What’s the Greatest Invention of All Time?

Many people will argue that the thermos is the greatest invention of all time because the darn thing has the basic intelligence to determine that some items are to be kept cold whilst other items are to be kept hot. How does it know? Well, I’m here to tell you that at last week’s Tech Cocktail Startup Mixology Conference I realized that Ramen Noodles are the greatest invention of all time.  But before we get to the greatest we should start with the worst inventions of all time.

The Worst Inventions Of All Time
– The wheel is the worst invention of all time because it is the father of the industrial revolution, baby.

You see the wheel is the basis of most machinery: water wheels, mills, spinning wheels, gears, etc., and if it wasn’t for the industrial revolution, then we would be out fishing for our dinners right now instead of sitting behind desks, pretending to be busy, while surfing the ‘net.  So instead of fishing for our dinner, we work for companies that we hate so that we can buy days old fish at the grocery store and take one week’s vacation so we can fish for fun, which we would be doing every day if the wheel wasn’t invented.

The Light Bulb – The light bulb was the precursor to the vacuum tube, which resulted in the invention of the transistor, which lead to the silicon chip.  It drove innovation because every invention since the light bulb was preceded by a light bulb appearing over the inventor’s head. It is that striving for the proverbial light-bulb-over-the-head thing that has hastened the pace of harmful inventions. Humans would spend much less time creating stealth aircraft, weapons of mass destruction, and toxic waste and would have more time making good-for-the-environment love if they were working under the romantic light of a candle instead of pursuing the light bulb over the head.

Car – Imagine the low cost of gas and how much nicer gas station visits would be if cars hadn’t been invented. Statistics say that 97% of the people who screw up gas station bathrooms are car drivers. If automobiles were never invented, gas station bathrooms would be so much cleaner.

Airplane – Small seats, bad peanuts, lost baggage, late flights, and smelly bathrooms that aren’t much better than gas station bathrooms. Oh, and lots of bad invention light bulbs over every seat.

Radio – Have you listened to the crap my kids are listening to on the radio? It’s almost as bad as the crap my dad listened to when he changed my good radio stations to listen to his crap and told me that I didn’t know anything about good music.

TV – The Flying Nun, My Mother The Car, Barney, Joanie Loves Chachi, Glenn Beck, I could go on and on, but I think I made my point.

Computer – When your computer goes down at work, what happens? You go home right? Nothing can get done when the computer goes down. Which gives me a bad-invention, light-bulb-over-my-head idea: Imagine a world without computers. We would be fishing, same as if the wheel wasn’t invented.

So enough of the bad. Let’s talk about Ramen.

The Greatest of Invention of All Time
Ramen Instant Noodle Soup
– Invented by Wu Bai Fu who died a billionaire at at age 96 just a few years ago. Wu made his fortune after introducing the world to this little wonder in 1958. Today, you can get a pack of Ramen Instant Noodle Soup for 10 cents. Do you see the wonder of this? A whole meal that requires a cup of hot water and is ready in just 10 minutes.

I contend that without Ramen there would be no tech industry, because without these frugal little MSG, sodium-enriched meals the Bill Gates’s and Steve Jobs’s of the world would have died of malnutrition before they made it big.  I contend that all startup founders would have starved to death during their lean times if it weren’t for Ramen. Ramen is to tech what George Washington is to America.

Another miracle?  Check out the Ramen economic model.


Plastic Packaging – Plastic wrap formed, packaging printed, shipped to plant, wrapped around the ingredients – $.01
Noodles – Wheat grown, harvested, and milled, shipped to plant, formed into noodle squares – $.01
Spices – Grown, milled, harvested, shipped to plant and mixed – $.01
Silver Foil Spice Packaging – Aluminum mined, package created, and wrapped around spice – $.01
Total Manufacturing Estimate: $.04

Packaged in a box, put on a pallet and shipped by truck or train to a port for shipment to the US – $.01
Moved to a ship and transferred from China to the US – $.01
Moved from ship and trucked to warehouse – $.01
Total Shipping: $.03
Total Production Cost: $.07

Profit: Allowing for 1 cent profit per package that means that the product is sold to the store for 8 cents so the store can net 2 cents on the sale of a 10 cent package.

So Ramen is a product that costs under 10 cents to manufacture, ship from China to America and fuel America’s Tech Revolution.  Now that’s amazing.  So stick your Ramen in your thermos and let the thermos decide if it should keep that Ramen hot or cold.


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Written by:
Glen Hellman (@glehel), is an angel investor, serial entrepreneur, and works for venture capitalists as a turn-around specialist. He is the Chief Entrepreneureator at Driven Forward LLC, frequently muses on his blog, Forward Thinking, and works with entrepreneurs to help them figure out what to do and get them to do it.
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