The Paradigm Shift in Luggage: From Muscles to Gravity

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The inventor of the wheel (for luggage) was the Hungarian Count Harakaly in the 17th century who wheeled his trunks through town. When one of his subjects mocked him, the man was wheeled to death.

This may be the reason why, in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries when travel became possible for more and more people, nobody remembered Count Harakaly’s wheel.

The technology was elementary. But designers, manufacturers and their customers did not make a choice between handles and wheels; they chose handles as though there was no alternative. The alternative – wheels, and the use of gravity – was obviously superior from every point of view. But nobody thought of it. So we had to spend many decades carrying our suitcases ourselves or, if we could afford it, employing porters to do it for us. What a waste of energy and money!

Was there a conspiracy of porters who suppressed the competitive wheel? Or did suddenly somebody remember Count Harakaly’s invention when the dramatic increase in air travel made it necessary to restrict, and eventually eliminate, the use of porters at airports and create a demand for porterless luggage?

Let us hope that a new edition of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions will have the answer.


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