type of banana in the USA was the Gros Michel variety.
Which, while it might similar, was very different to the bananas we peel open today. The Gros Michel was said to be creamy, rich, sweet, tangy, and by all accounts, far superior to the modern banana. So, if that banana was so perfect, then why doesn’t it exist today?
Well, for all its benefits, the Gros Michel had one Achilles heel, Panama Disease. The fungal disease would spread through the soil and infect the banana trees, causing them to wilt and no longer produce.
The disease tore through banana plantations destroying crops, and by the late 1950s, the Gros Michel could no longer be commercially produced, thus concluding its cycle as the world’s most popular banana. Which begs the question: what are we eating today? Well, they call it the Cavendish Banana.
Growers knew of Panama Disease even back in the late 1800s, so in the early 1900s, researchers began developing a disease-resistant banana, resulting in Gros Michel’s less tasty, but close enough cousin, the Cavendish banana, which dominates supermarket shelves today.
But it’s not just our beloved bananas that have had a glow up, watermelons too! The refreshing watermelons we devour during hot summer days are actually considerably different from the ones of yesteryear just check out this 17th-century painting by Giovanni Stanchi.
If you take a look at what is supposed to be a pair of melons, you’ll see they both have 6 triangular segments, filled with a swirly flesh that is full of large, dark seeds. Crop breeding expert and professor, James Nienhuis, reveres the painting, claiming that it perfectly captures the early form of the now beloved fruit.
The watermelon is said to have first originated in northeastern Africa and was domesticated as a source of both water and food around 4,000 years ago. Since then, it’s been selectively bred to have fewer seeds, less rind, and a more succulent, sugary, red flesh.
Let's find the origins of Santa. And let’s just say, he hasn’t always been the jolly fat man we know. In Christian traditions around the world, the saints are each celebrated with their own feast day, a specific day of the year when people will feast in their honor. One of the most beloved is Saint Nicholas, a 4th century Greek bishop who was revered for his generosity to the poor.
During the Middle Ages, people began celebrating his feast day, December 6th, by giving children gifts the evening before. Over time, this tradition’s date slid over to the 24th and 25th and resulted in Saint Nicholas evolving into a somewhat magical character associated with Christmas, gifts, and children throughout Europe.
So, how did Saint Nicholas go from being a priest to a jolly old fat man? Interestingly enough, the change happened thanks to settlers in, of all places, New York City! Early Dutch settlers brought their traditions to the American colonies, including to New Amsterdam, known as New York today.
Those traditions included a mythologized version of Saint Nicholas, who they referred to as Sinterklaas, whose mythology had taken on elements of the Pagan god, Odin; a god who flew the sky on an 8-legged horse. Starting to notice the similarities?
By the 19th century, writers’ musings on Christmas and Sinterklaas cultivated the character Santa Claus. The first example of that was Washington Irving’s 1809 book, ‘Knickerbocker’s History of New York’, where he penned the idea of Saint Nick soaring through the sky in a wagon and delivering presents to children.
An 1821 poem, ‘The Children’s Friend’ by Arthur J. Stansbury, first introduced the idea of a flying reindeer sleigh, but it was Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem, commonly known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’, that would really pioneer the classic Santa tropes.
It included the 8 reindeer and their names, Santa going down the chimney, plus his red cheeks and chubby physique. Thus was born the Santa we know and love.
The classic Eurocentric perspective of US history tells a tale of Christopher Columbus discovering America in 1492, but the reality is, that he and his merry men were little more than trespassers. The Americas were, of course, already inhabited by the Native Americans, but as Europeans gradually flocked to the New World, the native lands were changed beyond recognition.
Over centuries, the Europeans and their culture spread throughout America, resulting in what is now the United States. And one spot that is beyond recognition is none other than New York.
Before townhouses and skyscrapers, New York’s iconic borough of Manhattan, or as the natives called it, Mannahatta, was a blooming state of vegetation, and it had been inhabited by the Lenape, tribe for centuries. Not only them, but wildlife too, such as otters, mink, and even bears. In fact, there’s considerable evidence that Times Square was once a beaver pond!
But in 1624, the Dutch arrived and claimed Mannahatta as New Amsterdam. That, however, was short lived, as the English snatched the land and Christened it ‘New York’ in 1664. Come the 1700s and European immigration boomed, as many sought after land, wealth, and freedom, not to mention the influx of Africans due to the slave trade.
The city rapidly evolved from a farm town to an economic hub as its rows of neighborhoods and buildings sprung up. New York City’s population was rapidly growing, and by the 19th century architects were running out of space.
So, to paraphrase 80s popstar, Yazz: the only way was up! Excited by the novel idea of very tall buildings, made possible by evolving construction technologies like high strength steel framing, the City’s business owners began stretching the limits of just how high they could go, coining the term ‘skyscraper’ in the 1880s.
Those big builds began back in the mid-19th century with constructions like The Latting Observatory, an iron-braced wooden tower that stood 315 ft tall, and lorded over the area around modern-day Bryant Park until the tower burned down in 1856.
