Some types of technology are so ubiquitous that we forget that at one time they were a marvel.
Take the pencil, for example.
On 30 March 1858, the US Patent Office granted Hymen Lipman Patent No. 19,783 for his invention: a wooden pencil with the eraser attached “within the wood of the pencil.” The cool thing about this India-rubber eraser was that it could be sharpened, making the act of erasure more precise.
According to the Museum of Everyday Life in Vermont:
The word pencil comes from the latin, penicillum , the name for a small, fine-tipped brush used for writing, which in turn is a diminutive form of the latin word for brush, peniculus, which in turn is a diminutive form of the Latin word penis, which means “tail.” This word was used for these very fine brushes because they were made from tufts of hair from the tails of animals.
The earliest known description of a wood-cased lead pencil dates from a 1565 book on fossils by Konrad Gesner.