The Indispensables

Lynne Truss on inventions we take for granted.

Also known as The Indispensibles

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Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
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0101Post Carbon Era: The Photocopier20020209

Lynne Truss on inventions we take for granted.

Also known as The IndispensiblesShe invites James Dyson, Helena Kennedy QC and Jonathan Miller to celebrate the photocopier.

0102Over The Rainbow: Colour Tv20020216

David Attenborough, Valerie Singleton and Mary Quant recall the transformation of TV.

0103 LASTDon't Drive To Wagner: The Car Radio20020223

With contributions from Elton John, Sean Street and Vicki Butler-Henderson.

0201The Deodorant20030412

Today 90% of the population hold up their hands with confidence thanks to deodorant, which was invented in 1888.

By the 1960s it was still a relative novelty, with talc, lemons and armpit pads used instead.

Lynne Truss uncovers the history of deodorant with James Dyson and Uri Geller; she meets the man who sniffs armpits for a living, and finds out why deodorant is behind the rocketing divorce rate.

0202The Zip20030419

James Dyson and Sarah Dunant examine the history of the fastener.

0203 LASTThe Paper Cup20030426

With the rise of the big coffee chains, millions rush to work everyday juggling briefcase with paper cup, yet few stop to think that its origins lie in a life saving public health campaign that gripped America.

In 1908 the combined ingenuity of a doctor, a Harvard dropout and an entrepreneur came together to devise, market and manufacture this simple device for the first time.

Dr Alvin Davison published his influential study, Death In School Drinking Cups, documenting the high mortality rates amongst children drinking from a communal tin cup.

While traveling the railroads in the same year, University flunky Hugh Moore was struck by the unsanitary working conditions for engineers, all drinking from the same 'tin dipper'.

Thirsty, he made a piece of paper into a cone shape and helped himself safely to some water, and so devised the first rudimentary 'Health Kup'.

He took his idea to entrepreneur Lawrence Luellen, who by 1910 had patented the paper cup and founded NEW YORK's Individual Drinking Cup Company.

That year, Kansas abolished the shared dipper cup and state after state followed, so that by 1916 over 1000 railroads had entered into contracts with Luellen's company and the paper cup industry was born.

Next to jump on the band wagon was the Ice Cream industry, when in 1923 the first serving in a Dixie Cup was sold for 10 Cents.

0301The Safety Lift20040703

It was invented over 150 years ago by Elisha Otis, but the ramifications of safe vertical transport are still being felt today.

Buildings are higher, while life is increasingly faster due to continued advances in elevator technology.

At least that's how the PR argument would have it.

The everyday experience of a lift is quite the opposite - they seem to have minds of their own, take forever to arrive and then stop suspended between floors.

Lynne Truss takes a tongue in cheek look at how this has provided endless material for fiction writers, directors of horror films and television comedy from Stanley Kubrick to Tony Hancock.

0302The Baby Buggy20040710

It was a godsend for parents when, in 1965, retired test pilot Owen Maclaren used his engineering knowledge to invent the umbrella-folding buggy.

0303 LASTThe Fax Macine20040717

It became ubiquitous in the 1980s when no self-respecting place of work, freelance journalist or designer could operate without one, but the fax was actually invented in 1842.

Alexander Bain, a 19th Century Scottish clockmaker devised the basic technology that is still used today, but this was an invention ahead of its time and he never sent a fax.

Lynne Truss discovers why it took another 140 years for the fax to come into its own.

Suddenly we could send a weighty document or Valentines message across the world at the touch of a button.

It has been challenged by email but Helena Kennedy QC, screen writer Andrew Davis and weather forecaster Michael Fish argue that the fax remains indispensable.