11 inventions you didn’t know were Finnish

You already know that the Sauna is Finnish, that Angry Birds are too and that the Linux operative system comes from Finland as well. Because of that, we will focus this blogpost on Finnish inventions and innovations that are not as widely known but are definitely interesting. Let’s go.

1. The Molotov Cocktail

Molotov Cocktail
This one comes with a recipe. Should I include it in our section of Finnish recipes? Source (CC: by-sa)

Known in Finnish as Polttopullo or as Molotovin koktaili – and, in some circles, as “the poor man’s grenade” -, this bottle full of flammable liquid, hand crafted in the spur of the moment, has been one of the Finnish contributions to warfare.

It was developed during the Winter War against the Russians, one of the pre-WWII conflicts in Europe. The Finns resisted the agressions of a much greater force with Sisu and intelligence, such as developing weapons like the Molotov Cocktail.

2. The IRC Chat Protocol

IRC chat protocol
A good conversation, 90s style. Source (CC: by).

Who said Finns aren’t talkative? Everyone, really. Finns included.

But even if that might be true, they still were the inventors of the first protocol for chatting on the internet: the IRC. When I was very very young, the IRC and the Messenger were everything. Meanwhile, times have changed and this protocol has lost popularity over the years. Nonetheless, the seed of the idea to communicate and chat on the Internet with short messages was Finnish. They even had a proto-Facebook called IRC Galleria (SPA).

3. The dish draining closet

Dish draining closet
Draining the dishes in a little closet. Practical. Award winning.

The “Finnish Invention Foundation” named this closet “one of the most important Finnish inventions of the millennium”. For real. A Finnish inventor called Maiju Gebhard invented this closet during the later years of the WWII to improve the drying process of dishes. It was developed within the “Finnish Association for Work Efficiency”. For real. I am not making this up.

Although we recognize here that it is very practical and – since it was an award-winning invention – important, we must admit that it hasn’t been adapted worldwide yet – unlike two Spanish inventions: the lolly pop and the mop.

4. The electric solar sail

Solar sail cruising the space
Sail away. Source (CC: by)

This new kind of solar sail hasn’t been used in a real-world mission yet, but apparently it will allow artifacts to travel much faster than usual while cruising space. To put it in perspective, this new kind of solar sail will allow space probes to reach the end of the solar system in the same time that it took old ones to reach Saturn without using an extra power source. Will Finns be responsible to for a new era of space travel? Only time will tell.

5. The first Internet Browser with a user interface

Different internet browsers
All these browsers are illegitimate children of the Finnish browser. Source (CC: by)

The first Internet browser that had a user interface (UX) – in other words, that it wasn’t all lines of text – was Finnish and its name was Erwise.

It was the final project of three students from the University of Technology of Helsinki, and it was launched in 1994. They abandoned the project once they graduated and, even though the creator of the World Wide Web encouraged them to go on developing, they presumed that without funding they couldn’t keep doing that. Nobody could pick up the project either, since all the documentation was in Finnish. Nonetheless, it was the inspiration for everything that came after it.

6. The pulk or pulka

Two pulks (or pulkas)
A couple of pulkas, taking a rest. Source (CC: by)

A sled that replaces a backpack when you travel through snow: that is the idea behind this Finnish invention. And believe me, that was a problem worth solving. People use the pulks (in Finnish: pulkka) to go hiking, when going for an excursion or for a polar expedition. It was invented to carry any kind of equipment during trips in winter easily, pulled by humans or animals.

It is also very popular with athletes in winter: you put something heavy in your pulk and do your regular training in the snow while pulling it.

7. The circular lock

A circular lock from the Finnish brand Abloy
What would a lock embedded in a brick wall open? I chose this picture to show the circular key-hole. Source (CC: by-sa)

One of the most difficult locks to pick is another Finnish invention. It was invented by Emil Henriksson a century ago and is commercialized by the Finnish company Abloy (that is why it is known in some places as the “Abloy lock”).

What makes these locks special is that they don’t have springs. Therefore they are good for any kind of athmospheric conditions (oh, Finnish inventors, always thinking of the harsh winters) and thus can be used outdoors and to protect places that are outdoors.

8.-The Bubble Chair

A bubble chair
A couple of chairs of Finnish design. Source (CC: by)

You’ll probably remember the chairs on the Episode II of Star Wars. There were extraterrestrials – technically everyone it these movies is extraterrestrial, of course – with long necks. The chairs they were sitting in were not just science fiction, but the works of Finnish designer Eero Arnio in the 1960s. The name “bubble” comes from the feeling that one has while sitting on one: being suspended from the ceiling and seeing through a sphere. They are commercialized by the Adelta company, in case you want one.

9. The satchel charge

Explosives used during the Winter War

All these toys were used during Finland’s Winter War. The satchel charges are the first ones from the left.

Another type of explosive that the Finns invented throughout the Winter War, besides the previously mentioned Molotov cocktails, were the satchel charges. The root of this invention was the need to blow up heavy static targets, such as bunkers, bridges or trains.

10. The Savonius wind turbine

Savonius wind turbine
A wind turbine of Finnish design. Source (CC: by)

These wind turbines are used to convert the wind energy to electricity, and were invented by the Finnish engineer Sigurd Savonius (thus, its name) in 1922. They are the old version of the electric windmills of today.

What make these wind turbines interesting is that they are very simple and require almost no maintenance. They are used when efficiency isn’t important, but cost is. You’ll rarely see them producing electricity, but for sure you have seen them on top of vans, as a cooling device.

11. The heart rate monitor

A heart rate monitor
Heart rate monitor and the strip to hold it to the chest. All ready to go out and do sports. Source (CC: by-sa)

Athletes throughout the world that want to become really good – or that were already – monitor their heart rate during sports. That would be impossible without a Finnish person who invented the heart rate monitor. How many world records can be indirectly traced to the Finns who invented this device?

It is maybe the first piece of wearable tech – if we don’t count a normal watch as one. It is another of those primal ideas that have been improved over time, as we have devices today that are able to measure almost everything.

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This list comes out of the category on the Wikipedia that deals with Finnish inventions. You can follow that link to learn some more, but these 11 are the ones we liked the most (and that we didn’t talk about yet).

What’s your favorite Finnish invention from the list? What is the best invention from Finland in your opinion, and the one that you like the most and use often?

I’ve been writing about Finland for 8 years. In these articles I am trying to transmit my passion for Finland, its marvelous nature and cities, its people and the culture of the country. Thanks for reading!