8 amazing inventions that were WAY ahead of their time

by 6 years ago

inventions that were ahead of their time

Most of us dream of a future with amazing inventions and cool technology that will make all of our lives easier, but maybe we should actually be looking to the past. After all, a lot of things we think of as modern were actually first invented hundreds, or in some cases, even thousands, of years ago. Of course, they were usually dismissed as impractical or the inventor was burned as a witch, but that’s just how they got down back in the day. But even if it took centuries for society to catch up with their visions, these ancient geniuses managed to come up with these eight amazing inventions that were ahead of their time, which let’s be honest, is better than anything you’ve done lately.

8. Flushing Toilet

Invented: 1800 BC
Inventor: Unknown
Believe it or not, archaeological evidence proves that they actually had flushing toilets in Minoa back in the day, and I mean waaaaay back in the day. For perspective’s sake, this was a thousand years before Homer (the poet, not the Simpson) wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey and 1,300 years before Leonidas and his band of homoerotic ab models fought off that pervert Xerxes. They were pooping in holes and covering it up like cats, and all along in the ruins of Minoa there was evidence of a better way. No one knows the ancient genius who figured this out, but while the rest of the world was struggling to invent things like literature and not dying before the age of 1, the Minoans were shitting in style. It’s important to have the right priorities.

7. Steam Engine

Invented: Early 1st Century AD
Inventor: Hero of Alexandria
Hero of Alexandria is one of the great geniuses of history, so absurdly smart and inventive that his collected works have been considered by some to be the first research into cybernetics, which… holy shit! Basically, this is the dude ultimately responsible for Terminators. But as far as practical inventions go, his most amazing is probably the steam engine. He never actually built it, but he came up with an engine called an Aeolipile, which was not just a steam engine, but a goddamn jet engine that spun when heated. It would be another 2,000 years before scientists “discovered” this, and when they did they realized that the fanciful blueprints drawn up by Hero were actually right on. Just think of all the funny-car chariot drag races the world missed out on.

6. Vending Machine

Invented: Early 1st Century AD
Inventor: Hero of Alexandria
Yup, Hero again. And since the world understood what was important, they dismissed his crazy steam engine talk and went ahead and actually built this invention, because, hey, money! Specifically, his vending machine was designed to dispense holy water in exchange for a coin. Sure, that’s not quite as cool as a bag of Doritos and a Coke, but maybe that’s why the vending machine eventually faded away. After all, nobody is going to get too excited about a machine that just dispenses magic water. Then again, people do exactly that now for bottled water, so maybe Hero was ahead of the times in more ways than one. Again, it took 2,000 years for Hero’s vending machine to be resurrected, but given our copyright laws, that was probably the earliest it could be done without being sued by one of Hero’s heirs, or, more likely, the great, great, great (repeat 15 times) grandson of one of Hero’s lawyers.

5. Parachute


Invented: 15th Century AD
Inventor: Leonardo da Vinci
Aside from inspiring ridiculous books, Leonardo da Vinci managed to make a name for himself by being one of history’s greatest geniuses. Among his most practical inventions was the simple parachute. I say practical, but back in the day, no one believed that could be an actual thing because, well, why would you need one? It just seemed like another crazy idea by crazy old Leonardo. No one was about to climb to the edge of a cliff and jump off to test it out, you know? But 500 years later, someone took another look at Leonardo’s sketches and decided to give it the ol’ college try and hope they didn’t get Darwined in the process. They discovered that it worked, and that’s how we all discovered that Leonardo was not just the blue ninja turtle, but also the inventor of the parachute, hundreds of years before some French dude supposedly did it – parachute inventing, I mean, not ninja turtling.

4. Contact Lenses

Invented: 1636
Inventor: Rene Descartes
Actually, Leonardo again deserves partial credit here, as he came up with the concept that vision could be corrected by placing lenses directly over the eyes, but it was Descartes who really proved it almost 150 years later. He did so by “neutralizing” the cornea using a water filled tube, which sounds pretty weird, but look, I’m not a scientist, and it’s generally accepted that somehow this water filled tube was the first contact, so who am I to argue? It would take centuries before Descartes’ invention was perfected, but make no mistake, he was the first dude to really care about not wanting to be called a four-eyed geek in school.

3. Helicopter

Invented: 15th Century AD
Inventor: Leonardo da Vinci
Yes, amongst all his wild inventions, Leonardo’s wildest was arguably an early version of a helicopter. Again, it was never actually built, otherwise we’d have all read about Blackhawk and Apache attack choppers in all the old wars. But his sketches survived, and they eventually inspired scientists 500 years later to prove, yet again, that Leonardo da Vinci was straight sonning them from the grave. I’m sure somewhere, buried in a dusty old library, is a da Vinci sketch for the first iPhone, but until that is found, the helicopter will have to be good enough.

2. Earthquake Detector

Invented: 132 AD
Inventor: Zhang Heng
The Chinese have always been ahead of the game when it comes to technology. While Europeans were still smacking each other with swords and flinging arrows around, the Chinese were blowing shit up with gunpowder, and long before Europeans started sailing the high seas, there is evidence that the Chinese may have sailed as far as the California coast. And finally, while Europeans huddled nervously every time the ground shook and worried that God was angry or bowling or wrestling with Satan or whatever the hell they thought earthquakes were, the Chinese had already perfected the first seismometers. The detector itself, built by the court mathematician/scientist/inventor/wizard, Zhang Heng, was convoluted as hell, involving an urn, bronze balls, dragon heads and metal toads, but it was highly effective, capable of detecting not only earthquakes from hundreds of miles away, but also the precise direction from which they came. Wu-Tang!

1. Condoms


Invented: 1000 BC
Inventor: Unknown
Like everyone else, the Egyptians were worried about crotch rot and the fire down below, but at least one heroic Egyptian decided to come up with a way to be able to wake the little Pharaoh without having to worry about his dick winding up listed in the Book of the Dead. Naturally, in a world in which they wrapped everything up, the solution was the condom. Of course, the condoms were made of linen, which I’m guessing didn’t really provide all that much protection, and good luck avoiding knocking up one of the Pharaoh’s daughters using what amounted to a condom made from old bed-sheets and hope, but never underestimate peace of mind. There’s a reason they named a brand of condom after Ramses, and thank God or Ra or whoever that they did some tech upgrades, but still, the Egyptian condom paved the way for billions of meaningless sexual encounters, and for that we thank them.


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Helicopter image by VanderWolf Images/Shutterstock
Parachute image by Shutterstock
Condom image by Shutterstock

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