Thursday, January 04, 2007


The Greatest Canadian Inventions

I'm in love with CBC TV lately. Last night, I got completely sucked in by an unexpectedly delightful TV special called The Greatest Canadian Invention. It used a combination of archival clips and commentaters to count down the 50 greatest Canadian inventions, as ranked by the Canadian public.

It was full of cultural references and asides spanning the Wiggles to the Kids in the Hall to CSI, and a good dose of quintessentially Canadian humour. Astronaut Chris Hadfield, for instance, in describing the iconic Canadarm, explained that it was so sensitive that it could "take a pencil and stick it up your nose." He also mentioned that there wasn't a lot of forethought put into inscribing the Canada wordmark into the insulation around the arm, but when NASA saw that logo in every camera shot beamed back to millions of viewers on Earth, they were quick to put an American flag on the back of the space shuttle to compensate.

The commentaters, a collection of B-list Canadian personalities ranging from Margaret Atwood and Will Ferguson to Mitsou to Mike Holmes and Debbie Travis (I can just hear my American readers saying, "Who??") and the archival clips of everything from Pierre Trudeau paddling a canoe to the old WonderBra commercials from the 1970s (remember that song? "Wonderful wonderful... WonderBra"?) transformed this into a clever, witty, culturally-laden and ultimately fascinating look at the history of Canadian inventions.

And about those inventions... who knew? I couldn't find an easy-to-copy list on cbc.ca, so I lifted this one from Wikipedia (I've put my "I had no idea" revelations in bold):

Alkaline battery
Ardox Spiral Nail
Automatic Lubricating Cup
Birch-Bark Canoe
Bloody Caesar
Caulking gun
Cobalt-60 “Bomb” Cancer Treatment
CPR-Mannequin: “Actar 911”
Crash-Position Indicator-CPI
Electric Oven
Electric Wheelchair
Electron Microscope
Electronic Music Synthesizer
Explosives Vapour Detector
Five Pin Bowling
Fog horn
Goalie mask
Green Garbage Bag
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Instant Replay
Java programming language
Key Frame Animation
Light Bulb
Marine Screw Propeller
Marquis Wheat
Paint roller
Radio Voice Transmission
Retractable Beer Carton Handle
Robertson screw
Self-Propelled Combine Harvester
Separable Baggage Check
Standard Time
UV Degradable Plastics
Weevac 6

These are in alphabetical order, rather than the order in which they were ultimately ranked. The top three, though were insulin, the lightbulb (invented by Canadians, and then the patent was sold to Thomas Edison for $5000) and the telephone.

I love the fact that the retractable beer case handle and poutine made the list! Kudos to CBC for putting together such an enjoyable and ultimately educational show. I hadn't meant to watch any more than a few minutes, but from the start I was hooked for the full two hours. Bravo!

Labels: ,