With the turn of the 20th century, familiar buildings, such as the Chrysler Building, began sprouting from the ground. 1930 saw the Empire State Building’s iconic rise, and the snowball effect continued, resulting in the once nature rich Mannahatta truly becoming Manhattan: the concrete jungle.
The iconic city, however, has had some more recent transformations, beginning with Times Square. That spot, once home to beavers, had become known as Longacre Square by the 1870s, when New York’s skyscrapers had begun popping up.
At the beginning of the 20th century, it already boasted a wealth of theatres, restaurants, and high-brow hotels, though even with some elaborate signs, it was still a far cry from the LED-screen billboard wonderland it is today. Even back then, though, advertisers saw it as a prime spot for advertising, and thus it was gradually adorned with ads from every corner of the market.
It was only renamed ‘Times Square’ in 1904 after The Times newspaper constructed the central skyscraper for their offices. That building, no longer owned by The Times, is now called ‘One Times Square’, and is strangely, mostly unused save for the lucrative billboard space on its walls.
Despite Times Square’s impressive condition today, after the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the affluent area gradually declined into squalor. What were once prestigious theatres and restaurants became X-rated shops and smutty shows, and crime of all kinds grew highly prevalent. By the 1970s, the Times Square area recorded the most crime complaints in the whole city.
However, the 80s soon rolled around, and there was a new zest for life, it was probably all that Jazzercising and New York’s mayors pledged to get Times Square back to its former glory. By the 90s, the smut had been cleared up, and safety returned, bringing with it more sightseers than ever, and hence, higher paying advertisers, with billboards bigger and brighter than the square had ever seen!
Now for the next stop on our NYC transformation tour. Since first being unveiled on October 28th, 1886, the Statue of Liberty has become not only the matriarch of New York, but a global icon. But did you know she used to look considerably different?
The year was 1865, and French political intellectual and anti-slavery activist, Edouard de Laboulaye, proposed the idea of Lady Liberty. As a token of friendship from France to the US, the statue would mark the US’s centennial of independence and democracy, values the two nations shared.
Designed by French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, Lady Liberty was an amalgamation of 3 main inspirations. The first was Columbia, the female national personification of the United States, the second was Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, and the last, interestingly, was the male Roman god of sun, Sol Invictus. Like some kind of godly Frankenstein, the Statue of Liberty was born.
But did you know she was never originally green? In fact, when she first made her trip across the Atlantic she was actually the shiny orange brown of the copper from which she was crafted! When exposed to the elements, copper undergoes a chemical reaction known as patination, causing it to turn a blue-green color.
The statue’s creators would’ve most likely been well aware of this change, given their expertise in working with copper. But Lady Liberty’s chameleon color change still likely left a lot of confused 19th-century New Yorkers wondering whether their new copper landmark was feeling a little blue in her new home!
For most people, headphones are an essential item. And yet not too long ago, they didn’t even exist! In order to understand how headphones came about though, we’re going to have to talk, yet again, about the telephone.
In the technology’s early days, to call someone via telephone, you would have to first speak with a telephone operator, who would manually connect your call via a central switchboard. Those stations were packed with operators, each tending to their own batch of callers, so having all their calls amplified would’ve been incredibly noisy and impractical.
Ezra Gilliland, a 19th century inventor, created what many consider the beginning of headphones. His device, which built on Alexander Graham Bell’s patented speaker technology, consisted of an earpiece which rested on the user’s shoulder, and a microphone that perched on the other, allowing the user to listen and speak at the same time. Essentially, it was a primitive version of a headset.
Before long, the idea of headphones evolved into something for entertainment purposes, rather than purely function. With the removal of the microphone, and introduction of a much smaller form factor, the Electrophone was released in England in 1895. With neither radio nor Spotify being a thing during the early 1890s, our Victorian pals weren’t really able to enjoy music without actually going to the theater.
So, the Electrophone was invented as a subscription service available in London, whereby subscribers could listen to a live performance through specially designed headphones, with the tunes being broadcast over a telephone line. As they elegantly held the stethoscope-shaped headphones beneath their chins, they could party from the comfort of their own parlors.
With subsequent evolutions in headphone tech, like the development of a hands free head mounted strap being driven by global military interest in the product, it wasn’t long before headphones began to resemble the ones we know today.
Nowadays, wireless tech makes wearing earphones and headphones unbelievably easy and convenient. So next time you curse as your Airpod falls out of your ear, spare a thought for the poor old souls who had to walk around with those things mounted to their heads whenever they wanted to hear sound electronically.
London Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks, even though the bridge isn’t much of a looker. However, did you know there have been 4 different versions of it? Historians theorize that the original was forged way back in 43AD by the Romans when they founded the city of Londinium.
At the time, the bridge over the Thames was most likely a pontoon bridge, meaning one made up of planks of wood laid across anchored boats. It provided a useful trade route crossing, and for that reason, London Bridge has remained in the same spot ever since!
