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Who Made That Windshield Wiper?

[2018年4月16日] 来源:纽约时报 作者:DASHKA SLATER   字号 [] [] []  

In the winter of 1902, an Alabama woman named Mary Anderson visited New York and was appalled by how the weather slowed down streetcars. Snow and sleet obscured the trolleys’ two-paneled windshields, forcing drivers to open both panes and peer through the gap between them. In her notebook, Anderson sketched out a solution: a squeegee wiper on the outside of the windshield, connected to a lever on the inside.

1902年冬天,阿拉巴马州的一个名叫玛丽·安德森(Mary Anderson)的女人来纽约旅行,糟糕的天气令行车如此缓慢,她感到大为震惊。雪和冷雨模糊了有轨电车的两块挡风玻璃,司机们只好打开玻璃,透过两块玻璃之间的缺口向前张望。安德森在笔记本上画了一个解决方案:在挡风玻璃外面装一个橡胶刮水器,与车里的一个杠杆相连。

Anderson patented her invention the following year, but so few people owned automobiles that it attracted little interest. Motorcars were open-air in those days, and windshields were an optional accessory. “The reaction to rain on the windscreen was just to take off the windscreen,” explains Leslie Kendall, curator at the Petersen Automotive Museum. By the time Henry Ford’s Model T took motoring into the mainstream a decade later, Anderson’s “window cleaning device” had been forgotten.

次年,安德森为自己的发明申请了专利,但那时候很少人有汽车,所以她的发明没引起人们的兴趣。那时候的汽车是敞篷的,挡风玻璃只是个可选的配件。“下雨时,人们就把挡风玻璃取掉,”彼得森汽车博物馆(Petersen Automotive Museum)的策展人莱斯利·肯德尔(Leslie Kendall)解释说。十年后,当亨利·福特(Henry Ford)的T型车让汽车成为主流时,安德森的“窗户清洁装置”已经被遗忘了。

Unto the breach stepped John Oishei, an aspiring playwright who operated a vaudeville theater in Buffalo. While driving his National Roadster on a rainy night in 1916, Oishei hit a cyclist, a “harrowing experience,” he later said, “that imprinted on my mind the definite need for maintaining vision while driving in the rain.” (The cyclist was uninjured.)

后来约翰·奥森(John Oishei)又进行了尝试。他是一位有抱负的编剧,在水牛城经营一个轻歌舞剧院。1916年的一个雨夜,他开着国家跑车(National Roadster)撞上了一个骑自行车的人(那个人没有受伤)。他后来说,“那个经历太可怕了,让我深深觉得在雨中开车一定要有清晰的视野。”

By then, others had come up with windshield-clearing devices similar to Anderson’s, but none were in wide distribution. Oishei found a locally made, hand-operated wiper called the Rain Rubber, which slid along the gap between the upper and lower panels of the split windscreens that were then in use. He then founded a company to market it. The device required a certain amount of dexterity — drivers had to operate it with one hand while shifting and steering with the other — but it quickly became standard equipment on American motorcars.

那时候,其他人也想出了与安德森的设计相似的挡风玻璃清洁装置,但都没有流行开来。奥森找到当地生产的一个手动操作的刮水器,名叫雨胶(Rain Rubber),当时使用的挡风玻璃分为上下两部分,雨胶沿着两块玻璃之间的缺口滑动。然后他成立了一个公司推广它。这个设备需要司机身手敏捷——一只手操纵它,另一只手控制方向盘——但它很快成为美国汽车的标准装备。

Oishei’s company, which was eventually called Trico, soon dominated the windshield-wiper market. While not an inventor himself, Oishei was relentless in his pursuit of patents, purchasing whatever technology he couldn’t develop in-house or litigate out of existence. After William M. Folberth patented a vacuum-powered windshield wiper that ran on suction from the engine’s intake manifold, for example, Trico spent three years battling him in court before buying his company in 1925 for $1 million. A later patent war, between Trico and rival windshield-wiper company Anco, stretched from the mid-1940s until 1971, making it one of the longest-running lawsuits of its day.

奥森的公司最终命名为特瑞科(Trico),很快主导了雨刷器市场。虽然奥森本人不是发明家,但他坚持不懈地追求专利,购买自己公司不能开发的所有技术或者为了生存提起诉讼。例如,在威廉·M·弗尔伯思(William M. Folberth)为真空动力雨刷器(它以引擎进气管的吸力为动力)申请专利后,特瑞科花了三年时间与他在法庭上较量,直到1925年以100万美元买下了他的公司。后来,特瑞科和竞争对手安科雨刷器公司(Anco)之间的专利争夺战从20世纪40年代中期持续到1971年,成为当时持续时间最长的诉讼之一。

Over time, windshield wipers have been re-engineered again and again, in response both to changing windshield designs and to automakers’ desire for enticing new add-ons. But the basic concept remains true to what Anderson sketched aboard that New York trolley in 1902: a squeegee that wipes water from the glass. As one early windshield-wiper advertisement explained: “A Clear Sight Ahead Prevents Accidents. An Undimmed Vision Makes It Easier to Drive.”


Number of windshield-wiper-related patents issued per decade.


1920s: 430


1940s: 260


1960: 650


1980: 410


2000s: 660


2010 to present day: 390




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