Has this ever happened to you? Someone says to you, “Make a note of this.” So you whip out your smartphone, open a file, and start your fingers whizzing over the virtual keyboard or start writing on the screen with a stylus to input the information. However, if you are not a millennial, you would more likely grab a piece of paper, whip out your ballpoint pen, and start making notes in dark, indelible blue or black ink.
Even if you are a millennial, chances are you nevertheless walk about with one or more ballpoint pens, simply because they are handy, apparently simple, and cheap.
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It may seem odd to suggest that the robot should legitimately qualify as an extraordinary ordinary thing. For most people, the term “robot” most likely conjures up the image of a clumsily massive whirling humanoid-like machine, which is not something we commonly encounter every day. Moreover, the robot is often viewed as something malevolent and to be feared.
In recent years, the more modern term “bot,” short for robot, may have somewhat modified this disconcerting perception. Most people have certainly heard of robots used in industry, such as in assembling motorcars (robotic arms). They also certainly know that such robots in no way resemble humans and are incapable of deliberately doing human beings any harm.
While the term “robot” was coined only in the early 20th century, the concept of a robot, humanoid or otherwise, goes back centuries and even millennia.
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When they wake up and prepare breakfast, one of the first things millions (if not billions) of people around the world do is slip a couple of slices of bread into a toaster, before preparing the rest of their morning repast. However, the toast is almost always first because, to paraphrase a famous advertising slogan for orange juice, “a breakfast without toast is like a day without sunshine.”
While early electric toasters were a vast improvement over previous means of converting slices of bread into toast, they still had a long way to go before becoming the absolute go-to utensil required for composing the first meal of the day.
Because of the central role, it plays in human nutrition, and for numerous other reasons, I believe the electric toaster unquestionably deserves a place on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”
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When was the last time you went to sleep without a pillow? Chances are never, or only under duress. Sleeping without a pillow is about as common as sleeping standing up. But why? It seems the human body is so constructed that sleeping without some kind of support for the head is extremely uncomfortable, and therefore of necessity to be avoided.
A head with eyes closed, snuggled down on a pillow is a widespread symbol for rest, relaxation, and contentment. But it wasn’t always like that. For much of human history, and still in parts of the world today, a pillow was not soft and comfy, the proverbial “sack stuffed with feathers.” Instead, it was solid and sturdy, what might better be called a headrest rather than a pillow.
The shapes and varieties of materials from which they were made have varied widely from culture to culture and from century to century. However, their purpose was always the same, to support the head to help induce and maintain sleep.
Because it plays such an indispensable role in fostering health and well-being, I believe the pillow unquestionably deserves a place on the list of what I like to call “extraordinary ordinary things.”
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