Made in Chicago: Innovations that Came Before

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As we get ready to throw our first Microsoft Ignite in Chicago, we'd like to pay tribute to some of the historic innovations that have emerged from this great city—some invaluable and others, well, notable.

Pullman sleeper car (1865): George Pullman takes the credit for this nifty traveling bedroom—a forerunner of today's flat-bed seat on commercial airplanes.Generic Episode Image
Scale model of a Pullman Company sleeping berth

The "Whirlwind" vacuum cleaner (1869): A cumbersome, hand-cranked device that beat out conventional cleaning (somewhat). Better models followed.

The farm silo (1873): Though the Illinoisan Fred Hatch is noted as the inventor of the first wooden, upright grain silo, farm silos were used as long ago as the 8th century BC in ancient Greece.

Hand-cranked mechanical dishwasher (1886): We had to start somewhere!

Softball (1887): The first round of this beloved, American pastime was played on Thanksgiving Day, during a squabble over a football score. One guy threw a boxing glove, and the other swung at it with a stick.

The Ferris wheel (1893): Sometimes called the Chicago Wheel, this giant thing was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. At 264 feet, it was a standout attraction at the Chicago World's Fair.


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Side view of Ferris wheel with scaffolding next to Moorish Palace

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View of the Ferris wheel at the Chicago World's Fair

The "clasp locker" zipper (1893): A hook-and-eye shoe fastener invented by Whitcomb Judson, which debuted at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

Consumer preference research (1928): An early-day data scientist (of sorts), William Burnett Benton also published the Encyclopedia Britannica and served in the U.S. Senate.

First U.S. blood bank (1937): Bernard Fantus was the first to refrigerate and store donor blood in the U.S. Within a few years, the practice had spread throughout the nation.

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Early Red Cross blood bank

Deep dish pizza (1943): Chicago-style pizza is purported (by some) to have been invented at Pizzeria Uno in 1943. One thing we all agree on: Yum.

Zenith "Space Commander" wireless remote control (1955): Ultrasound-enabled channel and volume control on the first "practical" wireless remote control.

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Television remote control by Zenith Electric Company

Televised political debate (1960): John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon christened modern political debate in front of 70 million viewers.

The cell phone (1973): The first handheld mobile phone call was demonstrated by Martin Cooper of Motorola on a prototype DynaTAC model.

Fermi Linux (1998): Generically named linux releases created to establish cost-effective computing for the Tevatron, a circular particle accelerator.

Microsoft Ignite is an ideal setting for kindling ideas and connections that lead to breakthroughs. It's all happening May 4–8. In Chicago, of course!




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