Appreciating simple inventions.

A simple, cycle powered washing machine.



Simple kitchen gadgets .Vegetable cutter/slicer .


And simple dishwasher.

And instant Legolas , a bow and arrow machine invented recently but could have been done by medieval technology . Which makes one consider, what other inventions were possible in medieval technology but were not.

13 thoughts on “Appreciating simple inventions.”

  1. Some mediocre thoughts I had after watching Sharktank pitches:
    1) Cure cancer to save 10,000 lives vs make a better weight management app and save a 100,000 lives? Simple things and basic interventions can have great impact, especially in a place like India.
    2) Without rule of law, patents and IPRs true innovation is not possible. There was this lady on the show who invented a 2 inch hook with a pedal for short people to access car roof carrier. She walked away with USD 3 million. This would never be possible in India as people will (without an iota of guilt) steal. Same is true for software.

    1. “This would never be possible in India as people will (without an iota of guilt) steal.”

      Is this really a bad thing in such a case?
      One would imagine access to capital and manufacturers would be bigger hurdles. Not to mention the ton of bureaucracy one has to go through to open a simple business.

      1. I agree, those are bigger hurdles. btw getting patents is not difficult in India. In college some of my friends(20-21 yo) filed for and got them with ease. I have seen tons of EE professors patent algorithms from their papers in the US.

  2. On a slightly different note, I am mightily impressed by the maker eco-system that has sprung up in Shenzen because of the whole electronics supply chain there.

    Folks with ideas can quickly prototype stuff and then also scale it if they see demand. So little marginal cost as if it might be a software product.

    I hope the push for smartphone manufacturing in India creates that kind of a flywheel.

    1. I have heard about companies in Kerala with whom you can do the following:
      1) You make a prototype on some development board say raspberry pi or jetson with add on peripherals like temperature sensors, camera, some other board, external memory etc.
      2) You show them the (working) prototype and tell them to design one single chip instead of the whole crude prototype assembly. Suppose you don’t need the ethernet port and usb port but you need an integrated battery, camera and larger internal memory. They will design one single neat chip for you and order prototypes from Shenzen.

      1. Interesting. I was not aware of this.

        Some of my friends with hardware startups were getting stuff manufactured in Gujarat, though they said it is poorer quality and costs more than what it would from Shenzen. This was 2-3 years ago. Need to follow up to see if there’s been any improvement.

        Companies like Moglix are doing good work in organizing the industrial eco-system. Sort of like a low scale Ali Pay.

        But we need much more push.

  3. @Bhimrao

    Without rule of law, patents and IPRs true innovation is not possible.

    This is not true. The causality is not established. Neither is there any statistical coherence seen in studies on law and IPR that seek to establish linkages with rate of innovation. India is not a member of the Hague Agreement and rightly so. There is ample justified reasoning behind this decision.

    The United States stole as many and as much industrial property copyrights from the UK and Germany during the late 19th century. This is the same path adopted consciously by China in the 21st century. Powers that are middling or starting out should not adhere to IPR treaties. This is one of the well established lessons of industrial history.

    I can understand why you say this – normally people in academia are looking out for their own good. Whereas governments have a larger role to take pragmatic decisions that enable societal transformations.

  4. i didnt watch all the videos, but just the last one that shows a redesigned medieval weapon – a modified version of bow and arrows. the “engineer” in this video shows off an “automatic” long bow that can shoot multiple arrows in quick succession without having to load an arrow on to the bow every time.

    his invention is a complete dud. his magazine holds six arrows. he manages to fire six arrows in about six seconds in a “semi-automatic” mode. a good mongol horse archer from the heydays of steppe empires could manually shoot that many arrows in lesser time, on a galloping horse!

    if i were chinggis khan and he were to seek employment in my court, i would just say, thanks, but no thanks. 🙂

      1. But seriously, were there crossbows in India?

        Another thing that intrigues me is the reliance on Elephants whose inadequacy against horses is a permanent feature of every defending Indian army’s loss. Khanwa, Karnal, Panipats…

  5. I think the point is that with crossbows and similar types of machine, role of peasentry and nature of wars would have been different. And perhaps how society develops as well.

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