iPhone More Important Invention Than Flush Toilets?


Is the iPhone a more important invention than the humble water closet? As one who has lived for extended periods of time in houses and cottages without indoor plumbing, I would say not, but according to your typical British consumer, it is.

The Telegraph reports that, in addition to beating out Thomas Crapper’s 1880 siphon flush device and space travel, the iPhone was voted a more important invention than washing machines or internal combustion engines. In the Tesco Mobile survey of 4,000 Britons aged between 18 and 65, the iPhone ranked eighth — ahead of the toilet, which finished ninth (toilet paper was 22nd), and also higher than the automobile, camera — even shoes. What Tesco has provided here is a somewhat alarming snapshot of where popular priorities and preoccupations lie.

At least the wheel was acknowledged the most important invention in history, with the airplane in second place and the lightbulb third, but amazingly the Internet finished fourth and computers fifth. By contrast, roofs ranked a distant 44th.

Really,folks? Would you truly prefer to go back to using chamber pots and outhouses than give up web surfing in the rain barefoot?

Of course, inconsistencies abound in popular perception here. Internal combustion engines were an indispensable enabler of airplanes and made the wheel exponentially more useful, and without cameras we’d be staring at lines of text on our computer screens at best.

The iPhone also beat central heating (13), painkillers (15), the steam engine (16) and eyeglasses (205). Astonishingly, the printing press, which this writer would contend was a vastly more significant invention than either the web or computers or most of the rest of the survey picks, didn’t even make the top 100. Bizarre.

Notable finishers were refrigerators (14), freezers (17), the vacuum cleaner (23), microwaves (26), hot water (29). shoes (30) hair-straighteners (34??!), paper (38), the (presumably electric) kettle (40), remote controls (43), cats-eye spectacles (48) power steering (50) tea bags (54), spell-checkers (86), makeup (66), push-up bras (77) and mascara (80).

This survey indicates that Britons think the iPhone is quite literally the greatest thing since sliced bread (70).

Go figure.

Images courtesy of Flickr users ricardovillela and williamhook.

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