We all have ideas of the greatest and, in some cases, worst inventions in the history of the world. These tend to be obvious things like cars and telephones and the Internet. Large, world shaking, life changing things that forever altered the fate of humanity. Watersheds are great, especially when it comes to a fine cup of tea, but there are more everyday inventions that while we take them for granted we would certainly notice if they were to suddenly disappear.

Can you imagine life without Q-Tips or adhesive bandages (Band-Aid or otherwise) or even humble aluminum foil, the next time you had a dirty ear, small or even large cut or need to wrap up some left overs or fashion a stylish hat to keep the government from reading your thoughts? Despite their brilliant but simple design and today’s utility, it is a rare thing indeed for any of these paragons of ordinary utility to appear on any “Gosh aren’t these great!?” lists but you would miss them when they were gone.

Also on this list of incredibly useful but criminally underrated inventions, to the point that I wonder if some people even know that they were invented, is good old “hook and loop” fastener. What is better known to the rest of the world, outside of geeks and corporate lawyers, is the invention ofVelcro’.

Great minds

What would go on to become Velcro, was invented by George De Menstral. A Frano-Swiss electrical engineer trained at Ecole Polytechnique Federal De Lausanne, De Menstral was something of a prodigy, showing a talent for science from a young age.

The grain of the idea

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One of the great accidental inventions caused by downtime, along with Penicillin, De Menstral got the idea for Velcro after a hiking trip while still working at a machine shop. After returning for a good jaunt, he noticed the number of burrs both on his clothing and on the fur of his dog. Noticing how tightly the little blighters seemed to stick, he got the idea of creating a self sticking material. He began working on his genius material in 1948.

If at first you don’t succeed

Another club to which hook and loop fabric belongs is the “99% perspiration” group along with the light bulb, the automobile and, once again, penicillin, all of which took years form concept to completion, as in the case of hook and loop fastener.

It took a total of eight years, from 1948 to 1955 before De Menstral decided he was finished. He could have just been a perfectionist, but considering it was something the world had never really seen before it seems like it might just take awhile. The fabric actually went through several different workable versions before coming to the form that we use now.

What is in a name? The great invention of Velcro

Far from being a nonsense word like it may appear, and some other branded product names that could name are, but will not because I am classy and lack the money needed for legal representation, the brand name for de Menstral’s invention, which I promise not to mention again, is a compound word of the French words “velours” and “crochet”, which basically translate to “velvet” and “hooks” hence the pre-branded name of hook and loop fastener.

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Trevor McNeil spent much of his childhood playing video-games on early-form personal computers back when the disks were literally floppy. He attended the University of Victoria, completing a degree in Social Science with a concentration in Technology In Society, while also writing for the campus newspaper. He has written articles for such diverse publications as Humanity Death Watch, PopMatters and Perfect Sound Forever. He is a veteran of numerous “watershed moments” in the history of technological development and firmly believes that Han shot first.

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