Made in WA

Washington’s 60 Most Timeless Inventions

The World’s Fair put Seattle's ingenuity on the map six decades ago. But before and since, our quirky and vital innovations have endured.

Edited by Benjamin Cassidy By Seattle Met Staff August 23, 2022 Published in the Fall 2022 issue of Seattle Met

Sixty years ago, at what would be the apex of the Century 21 Exposition, there was a problem. Just below the titular point of the Space Needle, a revolving restaurant patented by Seattle architect John Graham promised to dazzle diners atop the futuristic landmark of the 1962 World’s Fair. Once per hour, the Eye of the Needle would make a full rotation. Patrons didn’t have to move a muscle for a panoramic view of our peaks and shores. But this constant whirl would tangle the corded phones of the times. Visitors would need a new way to brag about the experience from their seats.

So telecom titan Pacific Northwest Bell invented a solution. With a receiver, transmitter, and antenna, the “Space Age Cordless Telephone” allowed all those diners to dial their friends without feeling like they were getting yanked by a dog leash.

The cordless phone had a shelf life; like the pagers and clunky computers unveiled in Seattle that year, it was eventually rendered obsolete. Our reputation as an innovation hub was here to stay though. Most associate it now with the product launches of Amazon and Microsoft, or discoveries in a burgeoning life sciences sector. But local inventions in other realms have also stood the test of time, attuned to the quirks and passions that inform our region’s peculiar brand of ingenuity.

To read descriptions of the 60 innovations we chose for our list, click on the section headers below. Items with their own links received longer write-ups. Yes, even Clippy.


Equipment and clothes for the outdoors. 


New ways to get around. 

Close Calls

Washington can’t quite claim these inventions.

  • The gas station. Standard Oil installed pumps on Seattle’s Waterfront in 1907—two years after a Shell subsidiary arrived in St. Louis.
  • The smiley face. Perhaps invented by an ad man in Massachusetts during the early ’60s, but very likely not by a Seattle PR guy a few years later. 
  • The Wave An A’s fan named Krazy George gets mad when UW tries to take cred.


Literally and figuratively. 
  • Disposable Diapers
  • Baby Jogger
  • Empathy Belly
  • Bone Marrow Transplantation
  • Hepatitis B Vaccine
  • Passive Vaccine Storage Device
  • Single-Handle Faucet
  • Direct Current Defibrillator
  • The Seattle Foot
  • Scribner Shunt
  • Doppler Ultrasound
  • Sonicare


Treats and other food items. 


Toys, games, and tools. 
  • Slinky Dog and Snap-Lock Beads
  • Pictionary
  • Bauer Shuttlecock
  • Pickleball
  • Cranium
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • Elmer’s Glue
  • Pinking Shears
  • Chuckit!
  • Dog Toothbrush



Fun while they lasted.

  • Aerocar. Pour one out for the Jetsons-y sky car from 1950 that never quite took off. 
  • CDs. At least Bremerton-born scientist Jim Russell knows Sony and Philips are no longer making millions off his digital data storage technology.
  • Self-tipping hat. The demise of a nineteenth-century cap geared to salute ladies proves at least one vestige of chivalry is dead.


Musical feats. 
  • Electric Bass
  • Grunge
  • Vinyl
  • Whammy Bar


What we’ll invent next.

  • Covid vaccines. More variants mean more work for UW researchers who’ve already developed effective shots.
  • Space tourism, for real. Blue Origin’s rocketed the rich and famous out of this world a few times. Soon the Kent-based company will launch the (slightly) less rich and famous toward the stars more frequently—and for longer stays.
  • The self-driving SUV. Amazon’s autonomous Zoox cars are on the cutting edge of the inevitable.


Concepts that caught on.  
  • $15 Minimum Wage Law
  • Buy Nothing
  • Father’s Day
  • Shopping Mall
  • The Far Side
  • White Fragility

Screen Time

Products of tech.
  • Windows
  • RealPlayer
  • Kindle
  • Zillow Voyeurism
  • Xbox
  • Clippy
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