One summer afternoon in 1958, Artur Fishcher entered the small factory he had built in Tumlingen, today in the Waldachtal municipality in southwestern Germany. He absently greeted the workers he met at the door and went straight to the polyamide. He cut a small cylinder out of this material and took the drill out of the toolbox. The rest is history, the Fishcher cleat (as expanding cleats are still known in the DIY world) was about to revolutionize the world.

But, before Fishcher and although it is not usually recognized in the history books, the taco had been key in another great revolution for decades: that of the electrification of the modern world.

A story of ingenuity and 14 million tacos a day

Short and nearsighted, Fishcher had entered the world of manufacturing and industrial design by chance. When at the age of 19 he tried to enlist in the German Wehrmacht to become a pilot, he was passed over as an aircraft mechanic in the Lutfwaffe. That brought him to Stalingrad at the height of the war, but it also familiarized him with modern technology and allowed him to set up a small workshop to reuse war waste after ’45.

For years, he scraped by making lighters and switches, but in 1949, he tried to take a picture of his newborn daughter. In that epic, as the inventor used to remember, “there was only powder flash to take pictures indoors. It was dangerous and you couldn’t take good pictures because people closed their eyes out of fear. First I built a light reflector and then I developed an electric detonator”. Namely, created the first synchronized flash.

An idea that he sold to the IG Farben industrial conglomerate and that, years later, when it was dismembered by the Allies, was developed by the Belgian company Agfa. This allowed Fishcher to unleash his creativity and in the following years he registered more than 1,000 patents. The most important of all, of course, was that of the expanding plug: the vault key of an industrial empire that invoices 864 million euros a year and still today sells more than 14 million pieces of plastic a day.

Fishcher’s success has caused his image to be linked to the cue. However, his story comes from before and thank goodness!

And there was light… but only outside the houses

The history of electric light is long. In 1852, Francisco Domenech was able to illuminate his pharmacy in Barcelona and the city of Madrid hosted lighting tests in the Plaza de la Armería and in the Congress of Deputies. A little later, in 1875, they managed to light up (thanks to a dynamo) the Ramblas, the Boquería, the Montjuic Castle and part of the Gracia heights. And in 1881, on the occasion of the King’s visit, the Cantabrian city of Comillas became the first city with electric lighting in Spain.

Although, everything is said, there were 30 lanterns and I couldn’t get the patina of experimentalism off of me.

The streets of Godalming, illuminated | Godalming in Old Picture Potcards, vol 1, no 1

That same year, what is generally considered to be the world’s first permanent public electricity production facility came into operation: Godalming, England. Over there, Calder & Barnet used a waterwheela dynamo and a Siemens alternator to light the central streets of the city of Surrey and provide power to consumers who wanted.

Just a few months later, Thomas Edison commissioned his power station at 57 Holborn Viaduct in London, kick-starting the electrification of the modern world. However, as often happens with great technological advances, we tend to focus on the apparent: on illuminated streets, industrial electrification, the incipient (and truncated) birth of the electric car, but… how did electricity get inside? of some houses that were not prepared for it?

Big innovations, small details

A few years ago, when I was looking for a flat for the couple of years I lived in Madrid, they showed me a small apartment that did not have all the electrical installation inside the wall. It had plugs, but no light points on the ceiling. Because of that, the cords of the lamps were hanging across the room. At the time it struck me as odd, but (now that I reflect on how electricity got into homes) it’s a surprisingly useful image.

Traditionally, making any indentation was expensive and heavy (You had to chisel a groove, insert a wooden block, fix it with soft mortar and then drive the nail or screw inside very precariously). For this reason, when it was made, the natural joints that existed between the construction materials were used. This, although it seems strange, was a problem for the expansion of electrification, or you put the lights and plugs in often useless places. Or so much labor and money was required that it was prohibitive.

This Christmas I have decided to control the lights of the tree with the help of my mobile and this has been the result

World War I (and the death or maiming of an entire generation) caused a labor shortage that forced solutions to these types of problems. Solutions that could be implemented without great technical knowledge (or expertise): it was then that the wall plug was popularized by John Joseph Rawlings. From that moment on, the industry did not stop innovating: the first tubes of parallel fibers joined with glue were quickly followed by plugs “made of lead, zinc, natural and synthetic rubber, hemp fibers, glass, wood and paper” .

With that simple technology: the wall plug, everything became simpler and cheaper. And thanks to him, in a few years, urban housing they were filled with lights, plugs and much more. It is curious how the great technological revolutions (the electrification that changed houses in a couple of tens of years) depend on things as small as a wall plug.

Image: Rawlplug/Joanna Korzeniewska-Wieczorek


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Tarun Kumar

Tarun Kumar has worked in the News sector for 05 years and is currently the Owner and Editor of Then24. He reside in Delhi, India with his Family.

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