Part of the problem with living in the age of iPads, stem cell transplants and Spanx is that we tend to take innovation for granted. We're impressed by new gizmos, sure, but we tend to forget that even the most obvious, basic concepts had to be invented at some point. And some of them were shockingly recent.
Oh, come on! Doorknobs? They probably had doorknobs in Jesus' time, right? How the hell else are you supposed to open your door? They even had them in Middle-earth.
We're certainly not going to try to claim that, say, Abe Lincoln lived and died having never seen one. Right?
Hold onto your ass, baby!
Doorknobs Weren't Actually Around Until ...
1878. Check this out:
187-freakin'-8 is when the doorknob was patented. That is, a knob that actually turned and made a little metal thing retract and allow the door to open, the way they do now.
Before knobs, doors were opened and closed through latches like this. It wasn't until 1878 that inventor Osbourn Dorsey filed a patent for the doorknob mechanism we know and love, and along with it the first internal door-latching mechanism.
And shortly thereafter, the fish-door.
But then it took a long time for the doorknob to become a common fixture around the world -- we can only guess because it took a few generations to master that difficult simultaneous turning and pulling motion you have to make to get it to work. Watch a dog try to do it -- it's hilarious.
If tomorrow all of the time keeping devices on the planet vanished, things would devolve into absolute chaos by sundown. We'd all be able to agree that it's "morning" or "afternoon" or "evening," but figuring out exactly when your plane leaves, or exactly when you have to be at work? Sheeeeit. There'd be riots in the streets.
Yet, for most people, this is exactly the way it worked until very recently.
Standardized Time Wasn't Actually Around Until ...
For centuries, checking the time meant checking the sun. Or, to save your eyeballs from frying, checking the neighborhood sundial (assuming the day wasn't overcast and it actually cast a shadow). Even after mechanical clocks became all the rage, those clocks were still set to solar time, which meant that your clock would still be different from the clock of your friend a few towns away. You could get away with it because there was no real-time communication via phones or whatever. Everybody was hours apart, so what difference did it make?
"Wonder what time it is ..."
"Why? Do you have a freaking hair appointment, Jedediah?"
But the trains changed everything. By the time the trains were up and running, every damn town in the country was keeping on its own sweet time. So the people in charge of the trains didn't just need to concern themselves with the local time; they also had to worry about what time it was at the terminus, plus each railroad junction. Which was why the main station in Philadelphia once had six clocks up showing six different times.
And for a while, it just seemed like this was the way it had to be. Solar time was as natural as the sun rising and setting. It's not like after thousands and thousands of years you could make people forget that noon was exactly when the sun was highest overhead. No train schedule was going to change that.
OR WOULD IT? On Dec. 1, 1847, the British tested fate by using Greenwich Mean Time to institute time zones to keep their trains running on schedule. But it wasn't until 1880 that standardized time zones were made the law in Great Britain, and in 1883, zones based on GMT became the law in the U.S. By 1929, most other countries around the world had also adopted the hourly time zone system. So there are probably still people alive today who didn't have to abide by "the man's time."
Time zones are just another agent of the Machine, yo.