Today in 1878, the birthday of a guy who changed breakfast forever: Charles Strite, the inventor of the pop-up toaster.

This is one of those inventions that’s become so common that it’s easy to miss what a game-changer it is.

For most of the thousands of years that people have been toasting bread, there has been but one way: put the bread over a heat source and then manually remove it from said heat source when it’s done.

Strite changed all that after working as a mechanic in a factory in Stillwater, Minnesota, during World War I.

And he noticed that, for whatever reason, a lot of the toast being cooked in the factory cafeteria ended up burnt.

Maybe the staff was trying to make so much toast at once that they couldn’t keep a close eye on all of it at once.

Strite came up with a toaster that had two big innovations.

One was a timer that tracked how long the toast was exposed to heat.

The other was a set of springs that popped the toast out of the heater’s reach when the timer went off.

The first customers were restaurants and cafeterias: they loved Strite’s idea, but the early pop-up toasters weren’t quite as consistent as they hoped.

The timers and the springs worked as advertised, but with each cycle, the toaster got hotter and hotter.

The first piece of toast might be a little underdone, and then the following pieces would get a little more done and a little more done until they started getting burned.

Strite and his team eventually ironed out the heating issue and others, so that by 1926 they were ready to start selling pop-up toasters directly to consumers.

The first model was known as the Toastmaster.

It goes without saying that the pop-up toaster became the industry standard, and that was just as clear a century ago as it was today.

Charles Strite’s invention was so popular when it launched that March 1927 was known as National Toaster Month.

Today in 2014, the news site The Scotsman posted the story of Mary Johnston of Glasgow.

Somehow TripAdvisor had named her the city’s 87th most popular tourist attraction.

Johnston’s reaction was “At least it is a good picture of me.”

The Demise of Burnt Toast: The Invention of the Pop-up Toaster (Hennepin History)

Glasgow woman ‘is 87th best attraction in city’ (The Scotsman)

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Photo by John Bell via Flickr/Creative Commons