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10 essential inventions you didn’t know were German

From the trivial to the revolutionary, these ten German inventions have each changed the world in very different ways. How many did you already know?

10 essential inventions you didn't know were German
Photo: DPA

1. Coffee filter paper

The original coffee filter. Evan-Amos / Wikimedia Commons

We’ve been drinking coffee for hundreds of years, with the first European coffee houses opening in the mid-17th century. But, it was this invention that made coffee drinking at home so much easier than it had ever been before.

Dresden housewife Melitta Bentz started to experiment to find a way to prevent coffee from becoming too bitter and to remove coffee grounds.

It was when she tried using the blotting paper from her children’s school books that she had her eureka moment. In 1908 she patented her invention, and began to sell her papers to the caffeine-loving public. Many coffee snobs still insist that it’s the best method out there!

2. The Easter Bunny

Lesekreis / Wikimedia Commons

As with most folkloric symbols, there are many different theories for why the ‘Easter Bunny’ became so celebrated. But it is thought that the Easter symbol, now so popular in America, travelled to the States with German immigrants. Today’s Easter Bunny grew out of religious practices in pre-Christian Germany.

The Osterhase – actually a hare rather than a rabbit – seems to have originated from pagan traditions. Eostra, a goddess of fertility and spring, was associated with the hare because of the animal’s high reproductive rate. The hare, along with the eggs, then became a symbol of fertility and birth, and is now an essential part of any Easter.

3. Gummy Bears

Gummy Bears. Photo: DPA

The iconic sweet – called Gummibärchen in German – was invented by Hans Riegel in Germany in 1922. Using acacia gum to create coloured candy, he started his own company in Bonn in 1920. The world-famous company Haribo is in fact an abbreviation of HAns RIegel von BOnn, and it started to produce these chewy kid’s favourites in 1922. 

4. Radio-controlled watch

Chancellor Angela Merkel glances at her watch. Photo: DPA

Ever wondered why Germans are so punctual? Maybe it’s because German watchmaker Junghans introduced the first radio-controlled clocks. It started in 1985 with the first table clock for private use. By 1990, Junghans had developed the technology to fit in a wristwatch and introduced the Mega 1 watch. Since it only deviates by one second every million years, you shouldn’t need to be resetting this one much. 

5. Aspirin

Bayer aspirin tablets. Photo: DPA

It doesn’t take all that much German beer to give you a killer headache the next day – but luckily Germans also discovered one of the more popular hangover cures.

The world’s favourite painkiller was in fact discovered in Germany. The little white pill made from willow bark was developed by Felix Hoffmann in August 1897 for pharmaceutical giant Bayer, and although a US company claimed the patent for the drug after the First World World, 12,000 of the 50,000 tonnes of Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) produced annually are still made by Bayer AG.

6. Fahrenheit scale

Photo: Pixabay/public domain

Now mostly replaced by the Celsius temperature scale, it’s only really the US and a few surrounding nations that stubbornly stand by the older method for measuring temperature.

But Fahrenheit – in which water’s freezing point is 32 degrees and boiling point is 212 – was the world standard until relatively recently. The scale was invented by German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724.

7. Automobile

DaimlerChrysler AG / Wikimedia Commons

The claim of inventing the first car is always going to be a bold one, but Carl Benz’s application for a patent on January 29th 1886 for “a vehicle powered by a gas energy” is as good as any.

The patent is often regarded as the birth certificate of the automobile. This preceded the production of the Model T Ford by 22 years. Little more than a motorized tricycle, it bears little resemblance to the luxurious Mercedes cars of today, but was nonetheless a significant landmark in the history of the automobile.

8. Accordion

Musician Yvonne Grünwald plays the accordion in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. Photo: DPA

When asked to think of Germany, you may well think of a portly, red-faced man wearing lederhosen, a green hat and a chirpy grin, playing folk songs on a huge accordion.

In fact, early versions of the instrument date back to third century BC China – but the first accordion was indeed invented by a German. Christian Friedrich Buschmann was a musical instrument maker who attached bellows to a portable keyboard with vibrating reeds, naming it the “Handäoline”. It was patented in 1822, and the term ‘accordion’ was first used in 1829.

9. The card chip

A Sparkasse bank card with a built-in microprocessor. Photo: DPA

In the 1960s, financial service providers were looking for a way to make their new plastic payment cards more secure. A magnetic strip and signature didn’t provide enough information – so in 1977 after nine years of development, German inventors Jürgen Dethloff and Helmut Göttrup created the first card with an in-built programmable microprocessor.

They patented this invention, and it evolved into the chip and PIN cards in our wallets today.

10. Settlers of Catan

Klaus Teuber (on the left), inventor of Settlers of Catan, plays the board game in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

This multi-award-winning board game about building cities, managing resources and trading with rivals is among the most critically acclaimed games of recent decades.

Invented by Klaus Teuber in 1995, by its 20th birthday, the game had sold more than 22 million copies in 30 different languages. The Washington Post’s Blake Eskin called it “the board game of our time” in 2010, and a production company bought the film and TV rights in 2015.

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France to roll out ID cards app

Technology is being rolled out to allow people to carry their French ID cards in an app form - and could be rolled out to other cards, including driving licences and cartes de séjour residency cards.

France to roll out ID cards app

Holders of French carte d’identité (ID cards) will soon be able to carry certified digital versions of them on their smartphone or other electronic devices, a decree published in the Journal Officiel has confirmed.

An official app is being developed for holders of the newer credit card-format ID cards that have information stored on a chip. A provisional test version of the app is expected at the end of May.

Users will be able to use the ID card app, when it becomes available, for a range of services “from checking in at the airport to renting a car”, according to Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner for the Internal Market.

All French citizens have an ID card, which can be used for proving identity in a range of circumstances and for travel within the EU and Schengen zone – the new app will be in addition to the plastic card that holders already have.

Under the plans, after downloading the app, card holders will need merely to hold the card close to their phone to transfer the required information. According to officials, the holder then can decide what information is passed on – such as proof of age, or home address – according to the situation.

The government has not given any examples of situations in which the app would need to be used, but has set out the main principles and the ambition of the plan: to allow everyone to identify themselves and connect to certain public and private organisations, in particular those linked to the France Connect portal.

READ ALSO What is France Connect and how could it make your life simpler?

Cards will continue to be issued for the foreseeable future – this is merely an extension of the existing system.

Only French citizens have ID cards, but if successful the app is expected to be rolled out to include other cards, such as driving licences, cartes de séjour residency cards or even visas. A digital wallet is being developed at the European level – Member States have until September to agree what it could contain.

READ ALSO Eight smartphone apps that make life in France a bit easier