When it comes to great inventions, some stand taller than others. And one of those that never gets enough credit is the bungee cord.
Sure, it’s not the airplane, automobile or even air conditioning (another under-praised invention), but in terms of providing people with sheer enjoyment, the bungee cord has few peers.
From its humble beginnings as way to carry items more conveniently, bungee cords have evolved to the point where they provide entertainment such as the Quad Power Jumper. One of Air Fun Games’ more popular rentals, the Quad Power Jumper allows people to leap 20 feet in the air while executing somersaults and other gravity-defying maneuvers.
It’s awesome. But the bungee cord actually started with far more practical purposes in mind.
In Siberia, somewhere around 500 A.D., travelers used caribou guts to strap down things they were carrying, utilizing the springy nature of the ties to carry more stuff. It’s one of the first known uses of a stretchable cord, and the ancient forerunner of things to come.
Many centuries later, in the 1700s, men on the Pacific island of Vanuatu decided to wrap vines around their ankles and jump out of trees. The vines kept them from smashing into the ground. Why? To prove their manhood.
Two more events then came into play in the development of bungee cords, Frenchman Charles Moore de la Cardamine developed the use of rubber in 1845 (using tree sap). And in 1922, Englishman Stephen Perry patented a new invention: rubber bands.
All of these ideas begin to come together in the 20th century.
Calling them “bungees,” English glider pilots in the 1940s used an elastic, kind-of-like-a-giant-rubber band material to launch their gliders off the sides of mountains. Around this time, Bjorn Ericsson of Sweden developed smaller versions of these glider bungees for everyday use. He put hooks on each end of the bungee cords to facilitate more practical applications.
Like so many other cool inventions, NASA got involved. By the 1970s, they developed their own type of bungee cords used by astronauts during trips into space to keep stuff from floating away in zero gravity.
And then the British got involved again in the 1990s. Attaching a version of the new, improved bungee cord to their ankles – much like the Pacific island tree jumpers – members of the British Dangerous Sports Club jumped off a bridge in England, falling 245 feet before the bungee cord snapped them back up before they hit the ground. And a sport was born.
Over the years, bungee cords have been used by thousands to make similar leaps off bridges and other high places. Why? Probably in many cases just to prove their manhood, much like the men of Vanuatu hundreds of years before.
However, both men and women do it these days because it’s just sheer fun.
By the 21st century, all manner of bungee cord-related entertainment has been created, such as the Quad Power Jumper. Give it a try. You’ll be following in the footsteps of both practical and adventure-seeking people, dating back thousands of years.