Today’s Hottest Tech, According to Ben Franklin

While sifting through our archives during our site redesign, we found an article that, frankly, surprised us. It’s a list of the day’s hottest tech, penned by none other than Ben Franklin. 

Ben Franklin at his Macbook Air

As a publisher, it’s embarrassing to admit: sometimes you forget about the great content you’ve brought into the world. Even an author of historical proportions can slip your mind.

While sifting through our archives during our site redesign, we found an article that, frankly, surprised us. It’s a list of the day’s hottest tech, penned by none other than Ben Franklin. 

Yes, that Ben Franklin.

So, to honor one of our most iconic Founding Fathers on this Fourth of July, we present the unexpurgated version of Franklin’s text—exactly as it first appeared online in 1789.  

Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s New & Improved Compendium of Technology 

In the course of my life howsoever it is, my twin Muses, Observation and Invention, did always nourish my days; thus when your dear Benjamin was approach’d by Silicon Prairie News to proclaim the hottest new technology yet to bless our fledgling States, and to prognosticate thereupon, I was humbly honored. 

“How much will you pay me?” asked I. 

“We will pay you in posterity,” quoth the Editor. “Your grandchildren’s grandchildren will read this.” 

Since one can have enough money, but never enough fame, I agreed to the assignment and forthwith assembled the ensuing catalogue of ingenious devices. Have a gaze.   

  1. Lightning Rod – Until my most useful invention came into being, every tow’r in the world feared the electric wrath of Jupiter. No more! Someday, I predict, when the practice of installing lightning attractors in every building is widespread, we shall build tow’rs twice as tall as the tallest campanile, and spit in the face of nature.
  2. Double Spectacles – My renowned double spectacles, or “bifocals” as some ultracrepidarians call them, absolutely eliminate the need to alternate between reading glasses and looking glasses. No further prognostication is necessary here, as nobody will ever invent a better way to see.
  3. Franklin Stove – While the Rittenhouse stove hath o’ertaken mine in the marketplace, I place my Faith in the Fact that Americans long hence will remember my name, and not that of Rittenhouse. (Rittenwho? is more akin to it.)
  4. The Horse – Although I did not invent the horse, I hath stood long in admiration of its sturdiness and lustrous sheen. By 2020 AD, every fellow in the Nation will be possessed of forty-two horses, the combined velocity of which shall allow him to cover the greatest of passages in mere weeks, as opposed to the months and years now required.
  5. Musket – The lively musket spells freedom. By next century’s end, muskets shall weigh twice as much as they do now and fire musket balls thrice as large. On your guard, tyrants!
  6. The Spinning Jenny – Not the wench I knew in Boston, but the multi-spindled spinning frame, the spinning jenny hath certainly revolutionized weaving. Newer iterations will prove so efficient as to allow the assemblage of Two or Three shirts per daylight hour!
  7. Spring Scale – An apt device for weighing items such as Horses and Kings, the spring scale ushers in a new era of valuation. Though I did not conceive this gadget, let it be known that I could have, were I to contemplate the necessity for such a mechanism. Nevertheless, it still bears merit, and will continue to do so until I invent an even better device once I cultivate the inclination.
  8. The Wet Shirt – What you might consider a folkspun remedy to summer’s glare, I consider proof of the natural principle of “refrigeration.” By process of heat transfer, the evaporation of water from a wet shirt on a windy day renders the wearer of the cloth a cooler man indeed. Simply imagine how this concept could be applied to slow the spoilage of meats and vegetables, &c.! Someday, all Americans will store their victuals in a breezy closet containing ten to fifteen wet shirts, thereby prolonging the edibility of foodstuffs.
  9. Pros and Cons List – Another of my most ingenious inventions, this indispensable tool will be used for all time by anyone seeking to delay a decision.
  10. The Pocket Clock – There is nothing better for tracking the hour of day than the humble pocket clock. In the future, when we are all dead, this hardworking friend of ours will contain a vexatious noise-making device—not unlike a music box, but more vexing—meant to draw one’s attention to the present moment, at which point it will be smashed upon the ground by its owner. 


Published 3 July 1789



Sometimes, it’s better to leave the past alone. We know that now. We just wanted to demonstrate how Silicon Prairie News has been reporting from the forefront of technology and innovation since the earliest days of our nation. Happy Fourth of July!


Sign up to receive daily updates in your inbox.