QotW: What was the most important machine ever invented?

Today is Machinery Day in Japan. The holiday was established by the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers to consider how machines can be created responsibly to benefit society, as well as to spur interest in the field of mechanical engineering. If you think about it, the whole of human achievement is one unbroken chain of using crude tools to make ever more advanced ones. Even the most state-of-the-art microchip owes its existence to someone banging a couple of rocks together. In honor of this holiday we’re going with an ultra-meta question this week. We’re presuming that if you’re interested in cars, you’re likely interested in other mechanical objects as well. Answers don’t have to be automotive in nature, though they certainly can be.

What was the most important machine ever invented?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What car would Barbie drive if she went ‘JDM’?“.

There were so many good answers this week it was really hard to choose. In researching these answers we went down a rabbit hole and discovered that Barbie has had an insane number of cars over the years. There was something for nearly every version of the doll and all her various occupations, making it really hard to pick just one.

If you want to go with the classics, Barbie’s very first car was an Austin Healey 3000-esque roadster released in 1962, though it wasn’t branded as such. That would have been a perfect era-appropriate analogue to Lakdasa‘s choice of a Nissan Fairlady SPL212/3. Mattel followed that up with a Mercedes 190SL, which makes Lee L‘s Toyota 2000GT convertible a fitting choice.

Of course, Barbie’s most memorable cars were her various versions of the Corvette. In that vein, other iconic 80s sports car options like Jeremy A.‘s pick of A70 Supra, Chet Manley nominations of Starion or Impulse, and Ian G.‘s suggestion of an AW11 MR2 all seem apt. The Toyotas could’ve even been made with Sport Roof or T-top versions.

We also learned that in the 80s Barbie had not-so-high-end rides like the VW Cabrio. That would make Dove‘s selection of the Honda del Sol or GeorgeL‘s vote for the Honda Beat suitable options. On the other hand, Barbie also had a Porsche 964 and a Ferrari 328 GTS, so CycoPablo‘s pick of a blue chip car like the Lexus LC makes sense as well. Additionally, Barbie’s had more campers than the infield of the Daytona 500, so Jonathan P.‘s Toyota HiAce camper works out as well.

Both dankan and Taylor C. suggested the Lexus SC430, which makes total sense. For a left field pick that gives Barbie instant cool points Tom A. suggested an S15 Varietta.

In the end, we couldn’t decide so we left it up to the commenters, and Fred Langille‘s early mention of the Figaro got the most support (However, we should also mention that Richard  pointed out a Nissan Figaro was actually used in a parody of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” song). Congrats, Fred!

Easy … a Nissan Figaro! It already is in the sort of colors expected for her as per the seasons so, it isn’t much of a stretch to imagine a Barbie Pink Figaro with the signature white interior. Also, the roll back top makes it easier for her to play, Ken? Hmmmm … that’s why this car is good for Barbie-land … he could have the Summer Blue version so they’d match! I’d better stop before a need an insulin shot.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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This post is filed under: Question of the Week.

19 Responses to QotW: What was the most important machine ever invented?

  1. Ian N says:

    As much as I’d like to (being a Subaru 360 owner), seeing the pictured EK32 engine, I have to strongly resist the urge to suggest just that….

    I must therefore surrender the honour to the machine that makes… CHOCOLATE.

  2. BlitzPig says:

    The most important machine ever invented?

    The Airplane. No other machine has spurred our technological growth in so many areas, so quickly, as our conquest of the sky.

    • Land Ark says:

      I’d definitely give up literacy before giving up my air fryer. So I think I should probably withdraw my answer.
      If you like campfire toasted marshmallows, put a couple of them in the air fryer for a few minutes. You’ll thank me.

  3. Land Ark says:

    Gosh, airplane is a good one.
    I’ve got to go with the printing press though since up until then anything written had to be done by hand so the dissemination of information was slow and mostly relied on word of mouth which would total change the message as it was passed along. Literacy became more common as reading became available to the common man. This led to the proliferation of education and allowed intelligent “common” people to get ideas out to the masses. These effects can be seen even today by the ridiculous nonsense you can read at any time on social media.
    And most importantly of all, it allowed car manufacturers to produce glossy and beautiful brochures espousing the virtues of their cars. Where would we be today without knowing all the features of a B12 Nissan Sunny?

  4. Land Ark says:

    Please see my comment in filter jail.

  5. Ian G. says:

    The air fryer. These things quickly heat up wings, pork chops, French Fries, bacon, whole chickens in a quick and tasty way. But the best part is that you can hear up a frozen pizza in 10-12 minutes and it comes out crispy. Try doing that, microwave… or you too, airplane and whatever the filtered comment above me suggested. 🙂

  6. Bryan Kitsune says:

    The printing press.

    Maybe I’m biased since I work at a print shop. But widespread education and everything that came from it would be hard to imagine without the ability to make content available to the masses. Or there would’ve just had to be a whole lot of scribes.

  7. Carl Beck says:

    The Printing Press, which enabled the knowledge and wisdom of the select few over the past four thousand years, to be gained and shared with many around the world. The Printing Press changed the condition of humanity from the Dark Ages to enlightenment and rapid progress.

  8. Ben E says:

    The wheel.

  9. Alan says:

    The steam engine. Attempts to make it more efficient led directly to our discovery of the laws of thermodynamics, and from there quantum physics. Our understanding of nature and the universe at the smallest scale and broadest scope all started with railroads.

  10. Alan says:

    I should have added, that along the way the steam engine transformed the way people lived, bringing them goods, information, services, and tools, lifting us out of what was largely an isolated, arduous and bleak existence and into the modern consumer age.

    It is no exaggeration to say that the industrial, medical, scientific, electric, and societal revolutions of the past ~200 years are all thanks to James Watt and his epoch-shifting water pumps.

  11. Jeremy A says:

    The all-metal slide-rest lathe as developed by Jacques de Vaucanson around 1751. It was the first all-metal lathe with dual ways that could cut precision parts from metal and laid the groundwork for precision engineered machines, interchangeable parts, and the industrialized world we live in today.

  12. MikeRL411 says:

    The wedge. [No. not the wedgie.]

  13. Jonathan P. says:

    Well…I wouldn’t say that it’s the MOST important machine, but the one that keeps popping up in my head whenever I tried to think of anything as an answer is the Sewing Machine. Made clothing manufacturing way quicker than hand stitching everything. Granted, about the only people that ever could seem to operate one effectively was either your Mom or Grandma, but what they could do with one, man.

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