Wednesday, January 31, 2018

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Scotch Tape

The original Scotch Tape introduced in 1930 was designed for sealing commercial and industrial packaging.

Indulge me.  Close your eyes and try to remember a time when you really did need string to tie up those brown paper packages.  When yards of satin ribbon and six thumbs were needed to keep the colored tissue paper prettily surrounding the gift box.  When the ripped pages of your favorite book were doomed to be forever sundered.  When that torn $5 bill could not be mended and spent.  When there was nothing to hold your eye lid and nose in peculiar positions to frighten your baby siblings.
Yes, those were dark, dark days.  Before the invention that rescued us all.  In keeping with this blog’s occasional mission of reminding us of the inventions that really and truly changed our lives, I give you Scotch Tape!
Actually, tape of any kind in the modern sense hasn’t been around very long.  The first marriage of some kind of gum, glue, or adhesive to some sort of material or fabric is credited to English physician Horace Day in 1845.  He devised strips of fabric coated with a rubber gum for use in surgical bandages.  The idea was slow to catch on because no one had yet thought to put the stuff on reels.  It had to be kept laid out flat.
A small advance occurred in 1921 when a Johnson & Johnson cotton buyer put a cotton pad on short strips of adhesive cloth like Dr. Day’s and backed them with crisp crinoline. The adhesive face protected by easy-to-peel-off waxed paper—and the Band-Aid was born.
But still no tape on a roll.  That was the creation of a young engineer, Richard Gurley Drew in 1925. 
Engineer Richard Gurly Drew was the break-through inovator in adhesive tapes for Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., now 3M.
Drew had first worked for Johnson & Johnson, so was familiar with adhesive.  But he had shifted his allegiance to the Minnesotta Mining & Manufacturing Co.  They were predominately operators of sand and gravel pits.  But in addition to the usual customers for building material, the company had created a profitable niche for itself marketing their inexpensive raw material as industrial abrasives including various kinds of grinding and polishing wheels, and new products like sandpaper that affixed their grit to a disposable backing.  Within this limited field they were innovative and employed bright young men like Drew who helped develop a new product that could be used wet or dry and was intended for preparing auto bodies for painting.
One day Drew was sent to a local body shop along with a salesman, a common double duty of engineers in those days. He observed that painters in the shop had a hard time keeping down sheets of paper intended to keep the spray paint from running where it wasn’t wanted.  An idea was born.

Drew's revolutionary masking tape at work in an auto body shop to prepare for painting.
Back in the lab, drawing on his experience with adhesives, Drew devised a paper tape on a rollmasking tape, ever after the painter’s friend.  Of course, it took a little perfecting.  He took samples to one shop, which found the adhesive insufficient to keep a seal. The exasperated owner told Drew to “Take this tape back to those Scotch bosses of yours and tell them to put more adhesive on it!”  Drew not only improved the product, he sold this employer on the idea of using Scotch as a brand name for the tape, indicating that it was a thrifty choice.

The many home uses for Scotch Tape were promoted in these 1940's women's magazine ads.
Drew was soon given the go ahead to explore other possibilities.  High on his list was developing a tape for use in sealing industrial packaging.  After considerable experimentation, he developed a pressure adhesive tape on transparent cellophane.  After sending samples of a Chicago industrial baker to seal the ends of their wax paper bread wrapping, the enthusiastic customer wired back, “You’ve got a product.  Get it into production!”
And they did.  Scotch Brand Cellulose Tape was introduced for sale on January 30, 1930.
The development of automated heat sealing process on packaging lines soon rendered the original use largely obsolete.  But another 3M engineer, John A Borden, invented something in 1932 that made the product indispensable to thrifty homes and offices who need to mend rather than replace torn and tattered items—a dispenser with a built-in cutter blade.

A Scotch Tape dispenser package from the 1950's

After the concept of adhesive backed tape on rolls was established. 3M and other companies came up with continued innovations—cloth backed electrical tape in the early ‘30’ and a rubber (now vinyl) version in 1954 and fix-everything Duct Tape in 1942.  The introduction of Scotch Brand Magic Transparent Tape in 1961 largely, but not entirely, replaced the original product. The new tape did not yellow or crack with age like cellophane, had a matte finish that did not reflect light so that it could even be used for affixing things to pages for offset press reproduction, and could even be written on with a ball point pen.
Scotch Tape took 3M to a whole new level as a company.  It eventually introduced many other new forms of tape for specialized applications and expanded into businesses from office supplies (Post-It Notes), to audio and video tape, to fabric treatments (Scotchgard) and many other products.
And as we can see, our lives were changed as well.  I say damn fine work, Richard Gurley Drew! 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Read it Here First! We Got the Text of the State of the Union Address

The Cheeto-in-Charge at his it's-not-really-a-State-of-the-Union speech in 2016.

As dawn broke over a frigid Crystal Lake this morning witnesses reported a huffing and puffing young man said to resemble Donald Trump Jr. peddled up to our driveway on a vintage balloon tire Schwinn and plopped a sealed blue envelope down on the pavement next to this morning’s Northwest Herald.  I picked both items up and stuffed them in my messenger bag as I got on the Pace Bus to come to work in Woodstock.
Passing the opportunity to do the crossword puzzle on the commute, I opened the envelope and was stunned to discover that it was an excerpt from the State of the Union Address (SOTU) scheduled to be delivered to a joint session of Congress tonight.  According to a note scrawled on Office of Official White House Leaks stationary Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout is just one of a handful of “Prestige media outlets” to be sent this “unprecedented preview to circumvent Fake News reports that will claim the President said something completely different.”  Among the outlets who received a similar package were Breitbart, The Sean Hannity/Fox News Fan Club Newsletter, Stormfront, Resorts magazine, and Dell’s Fun ‘N’ Easy Crosswords

Trumps speech writers, image consultants, strategists, and immediate family  members hard at work on an early draft of the State of the Union Address.
While I am somewhat mystified about how this little pop stand was included in this august company, I have quickly run the text by our panel of exerts in expensive looking suits and former NSA code breakers for analysis.  Reactions varied.  One exclaimed this is “the most lucid text by the President in recent memory.”
At any rate, in fulfilment of our journalistic duty here is the excerpt provided to us in its entirety.  

Our editorial cartoonist suffered a nervous breakdown after rushing to complete this illustration but not being able to figure out what to label the Beast.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe:  All mimswere the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!  Beware the Jubjub bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand.  Long time the manxome foe he sought—So rested he by the Tumtum tree and stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood, the Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, came whiffling through the tulgey wood, and burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through the vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head he went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”  He chortled in his joy.
Our panel of experts believe the so-called Jabberwock may be CNN, Robert Mueller, Hillary Clinton, Colin Kaepernick, Meryl Streep, or some conspiracy involving others.  Jabjub bird was suspected to be author Michel Wolfe and the furious Bandersnatch may be either Stormy Daniels or Melania Trump.  A fist fight and coin toss called it for the First Lady.
Other portions of the text are being analyzed by the network of super computers employed by Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe (SETI) project but have not yet been completed.