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15 Texas Inventions That Changed the World

Flickr/anyjazz65

Worldwide, Texas might be known for its Western cowboy heritage, but the Lone Star State is more than just dusty prairies and longhorn steer. Texas is a land of innovation where genius minds create inventions that pretty much make modern life possible.

Texas is also responsible for a few less vital inventions that you just never knew you needed until you saw an infomercial and started screaming, “Shut up and take my money,” at your television set.

Check out these 15 Texas inventions that have changed the world as we know it.

15. Shiner Beer

Flickr/Denise Mattox
Flickr/Denise Mattox

Named for the small town in which the Spoetzl Brewery resides, what began as a locally popular beer label has exploded into an extensive line of different products that are nationally distributed.

The brewery opened in 1909, and really took off in the 1970s when distribution was extended to Austin. The sweet, sweet nectar of the Lone Star State is now available in 49 states. Sorry, Hawaii.

14. Handheld Calculators

Flickr/Joe Haupt
Flickr/Joe Haupt

In 1967, a group of engineers at Texas Instruments changed the contents of college students’ backpacks forever when they introduced the handheld calculator.

Future TI Vice President Dean Toombs, formed a team consisting of Jack Kilby, Jim Van Tassel and Jerry Merryman, and were granted a patent eight years after the products’ invention.

13. 3-D Printing

Flickr/Individual Design
Flickr/Individual Design

You probably didn’t know that what’s now known as 3-D printing began in the early 1980s with a process called selective laser sintering. University of Texas alum Carl Deckard began inventing the process, commonly referred to as SLS, while he was still a graduate student.

12. Stadium Nachos

Whenever you go to a football game or any other stadium event, chances are you’ll find some concession stand nachos. What you won’t find is the history of these ubiquitous cheesy delicacies.

It all started in 1976 at a Texas Rangers baseball game when Frank Liberto made the genius discovery that if you dilute cheese sauce with water and jalapeño juice, you can dispense it from a pump.

Cover with jalapeños, and you’ve got a delicious snack that’s ready in seconds with has a mouthwateringly high profit margin.

11. Integrated Circuit

Wikipedia/"Siliconchip by shapeshifter" by David Carron
Wikipedia/”Siliconchip by shapeshifter” by David Carron

If you’re reading this on a laptop or mobile device, you can thank Texas.

In 1958, Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments created the first integrated circuit that eventually led to the invention of the microchip. The microchip is the reason computers went from being large enough to fill an entire room to small enough to fit in your back pocket, and accidentally fall into the toilet when you forget they’re in there.

10. Topsy Tail

Image via Conair.com Image via Keira Lennox
Image via Conair.com
Image via Keira Lennox

For those too young to remember, the topsy tail was an early 90s invention that facilitated a super popular hairstyle of the time: the inverted ponytail. Young people might recognize it best from the animated Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast”, since it’s what Princess Belle wears while dreaming of a less provincial life.

Essentially an exaggerated, flexible plastic knitting needle, the topsy tail was invented by Dallas inventor Tomina Edmark. Far from being a one-trick pony though, this business savvy Texas woman has gone on to have several other successful ventures including the Amazon of lingerie, Her Room.

9. Liquid Paper

Wikimedia Commons/FA2010
Wikimedia Commons/FA2010

In the 1950s, typist and Texan native Bette Nesmith Graham needed a way to correct typing errors so that one typo didn’t completely destroy a memo or letter. She mixed up tempera paint in her kitchen and used that to fix her mistakes.

She began marketing the product, originally called “Mistake Out”, in 1956 out of her home. What came to be known as “liquid paper” was enormously successful. In 1979, she sold her invention to the Gillette corporation for 47 million.

8. Mary Kay Cosmetics

Flickr/Dave S
Flickr/Dave S

At the age of 45, armed with nothing but a $5,000 investment from her son, a business plan she wrote and a sense of grim determination, Mary Kay Ash started her cosmetics business in Dallas in 1963.

Mary Kay Cosmetics is now not only a household name, but the sixth largest direct sales corporation in the world.

7. Whole Foods Market

Flickr/That Other Paper
Flickr/That Other Paper

While not strictly an “invention” per se, Whole Foods is a well-loved household brand that originated in the Lone Star State. In 1980, 25-year-old John Mackey and his girlfriend Renee Lawson opened SaferWay, an intentional allusion to the grocery store chain SafeWay, in Austin, Texas.

Fast forward 35 years and the little vegetarian health food store that became Whole Foods has expanded to include over 400 locations in three countries.

6. Fritos

Flickr/austinboardman
Flickr/austinboardman

If you enjoy the curly strips of corn chips commonly known as Fritos, you can thank Texas. Invented in 1932 in San Antonio by Charles Doolin, Fritos were immensely popular first in Texas, then nationwide.

The little company eventually joined forces with the business started by Herman Lay out of Nashville, Tennessee, and the rest, as they say, is history.

5. Dr Pepper

Flickr/Mike Mozart
Flickr/Mike Mozart

On Dec. 1, 1885, at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco, Texas, pharmacist Charles Alderton served Dr Pepper for the very first time.

In 1904, the product was taken nationwide. Ever since, the United States learned what Texans had known for nearly 20 years: the combination of 23 secret flavors with some carbonation makes a damn fine soft drink.

4. Dell Computers

Computers

The now-famous story goes that in 1984, University of Texas student Michael Dell sold personal computers from his dorm room.

The humble roots of the company didn’t stop it from blossoming into a multinational force in the technology world. Today, Dell computers employs over 100,000 people worldwide.

3. Ruby Red Grapefruit

Flickr/Stacy
Flickr/Stacy

Believe it or not, the invention of the sweetest grapefruit available was actually an accident. The first pink grapefruit mutations appeared in a crop grown in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas in 1929.

In 1970, Dr. Richard Hensz of Texas A&M unveiled the ruby red grapefruit, the sweetest and reddest grapefruit ever seen before.

2. Frozen Margaritas

Flickr/Gilly
Flickr/Gilly

In 1971, Dallas restaurateur Mariano Martinez adapted a soft-serve ice cream maker to blend tequila, lime juice and sweet n’ sour. This clever invention turned into the world’s first frozen margarita.

Inspired by the slushy machines he found at the 7-Eleven, also a Texas company, Martinez set out to create a pre-mixed margarita that could be frozen and served at any time. Most frozen drink machine vendors were dubious of Martinez’s ideas, telling him that alcohol couldn’t be frozen. Martinez paid them no heed, however, and used his Texan tenacity to prove them wrong.

So, the next time you find yourself plastered and singing “La Cucaracha” at the top of your lungs, don’t forget to raise a toast to Texas.

1. Silicone Breast Implants

Baywatch - Fair Use
Baywatch – Fair Use

Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Well, not always. Houston surgeons Frank Gerow and Thomas Cronin invented the first silicone breast implants in the early 1960s.

Obviously the idea to artificially create big breasts came from a couple of dudes horsing around and talking about, well, boobs.

The story goes that Frank Gerow squeezed a plastic blood bag and joked that it felt like a woman’s breast. That simple moment of cutting up became the a-ha moment, leading to a revolution in the plastic surgery industry.

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15 Texas Inventions That Changed the World