4 Surprising Things That America Invented

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I'm not bashing the good old USA at all here. America is a place where our true religion is "Do something awesome and we'll give you a million dollars"-ianity, and we are a faithful and devout lot. Look at the response to the death of Steve Jobs. We all wailed because an American who basically invented the way we talk and do business was gone. What else could he have done had he remained among us?

That's just in the modern day. America worships the inventive minds among us. Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright Brothers, the list goes on. This is a capitalist society, and we demand and adore innovation.

But strangely enough, America as a whole is humble about some very big deals. I'm willing to bet you didn't know that it was America that gave us...

Fortune Cookies

Only the most meatheaded people in the world would actually believe that fortune cookies are some ancient tradition passed down from China. Sure, they're a staple, after-dinner dessert at every Chinese restaurant in the country, as is the amusing game of adding "in the bedroom" after each vague prophecy or homily, but the whole thing was just a successful marketing ploy by Chinese restaurateurs, right?

Nope, the fortune cookie as we know it was developed by a Japanese-American immigrant Tea Garden owner named Makoto Hagiwara in late 19th century California. His design was based on a cookie from his homeland, but it was Hagiwara who perfected the invention. He even won that distinction after a rival chef (who was Chinese) claimed he invented it first.

By the way, the Chinese, as in actually in China, think we're freakin' nuts. Fortune cookies are almost unheard-of in China, and those who have run across them always ask the same question we should probably ask ourselves: "Why are you putting paper in your cookies?"


Fortune cookies aren't America's only contribution to dessert, but when you think of American dessert inventions you think about deep fried Kool-Aid balls or Bacon Ice Cream. That's the kind of thing Uncle Sam whips up in the kitchen. Cupcakes? That has Europe written all over it. Tiny cakes in colorful wrappers is the kind of thing royal courts were invented for.

Well, the time period is right. George the III could've dined on cupcakes, or fairy cakes as they're called in Britain, but he would've had to import an American cookbook to have them made. The first mention of cakes baked in small cups is in Amelia Simms's 1796 book American Cookery. The term cupcake itself appears in an 1828 book by Eliza Leslie. The dainty treats are pretty much all our invention, though you could argue they are still pretty British since most people making them were born British citizens.

Not only does the cupcake belong to America, we did what we do best to them: We made them fight to the death in Cupcake Wars! Speaking of war...

Submarine Warfare

Now warfare is something we're really, really good at. Some of the greatest instruments of warrior tech come out of America, including the Gatling gun and the atomic bomb. If you ever find yourself having too restful a night's sleep and would instead like to wonder how close we are to going out in a fireball of unimaginable new weapons, go look at this list of projects the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working on or has worked on. Telepathic soldiers, self-healing robots, cyborg sharks, we're not making up any of that list.

That being said, the Germans are pretty good at it, too, and when people talk about submarine warfare, they always mention the U-boat attacks that temporarily made Germany the undisputed ruler of the sea during World War I. In World War II, they were even more deadly, the Germans having developed a new type of pack hunting that sank ships left and right. The Allies had a devil of a time fighting them, and instead we mostly relied on just avoiding them after we broke their codes.

But while the Germans were better at it, we invented it. David Bushnell developed the Turtle for the Revolutionary War, and George Washington himself loved the idea. Torpedoes were out of the question. The idea was to attach bombs to British ships. It failed miserably. The Civil War submarine the H.L. Hunley did slightly better, sinking USS Housatonic, but it had a nasty habit of killing every single crew member who ever served on it. That's right, the Confederate submarine service had a 100 percent fatality rate.

Console Gaming

When you think gaming, you think Japan. Nintendo, Sony and Sega are all Japanese companies. All the most landmark game series were developed in Japan, and only later released in America. Hell, Final Fantasy III didn't make it over here until 2011 for the DS. It was originally released in Japan in 1990. There can be no doubt that console gaming belongs to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Well, despite the fact that it's a Japanese word, Atari is actually an American company founded by Nolan Bushnell in 1972. However, even before Atari, console gaming was an exclusively American invention. The Magnavox Odyssey predates Atari in the console market, though it had a short, unsuccessful run as an uniformed public didn't know that you didn't have to have a Magnavox TV to use it.

Even video games themselves have their origins here in the States. MIT students developed Spacewar! in 1961. Our history goes back even further. A jukebox and vending machine company called Seeburg released a light-gun game that is almost identical to Duck Hunt all the way back in 1936. Nintendo was still just a playing card company while we were busy building the template of a game that is still part of the third-best-selling game ever on the Wii, Wii Play.

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