After the Romans vamoosed from Britain in 383 AD, it’s believed that various wooden iterations of the London bridge were constructed across the Thames, none of which lasted long. But in 1176, priest Peter of Colechurch, began efforts to build a sturdier stone one. That took 33 years to build, but it impressively lasted another 600!
Its appearance and function, however, were particularly interesting. Rather than just being a structure to get you from point A to B, Londoners maximized the real estate by actually building houses on the bridge, in fact, the bridge was once home to some 500 people! It was a treacherous trail of teetering timber-built houses, bustling with tenants, merchants, and commuters.
The closely packed, bustling setup was all a tad hazardous, proven once in 1212, and again 1633 when fires tore through the houses. But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, London Bridge remained steadfast, with the help of some repairs.
However, the abodes on the bridge would be torn down for good in the 1750s, to widen the bridge for simple, unobstructed travel for merchants and pedestrians alike. By the early 1800s, after years of fires and partial collapses, London Bridge was in terrible condition. So, the government decided to build a brand new bridge, 100 meter's west of the original spot.
The new London Bridge was opened in 1831, and for about 130 years it was okay. However, by 1962, it was discovered that London Bridge was, in fact, ‘falling down’ and couldn’t bear the weight of increased car traffic. So, yet again, London Bridge was rebuilt, giving us its current iteration. Designed by engineer, Harold Knox King, she really ain’t much of a beauty.
However, if you do want to see the beauty of the previous London Bridge, then just head on out to Lake Havasu City in Arizona. After tearing down London Bridge in the 60s, the City of London decided to auction it off.
Robert P. McCulloch, founder of Lake Havasu City, bought the bridge for $7 million, had it shipped to the states, and over the course of 3 years, rebuilt London Bridge in Arizona! Isn’t that the most American thing ever?
The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. And at an impressive 4,500 years old, it hasn’t done bad! True, it’s suffered a bit of wear and tear, but did you know it originally looked totally different?
At one time, Egypt was one of the richest and most powerful civilizations in the world, ruled by pharaohs who were believed by their subjects to be anointed by the gods, and thus existing somewhere between the human and the divine.
Due to that, people believed it was crucial to keep the pharaoh’s majesty intact even after death. They would bury them with everything they would need in the afterlife, such as gold, food, furniture, and other offerings.
All contained within the sturdy structure of the pyramid, the shape of which not only allowed support for huge constructions, but has also been suggested as resembling the sun’s rays, in worship of the life giving sun-god, Ra. But how were those divine vessels built and what did they originally look like?
It's a common misconception that the pyramids were built by the enslaved. But most archaeologists and historians today actually believe the workers were most likely paid native Egyptians.
Some 20,000 men are thought to have handled around 2.3 million blocks of stone over the course of 20 years to create the Great Pyramid of Giza. And while their hard work has certainly stood the test of time, there are some important features that haven’t survived.
According to Professor Mohammed Megahed of the Czech Institute of Egyptology, the Great Pyramid was originally cased in a fine white limestone which gave it a smooth, bright finish that reflected the sun. Not just that, but it was also topped with a gold capstone, known as a Pyramidion, though that has since been either lost or stolen.
With the sun beaming onto the white limestone and refracting from the gold tip, it’s easy to see why the Egyptians believed that would help their pharaohs transcend into a divine realm.
Interestingly, it’s believed that those white casing stones were largely removed and later repurposed for other constructions by Egyptian rulers. There’s even evidence to suggest that happened during the iconic reign of Tutankhamun. Besides that, earthquakes, rain, and other forms of natural erosion have left the pyramids a looking a little worse for wear.
With the rise of smart TVs, you can do just about anything on your TV. All that fancy TV usage is aided by a whole host of different digits and dials on our remote controls. However, back in TV’s infancy, remotes looked wildly different!
Experiments with television technology began in the late 1920s, but it was the post-World War 2 1950s when TV’s popularity boomed, becoming a staple in a reported 80% of American homes by 1960. However, in TV’s earlier days, something was missing, the remote. Back then, you had to plod all the way to the TV just to change the channel!
But while remotes remained fairly uncommon until the 60s, one early remote had actually been invented in the year 1950, by TV manufacturer, Zenith. With its advent meaning users didn’t have to get up to control the TV, they aptly called it ‘Lazy Bones’.
Its design, however, was hugely different by today’s standards. Not only was it attached by wire, but it was a handheld bullet shape with only 3 functions volume, tuning, and power. For this, customers would pay an extra $30 which, is roughly equivalent to $377 in 2023!
While customers appreciated the ease of a remote, a common complaint was that the bulky cable was an unsightly hazard. Eager to improve, Zenith hit back with the ‘Flash-Matic’ in 1955, the first wireless remote.
That worked by using a light beam to communicate with receivers on the TV, though it worked poorly in the natural light of daytime. Its design helped pioneer wireless technology, though its shoddy execution meant that the TV would start going haywire if the sun shone brightly on one of its remote-light sensors. Not ideal when you’re deeply invested in an episode of I Love Lucy!
If you were amazed at these things that originally looked totally different, you might want to read about foods that looked different. Thanks for reading!