Let us paint a scene for you. You’re a young child about to go to bed. Your mother asks, “did you remember to brush your teeth?” Of course you didn’t! You go to the bathroom and stare at a bowl of clay shards. Hesitant, you pick some up and begin scraping your teeth clean, wishing there was a softer brush type thing you could use to make it less painful. The torture people had to put themselves through before modern technology will make you feel spoiled. You won’t believe what people had to resort to before toilet paper!
Computers Were People, Literally
Photo Credit: DEA/BIBLIOTECA AMBRSIANA/Getty Images
Before computers were invented there was still a way to solve your problems without putting any work in. You would hire someone to think for you. Some people still do that today, but we’re talking about a different kind of problem-solving.
If you were a wealthy astronomer or mathematician, for example, you would hire people to write down your equations and fill out your charts. These fast thinking geniuses would be hired in massive teams and take shifts to avoid burning out. They were so smart, they even calculated the movement of Halley’s Comet. Try doing that today without a computer!
We Only Slept Four Hours At A Time
Photo Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images
Ever wonder why you love napping so much? Before the invention of false light, humans would just fall asleep whenever they wanted. If they slept during the night, they would wake up about every four hours, get some housework done or contemplate life, then go back to sleep.
Letting yourself sleep for eight hours isn’t natural. Being able to light up our world or make it go dark with the flip of a switch changed our natural sleeping habits. Now, when you need to take a nap, don’t feel bad, it’s just your body fighting the system. Up next, you’ll never look at your toothbrush the same way again.
Let’s Count The Horrific Ways Teeth Would Get Cleaned
Photo Credit: JAAFAR ASHTIYEH/AFP/Getty Images
You already know that before the toothbrush was invented, one option was to scrape away the gunk with clay shards. There were a few other options as well. In China, people would poke their teeth with pig hairs. The Spanish would wash their mouth with their urine… Moving on.
The Elizabethans decided being lazy was the best option. They refused to brush their teeth and convinced their citizens that having black and decaying teeth was “fashionable.” We guess that’s one way to look at it, just not the right way.
Having The Longest Fingernails Was All The Rage
Photo Credit: Jason Kempin/FilmMagic via Getty Images
Before 1875 there was no such thing as nail clippers. This made keeping your nails short and fancy difficult. Some cultures didn’t care. They worked so hard their nails would eventually just snap off. That doesn’t sound painful at all! If you were wealthy, your foot-long nails were a sign of your bank account and not having to lift a finger.
Other cultures took nail care a little more seriously. You know in western films when men shave with their knife? People would also carefully trim down their fingernails in the same fashion. It’s incredible how the invention of nail clippers could change our lives so drastically. Ahead, the strange methods we used to wake up in the morning.
No Alarm Clock, Better Wet The Bed
Photo Credit: MyLoupe/UIG via Getty Images
We wish that headline was a joke, but it’s not. Before alarm clocks, people had some weird ways to make sure they made it to work on time. In Native American culture, they would drink as much water as they could stomach. Then, when they woke up needing to “go,” they would either get up and start their day or wet themselves and go back to bed.
England took waking up a little more comically. They would pay people to bang on their windows with sticks in the morning. The poor soul who would take this job was called a “knocker-upper” and could earn up to a shilling for each successful wake-up. Just ahead, be thankful toilet paper was invented!
Stranded On The Bowl? Use An Old Corn Cob
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images
When the new world was settled, Americans didn’t have the luxury of soft cotton to clean themselves after going to the bathroom. They did have plenty of corn, though. Instead of throwing away leftover corncobs, they used them for their bathroom needs.
The Romans might take the gross cake on this one, though. They would put a sponge on a stick and share it. The Greeks preferred to clean up their bottoms with broken pieces of pottery. Toilet paper finally came into being in 1857, but it wasn’t until 1935 it was able to be advertised as “splinter-free.”
Frogs Were Used To Preserve Milk
Photo Credit: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images
Milk was not a common drink before the invention of the refrigerator. It spoils in hours if left out at room temperature and grows bacteria that makes it dangerous to consume. Russia, apparently addicted to dairy, came up with a unique solution to the problem. They put frogs in their milk.
This might sound disgusting, but the science checks out. Frogs have skin coated in a peptide that kills any harmful bacteria found in milk. Using the frog method, the milk still might have tasted a little funky, but it was safe to drink and dip cookies in. Next, find out what people did before cologne and perfume were invented.
Nosegays Were Used To Cover Up Body Odor
Photo Credit: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Have you ever thought about what people had to do to smell decent before deodorant and cologne or perfume was invented? Bathing was a luxury at the time, so people couldn’t exactly rinse the stink off. To help deal with the smell, they would clip nosegays to their outfits.
The pleasant-smelling flower would help reduce the gross odor while also adding much-needed color to any outfit. One 18th century book called explicitly for the use of the flower, “When you are in a crowd, smell to [the nosegay], and you shall pass through without difficulty.”
Answering Phones To Tell People What Time It Was Used To Be A Job
Photo Credit: Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Growing up, you may remember calling a phone number to get the time right when you would reset your clocks. An automated message with a nice voice would say, “the time is…” Before automated messages existed, it was a real person who would answer the phone and tell you what time it was.
The first “speaking clock hotline” started taking calls in 1933. The service was active 24 hours a day, and you would always be greeted by a real person on the other line. The job was so popular that phone companies would hold competitions to find, “the girl with the golden voice.”
People Didn’t Care About What Time It Was Until Trains Came Along
Photo Credit: Art Media/Print Collector/Getty Images
Before trains, people didn’t worry about what time it was. Each town had their own ways to keep track of it. Two cities next to each other could be 30 minutes off from each other, and no one would flinch. Then those pesky trains started connecting cities.
Essentially, trains normalized timekeeping in the modern world. If you needed to be somewhere and had to take the train, it was important your clock matched up with the train’s clock. The Great Western Railway Company in England was the first to standardize time for travel, so you can blame them for feeling guilty when you’re late to work in the morning.