6 Washington-based inventions

An Apollo 17 astronaut rides the lunar rover on the moon

The Lunar Rover, seen here during the Apollo 17 mission, was designer here in Seattle. | Photo via NASA

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When it comes to tech and innovation, there’s a lot to already show that Seattleites are definitely some of the sharper tools in the shed. Yeah, we know those little companies Microsoft and Amazon started around these parts, but here’s a few other innovations that our area is responsible for.

Lunar Roving Vehicle 🚀

Yeah, that’s right — Seattle didn’t just stop at planes, we made it to space, baby. The Lunar Rover was developed by Boeing in 1969 and was brought along for Apollo missions 15, 16, and 17. It moved at about 10 mph, took photos + sent them back to Earth. It also could carry four times its own weight, and wire mesh wheels made driving around on that powdery-looking moon surface a lot easier.

Bread bag closer thingies 🍞

Okay, the official name is Kwik Lok and they were invented back in 1954 in Yakima (where the company’s headquarters still remains). Creator Floyd Paxton looked for a way of keeping bags of apples closed when his company switched away from boxed packaging, and now there are eight different designs.

The salmon cannon 🐟

Oh boy, what a claim to fame. You may remember hearing about this bad boy in 2019 when it went viral for, well, being a cannon for fish (here are a couple of refresher tweets) . The cannon was developed by Washington-based fish handling innovation company Whooshh as a means of helping migrate salmon upstream and over man made dams. Don’t worry — the cannon is totally safe for fish.

Electric bass guitar 🎸

Grunge isn’t the only thing we’ve given the musical world. Seattle native Paul Tutmarc designed the first electric bass guitar in 1936 when he wrapped a horseshoe-shaped magnet around another “grapefruit-sized contraption.” He called it the Audiovox 736 and only four of them exist today. As you might imagine, bass guitar wasn’t exactly the instrument of choice in the 30s, so sales never really picked up until Fender designed its own in 1951.

Backpacks 🎒

While rucksacks have existed for a long time, there weren’t really any designs that offered support for those on long journeys until the early 20th century. Inspired by a considerably achy back from a trip in Alaska, Seattleite Lloyd F. Nelson took to working up his own creation. On July 31, 1922 his attorney filed a patent for the “Trapper Nelson,” a bag reinforced with a wooden frame to keep weight closer to the hiker’s body — it’s now considered the prototype for the modern backpack.

The down puffer jacket 🧥

Whew — this one has some intense origins, but it was invented by our good ole pal Eddie Bauer. In 1935, freezing rain caught the sporting goods shop owner out in the elements as he was returning from a fishing trip in the Olympic Peninsula. When Bauer started to develop signs of hypothermia, he shot off a distress signal which luckily, his fishing buddy (who was far ahead) was able to hear. When he returned to Seattle, the future clothing icon started working on the quilted coat we all know today.

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