Learn how German ingenuity, creativity and perseverance changed the world in which we live, giving us inventions to do with such basics as As and Bs, 0s and 1s and hot and cold.

Determined to drive

Its 1.343 individual parts could move no faster than 12.4 miles per hour. Might not sound like much, but it was exciting enough when Carl Benz took the first automobile out on the road. Although that first try, in 1885, ended with Benz crashing, the inventor perservered, patenting his »Velociped« a year later. The same determination can be seen in today's Velo fans, more than 50 of whom have signed up for a 45.000 Dollar copy.

A pressing concern

How many people do you know look at wine presses and hot lead and think of books? Johannes Gutenberg's brainstorm had enough of an impact on civilization that »Time Magazine« named him one of their »Most Important People of the Millennium.« In the mid-1400s, Gutenberg created mobile type, forging 290 characters and spelling out by hand each letter of the Bible, using a machine that functioned like a winepress. By 1454, Gutenberg printed 180 Bibles, the start of the printing revolution. Within 50 years, eight million copies of 30,000 titles had been produced. Gutenberg's invention led to fame, but almost bankrupted him: friends had to step in later in life to help him out financially.

Cool deal

The next time you down a cold cup of soda, stop and thank stubborn Bavarian Carl von Linde, inventor of the refrigerator. In 1865, the 22-year-old German train-factory worker wasn't allowed to transfer to the research department. So Linde played around with his ideas on his own, and in1873 he got funding to work on the cooling system that make modern refrigerators and air conditioning systems function. Three years later, the precursor to the modern refrigerator was created, and Linde founded the »Gesellschaft für Linde's Eismaschinen« to sell them.


In 1920, youngsters Adi Dassler and his brother Rudi attached homemade spikes to shoes for track and field athletes and five years later for soccer players - and three-stripe power was born. In 1928, half of the athletes at the Olympics wore the shoes, and Jesse Owens wore a pair when in Berlin in 1936.

Although the company ran into hard economic times, they were saved in the 1980s when Run-DMC made their shoes cool again. Rudi split with his brother in 1948, going on to found Puma, with the two companies fighting for a greater market share ever since. After the split, the two brothers allegedly never spoke to each other again.

Kitchen table computing

Who was the first person to build a computer in his parents' kitchen? The same guy who built the first computer. In 1938, Konrad Zuse cobbled together the first mechanical binary digital computer, complete with keyboard and flashing lights. After the war, Zuse continued inventing, founding the first computer company, with his employees demanding to be paid in beer. In 1998, the World Mathematics Congress recognized Zuse as the inventor of the computer.

Aches and pains

More than 80 billion aspirins helped Americans get over hangovers, headaches and minor pains last year - but if it wasn't for a German chemist concerned about his father, the pills might not even be around. Felix Hoffmann discovered acetylsalicylic acid, the active ingredient in asprin, in 1897, but his boss, Heinrich Dreser, wanted nothing to do with it, preferring to focus on what he thought would be the cough syrup of the future: heroin. Hoffmann, though, wanted to make a medicine that helped his father, who was suffering from rheumatism, and sent his discovery to scientists in Berlin. Their enthusiastic response led Bayer to invest more work in the substance, and in 1899 they brought aspirin to the public. New uses for the medicine continue to be discovered, such as the announcement in 1988 that popping the pill can help lower the risk of heart attacks.

Little bits of music

Part of the songs are actually missing. But just a little - not enough that we'd notice. In 1987, German scientists Karlheinz Brandenburg and Bernhard Grill figured out that a digital recording can have information stripped out of it - information ears aren't sensitive enough to pick up - and still sound like the original. Playing around with Suzanne Vega's song »Tom's Diner,« the scientists chopped the music up, seeing which pieces they could get rid off. Eventually, they dropped the size of files by 90 percent. When college kids discovered that the smaller files made it easy to swap music over the Web, MP3s were here to stay.

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