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Quiz: Which Discovery or Invention Came First?

Virtually every day we use or consume things that were discovered or invented at some point in time. In many cases, the origin of the discovery or invention is well known, so it is a simple matter to put a date to the discovery or invention. Other times, the date is less well known, but there is enough information to say that it came about at least a certain amount of time ago. In this quiz, I will list two discoveries or inventions in each question. Your goal is to select which of them is the oldest. That is to say, which came first? Although this isn’t intentionally designed to be a difficult quiz, I’d suggest that you think about each pair of discoveries or inventions carefully before making a selection.

  • Which came first?

    • Freeze-dried food
    • Microwave oven
  • Which came first?

    • The first video game
    • Duct tape
  • Which came first?

    • The first successful helicopter
    • The first robot
  • Which came first?

    • The first refrigerator
    • The discovery of penicillin
  • Which came first?

    • The first television
    • The first Colt revolver
  • Which came first?

    • RAM (Random Access Memory)
    • The Electron Microscope
  • Which came first?

    • The tin can
    • The bicycle
  • Which came first?

    • Plastic
    • The zipper
  • Which came first?

    • The matchbook
    • Toilet paper
  • Which came first?

    • The propeller
    • The flush toilet

What do you think?

17 points

Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. 7/10. I think you need to justify your claim about the invention of television. The question was not “the basic concept of transmitting pictures”, but “the first television” – and that has to be John Logie Baird’s invention in 1926 of a machine that could put the concept into practice and could therefore be called a television. Agreed, work had been done in the 19th century on facsimile machines, but they were not televisions and they did not predate the Colt revolver.

        • That is my mistake. More than one source said that the patent was dated 1936 and I assumed that the patent was given to Samuel’s heir in his name. However, I didn’t check the actual patents…US X9430 I1 and US 1304 A. The sources I’d used apparently contained a typo. The patents were actually given in 1836, a century earlier than stated in the data I was using. I was incorrect, so the answer to this question would be the Colt Revolver was first, by nearly a century.

          • Yes, I think it would have been difficult for the West to have been won with weapons patented shortly before World War Two! No matter, Rex, we all get it wrong at times!

  2. A number of these are semantic in nature, therefore more tricky than needed. While the invention that was to become television predates the colt revolver, the relavence of the invention was the broadcast system – that falls many years after the revolver. The same is true of the RAM question, ps, the image you share is not RAM but PROM and in both cases we could argue the answer either way.

    Hard quiz to produce, and well done Rex.

    • I couldn’t find a good picture of RAM that I wanted to use for that one. It is nice that people actually looked at the images, though. lol It actually took me a half a day to put the quiz together.

      Yes, I honestly worded it as I did for clarity. It really wasn’t done to make it harder. Thus, I wrote “successful helicopter” rather than just “helicopter”. The same for flush toilet instead of just toilet. The ancient Greeks had toilets, but basically used the concept of making an outhouse stall over running water that would carry the waste to the ocean, rather than fouling the town. I love trivia. lol

      • On the question of flush toilets, the Romans on Hadrian’s Wall had a system whereby running water was passed down a stone-cut channel beneath the communal latrine, so all the nasty stuff was flushed away instantly. This is clearly similar to the Greek idea, but the stream was artificial rather than natural.

        • The idea was also used by the Aztecs, I believe. It’s sort of strange that it took the rest of the world so long to catch up. Even today, many places don’t use toilets at all. They shouldn’t be surprised that diseases run rampant in those locations.

  3. The Colt revolver answer is perplexing – the revolver patent is 1836 … The best I can do for the television is 1839. (in 1839, Edmond Becquerel found shining light onto some types of metal creates an electric current.) and that is a bit of a stretch.

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