Timeline.com has a great post detailing the wonders of wearable technology from 170K BC through present day.
Wearable tech is becoming ubiquitous. Google’s announcement on January 15 that it would temporarily yank its Glass device from the market might be seen as the first real stumble in the booming wearables market.
Then again, it’s an old market — and a little shakeup is nothing new. The desire to strap technology to our bodies started in our earliest days as a species.
Not every attempt at wearable tech has been successful, of course. But when it did work, it often brought humanity to new heights of awareness. And besides, who wouldn’t want a combo knife/gun/calendar?
The post outlines how some of the things that we take the most for granted were innovated “Wearable Technology” in their own day. Glasses, watches, and even clothing were all at one point new innovations in wearable technology in the past. Here’s a few of the pieces highlighted in the post- go here to check out the full timeline.
170,000 YEARS AGO
Clothing, the first wearable tech
Altai Mountains (current-day Kazakhstan)
To find the clothes, track the lice. The origins of clothing made from animal hides allowed humans to travel north and east from Africa. But it was nearly impossible for archaeologists to find the blankets and shawls and wraps that protected skin from colder mid-latitude climates.
Fashion, it seems, was not meant to stand the test of time.
The existence of these first pieces of wearable tech was inferred from the critters that hitched a ride on the mostly hairless, but now robed, hosts: clothing lice. Scientists have estimated that these parasites took to our duds between 83,000 and 170,000 years ago and they are still with us today.
Wearable time for land, sea, air
Pocket watches had long been fashionable for men, but only ladies wore their clocks on the wrist. The first wristwatch was designed by Patek Phillippe for a Hungarian countess in 1868.
It was the Germans who converted the wristwatch to a manly accessory. In the 1880s, the Imperial Navy were issued 2,000 wristwatches under the order of Kaiser Wilhem I. But timekeeping would soon soar beyond land and sea.
In 1904, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to the famous jeweler, Louis Cartier, that it was too difficult to check a pocketwatch during his pioneering air flights. (He was in competition with the Wright Brothers for early piloting dominance.) So Cartier constructed the world’s first pilot watch, and wearables took to the skies.
Your grandfather’s iPod
Music didn’t become portable with the invention of the Sony Walkman. (A portable transistor radio was first available in 1954, but the radio performed poorly and had only one speaker.)
But the Walkman was small enough to be wearable and the headphones made it personal. Sony has said that since the first Walkman debuted, with its blue-and-silver design and chunky playhead buttons, it has sold over 385 million of them.
Thirty-six years later, Sony announced that it is trying to recapture the world’s ear with a new Walkman for a digital, wearable world. The company’s pitch? Room for 1,700 songs with sound quality that your smartphone can’t match.
Invasion of the body hackers
The first digital pacemaker was created in 2003, but it was in 2006 that widely available health trackers first appeared, with Nike+iPod and FitBit appearing a year later. These new trackers allowed you to know, store and share all of your very personal data – diet, sleep time, number of steps, body vitals.
The growing obsession to do just that became known as the “Quantified Self” movement, and it really took off because of sensors in runners’ shoes. The Nike+ system got its inspiration from scientific studies of runners in the 1970s.
Every Wednesday is Wearable Wednesday here at Adafruit! We’re bringing you the blinkiest, most fashionable, innovative, and useful wearables from around the web and in our own original projects featuring our wearable Arduino-compatible platform, FLORA. Be sure to post up your wearables projects in the forums or send us a link and you might be featured here on Wearable Wednesday!
Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!
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