Inventions you didn’t know were Dutch

You’ve probably used a Dutch invention in your life without realizing it. Here are some of the most famous inventions to thank Dutch inventors for.

Eye tests

If you’ve ever had your eyes tested at an optometrist, you’ve likely used this Dutch invention. The eye-test chart, a sheet of large letters decreasing into fine print, is the Snellen chart, after Dutch inventor Herman Snellen who came up with the idea in 1862.

Speed cameras

Getting caught by a speed camera is not something everybody would thank Dutch inventors for. Perhaps ironically, it was Dutch rally driver Maus Gatsonides who thought up this Dutch invention, producing and selling the first automatic speedometers in 1958. Similar to today, speed was measured by a chronometer that was activated any time car tires hit the two rubber tubes laid across the road.

The dollar

While not an actual Dutch invention, the word dollar comes from the Dutch world daalder, perhaps not surprising considering the Dutch have traded with the US for more than 400 years. Daalder was used in the Low Countries to refer to coins minted in Dutch provinces from around the 1500s, which were later brought to America by migrants who settled ‘New Netherlands’ in the 17th Century. On that note, would New York also exist without the Dutch?

CDs and DVDs

Today’s technology conglomerate Phillips came from humble beginnings in the Netherlands, to help give the world cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray. The compact disc, produced by Sony and Philips in Eindhoven, was the invention of Joop Sinjou and Kees Schouhamer Immink. They based the size of the CD holes on a Dutch 10-cent coin.

Bluetooth

This Dutch invention is attributed to Jaap Haartsen, who came up with the idea of Bluetooth while working at Ericsson. This invention has been built into billions of technical devices worldwide to enable connection with other wireless devices.

Big Brother

Reality television is popular today but it was ground-breaking at the time. Early examples of reality TV include the Dutch series Nummber 28 in 1991, bringing strangers together and recording their reactions, but the world starting to tune in with the rise of SurvivorIdol and Big Brother (brainchild of Dutchman John de Mol) in the late 1990s and 2000s. These shows have become global franschises, with local version sprouting all over the world.

Fire hose

The fire hose as we know it today was the invention of Dutch Jan van der Heyden in 1673. Combined with his subsequent invention of an advanced pumping system, large fires could effectively be extinguished.

Thermometer

Dutch meteorologists use celsius today. However, the alcohol and mercury thermometer is an invention from Polish-born Dutchman Daniel Fahrenheit in the early 1700s. Fahrenheit was also the first person to officially record the temperatures at which water freezes and boils.

Bike treadmill

You might not commonly see this modern invention on the street but the hybrid bike-treadmill was the inspiration of Dutch entrepreneur Bruin Mergmeester. With his cross trainer as the muse, Mergmeester created an electric bicycle powered by a mini treadmill that sits low between the wheels. This ‘Lopifit’ can reach up to 25km per hour.

Folding emergency bridge

It was a Dutch, Mr Deth, who invented a BYO bridge. As a practical solution to crossing the Netherlands’ many canals, Deth invented an emergency bridge that could fold.

Miffy

The little white female rabbit, Miffy, and around 30 of her adventures have sold more than 85 million copies worldwide. There’s also a television series, a movie and clothes, toys, and other merchandise. The series of Miffy picture books started when Dutch artist Dick Bruna told his son stories about a rabbit they saw on holiday. Miffy, or Nijntje in Dutch, is a shortened version of the diminutive konijntje, little rabbit.

TomTom

The pioneers of GPS mapping started more than 20 years ago with Dutch company TomTom. In 2004, they created a new consumer electronics category when they released the first personal navigation device. They’ve since sold more than 70 million PND devices worldwide. Today GPS mapping has become the norm in apps used by smartphone users around the world.

Stable doors

Is there such a thing as a Dutch door? This Dutch invention refers to doors that open in two parts, more commonly seen in stable doors. These were popular in the Netherlands in the 17th century and are still popular around the world today. The ingenious idea allowed light and air through the top open half, while animals could be kept out with the closed bottom half.

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