Another 6 Fun and Weird World Firsts

  • Ever wondered what the first video on YouTube was?

Everything we know happened for the first time at some point. There are a lot of famous world firsts, from the first phone call to the first man to walk on the moon.

And then there are those first times that nobody’s heard about — yet they happened. We’ve covered some of them in the past, but there are too many good ones to not revisit the subject.

So, here you are — another 6 fun, weird, and interesting world firsts.

World’s First Man-made Fire — 1 Million BCE

Creating fire is one of the most fundamental things that sets humans apart from other life on Earth. But who was it that lit the first flame of humanity?

For a long time, archaeologists believed humanity harnessed fire around 500,000 years ago. But new evidence has shown that it likely happened much earlier — roughly a million years in the past.

In the Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, archaeologists have found charred remains of plants and animal bones. They’ve also discovered stone flakes and tools attributed to Homo erectus, an early human ancestor.

The cave’s isolated and generally damp environment means the fire probably didn’t happen accidentally. We also know the cave has been there for longer than the burned remains, so it’s likely early humans made the fire to cook their food.

World’s First Strike — 1159 BCE

Egypt was one of, if not the most advanced civilization of its time. Among the pyramids and many of their other wonders, the Egyptians also invented labor strikes.

Around 1159 BCE, Egypt was preparing to celebrate pharaoh Ramesses III’s 30th year in power. Yet, there was an issue — war casualties, poor harvests, and good old corruption caused food shortages around Egypt.

As such, officials ran out of grain to pay the workers building the festival ground. Angered and starving, they threw down their tools and marched for the city of Set-Ma’at, chanting, “We are hungry!”

Egyptian officials had no idea how to respond since no one had ever gone on a strike like this before. To placate the crowd, they offered them pastries — which means the first strike coincides with the first office pizza party.

The pastries didn’t calm the workers and the strikes continued for the next three years. The event was so significant and disruptive that it was written down, which is how we know about it today.

World’s First Car Accident Fatality — 1869

In our previous list, we mentioned that the world’s first automobile speeding ticket was handed out in 1896. But the first fatality in a car accident happened nearly 30 years before that.

The victim was Mary Ward, one of the earliest prominent female scientists. She studied insects and astronomy, while simultaneously managing 11 pregnancies over her life.

Sadly, Ward’s scientific career ended early when she went on a joyride in a steam-powered automobile while visiting her cousin. In a steep turn, the vehicle jolted suddenly and Ward fell off — right in front of a heavy iron wheel.

A doctor arrived at the scene immediately, but there was nothing he could do to save Ward. According to records, the automobile that ran her over was dismantled and buried to ensure no more car-related fatalities would ever happen again.

World’s First Smartphone — 1994

Photo: Mike Mozart, Flickr

Apple gets a lot of credit for making smartphones what they are now, but the iPhone only popularized them in 2007. The world’s smartphone was released more than a decade earlier, in 1994.

IBM Simon was very much like a modern smartphone. Instead of physical buttons, it had a (clumsy) touchscreen.

It had various applications and could send emails, faxes, and cellular pages in addition to making calls. Sadly, it was much too bulky to be easily portable and had a pathetic one-hour battery life.

In the end, Simon was simply too far ahead of its time. However, it did show us what a smartphone could be with better technology.

World’s First Action Movie — 1903

The Great Train Robbery from 1903 often gets called the first Western, but that’s not true — many movies about cowboys and Indians were made earlier. But there’s a good reason to call it the world’s first modern action film.

This movie established many groundbreaking ways to tell a story in moving pictures. The director, Edwin S. Porter, used wide shots to establish scenes, camera pans, and other novel techniques that implied continuous action across several shots.

The Great Train Robbery was also incredibly violent for its time. The Wild West bandits shoot people dead left and right, use dynamite, and eventually die themselves in a final shootout.

The 13-minute movie seems clunky by today’s standards. But the Great Train Robbery’s bandits walked so that John Wick could run.

World’s First YouTube Video — 2005

There are roughly 800 million videos on YouTube. The video platform garners more viewers than regular TV. We can’t overstate the impact the site has had on the way we consume media.

It wasn’t always that way, though. YouTube launched in 2005 to humble beginnings.

So, what was the first video uploaded onto the brand-new platform?

Well, it’s not amazing. Appropriately titled “Me at the zoo”, the video shows one of YouTube’s founders, Jawed Karim, talking about some elephants in the background.

YouTube’s come a long way since then.

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