These Everyday Things have Surprising Origins

These Everyday Things have Surprising Origins

These Everyday Things have Surprising Origins
Image Credits: Bloomberg

There are a number of everyday things that we take for granted. Many of them had a completely different use when they were invented. Over time, these things went through incredible changes and their respective uses changed. The following are some of the most common everyday things that have surprising origins.

Wi-Fi Started as a Way to Detect Black Holes


Stephen Hawking proposed a theory on how black holes emit radio signals after evaporating. A physicist, called John O’Sullivan, wanted to prove it. Consequently, he developed a mathematical tool that could detect the radio signals given off by black holes. For a long time, he stared out into space but found nothing.

In 1992, he took a job at a networking company that was trying to develop wireless computer networks. Nothing worked for the company until O’Sullivan added his black hole tool to the network. This is the device that created Wi-Fi, one of the most popular everyday things that we use today.

Balloon Animals Started as an Aztec Animal Sacrifice Ritual

Balloon Animals - Everyday Things

The first balloon animals were made by the Aztecs, but they weren’t very much fun. These balloon animals were made out of dried cat intestines and had an airtight seal. The Aztecs would blow them up and twist them into fun animal shapes. It was probably at least slightly delightful—by Aztec standards—until they set the balloon animals on fire as an offering to their bloodthirsty gods.


In 1939, a clown named Henry Maar made a balloon animal out of rubber. He was probably oblivious to the fact that he was carrying out an old Aztec ritual, minus the cat intestines. What makes these everyday things even weirder is the fact that they are used as children’s toys.

Candles on Birthday Cakes Started as a Tribute to the Moon Goddess

Candles on Birthday Cakes - Everyday Things

Putting candles on birthday cakes is a pretty common practice. Although there are a lot of different theories about the origin of this act, none of them have been proven. One of them connects our birthday celebrations to ancient Greeks.

According to this theory, they used to organize a festival every spring (Mounichi). In this celebration, women would make offerings to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and the Moon. They prepared honey cakes that they filled with candles, meant to shine like the Moon in the sky. Later on, the Greeks went one step further and butchered a goat during the festival. It is a good thing that the goat part got dropped somewhere in history.

Treadmills Started as a Punishment for Criminals

Treadmills - Everyday Things

Everyone has heard of a treadmill. Some of you might feel that working out on a treadmill is torture. Interestingly, treadmills were literally used for torture, a century ago.

The first treadmill was built in 1818 by William Cubit. It was a wooden cylinder equipped with a handrail that worked like a hamster wheel. Due to this, the users could walk as much as they want without ever getting anywhere.


Cubit put these treadmills in prisons, where they were used to punish convicted criminals. They were made to walk on them for up to 10 hours a day. Soon afterward, the wardens realized that the treadmills could be used as free energy sources. They connected them to grinders and water pumps and the idea worked. Years later, it was declared that walking on treadmills was too cruel a punishment for even the worst of criminals.

Bowling Started as a Religious Ceremony


Are you a fan of bowling? If yes, the surprising origin of your favorite game might give you a shock. The tomb of an Egyptian child, buried in 3200 BC, suggests that bowling started in Egypt. The tomb contained a set of nine stones and a stone ball, something quite similar to modern-day bowling. In addition to that, they seem to have been used almost exactly the way we play bowling today.

In the 3rd century, a very similar game popped up in Germany. Coincidence or not, the game started in churches as a solemn ritual. People who managed to knock down all nine pins (called heathens) were declared free of all sins. After a short while, people just started doing the ritual as a game. If the Germans were right, anyone who bowls a strike before dying has a clear path to Heaven.

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