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TECHNOLOGY

10 essential inventions you didn’t know were German

From the trivial to the revolutionary, these ten German inventions have each changed the world in very different ways. How many did you already know?

10 essential inventions you didn't know were German
Photo: DPA

1. Coffee filter paper

The original coffee filter. Evan-Amos / Wikimedia Commons

We’ve been drinking coffee for hundreds of years, with the first European coffee houses opening in the mid-17th century. But, it was this invention that made coffee drinking at home so much easier than it had ever been before.

Dresden housewife Melitta Bentz started to experiment to find a way to prevent coffee from becoming too bitter and to remove coffee grounds.

It was when she tried using the blotting paper from her children’s school books that she had her eureka moment. In 1908 she patented her invention, and began to sell her papers to the caffeine-loving public. Many coffee snobs still insist that it’s the best method out there!

2. The Easter Bunny

Lesekreis / Wikimedia Commons

As with most folkloric symbols, there are many different theories for why the ‘Easter Bunny’ became so celebrated. But it is thought that the Easter symbol, now so popular in America, travelled to the States with German immigrants. Today’s Easter Bunny grew out of religious practices in pre-Christian Germany.

The Osterhase – actually a hare rather than a rabbit – seems to have originated from pagan traditions. Eostra, a goddess of fertility and spring, was associated with the hare because of the animal’s high reproductive rate. The hare, along with the eggs, then became a symbol of fertility and birth, and is now an essential part of any Easter.

3. Gummy Bears

Gummy Bears. Photo: DPA

The iconic sweet – called Gummibärchen in German – was invented by Hans Riegel in Germany in 1922. Using acacia gum to create coloured candy, he started his own company in Bonn in 1920. The world-famous company Haribo is in fact an abbreviation of HAns RIegel von BOnn, and it started to produce these chewy kid’s favourites in 1922. 

4. Radio-controlled watch

Chancellor Angela Merkel glances at her watch. Photo: DPA

Ever wondered why Germans are so punctual? Maybe it’s because German watchmaker Junghans introduced the first radio-controlled clocks. It started in 1985 with the first table clock for private use. By 1990, Junghans had developed the technology to fit in a wristwatch and introduced the Mega 1 watch. Since it only deviates by one second every million years, you shouldn’t need to be resetting this one much. 

5. Aspirin

Bayer aspirin tablets. Photo: DPA

It doesn’t take all that much German beer to give you a killer headache the next day – but luckily Germans also discovered one of the more popular hangover cures.

The world’s favourite painkiller was in fact discovered in Germany. The little white pill made from willow bark was developed by Felix Hoffmann in August 1897 for pharmaceutical giant Bayer, and although a US company claimed the patent for the drug after the First World World, 12,000 of the 50,000 tonnes of Acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) produced annually are still made by Bayer AG.

6. Fahrenheit scale

Photo: Pixabay/public domain

Now mostly replaced by the Celsius temperature scale, it’s only really the US and a few surrounding nations that stubbornly stand by the older method for measuring temperature.

But Fahrenheit – in which water’s freezing point is 32 degrees and boiling point is 212 – was the world standard until relatively recently. The scale was invented by German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1724.

7. Automobile

DaimlerChrysler AG / Wikimedia Commons

The claim of inventing the first car is always going to be a bold one, but Carl Benz’s application for a patent on January 29th 1886 for “a vehicle powered by a gas energy” is as good as any.

The patent is often regarded as the birth certificate of the automobile. This preceded the production of the Model T Ford by 22 years. Little more than a motorized tricycle, it bears little resemblance to the luxurious Mercedes cars of today, but was nonetheless a significant landmark in the history of the automobile.

8. Accordion

Musician Yvonne Grünwald plays the accordion in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. Photo: DPA

When asked to think of Germany, you may well think of a portly, red-faced man wearing lederhosen, a green hat and a chirpy grin, playing folk songs on a huge accordion.

In fact, early versions of the instrument date back to third century BC China – but the first accordion was indeed invented by a German. Christian Friedrich Buschmann was a musical instrument maker who attached bellows to a portable keyboard with vibrating reeds, naming it the “Handäoline”. It was patented in 1822, and the term ‘accordion’ was first used in 1829.

9. The card chip

A Sparkasse bank card with a built-in microprocessor. Photo: DPA

In the 1960s, financial service providers were looking for a way to make their new plastic payment cards more secure. A magnetic strip and signature didn’t provide enough information – so in 1977 after nine years of development, German inventors Jürgen Dethloff and Helmut Göttrup created the first card with an in-built programmable microprocessor.

They patented this invention, and it evolved into the chip and PIN cards in our wallets today.

10. Settlers of Catan

Klaus Teuber (on the left), inventor of Settlers of Catan, plays the board game in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

This multi-award-winning board game about building cities, managing resources and trading with rivals is among the most critically acclaimed games of recent decades.

Invented by Klaus Teuber in 1995, by its 20th birthday, the game had sold more than 22 million copies in 30 different languages. The Washington Post’s Blake Eskin called it “the board game of our time” in 2010, and a production company bought the film and TV rights in 2015.

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TECHNOLOGY

12 useful bureaucratic things you can do online in Germany

Germany might be notorious for its paperwork and bureaucratic office wait times, but there are increasingly more things you can take care of from the comfort of your home.

12 useful bureaucratic things you can do online in Germany
Photo: DPA

Moving to Germany from a country that has fully embraced the digital age can mean being surprised at having to buy a stamp instead of filling out an online form. Many have lamented Germany’s less than fast transition onto the online world. 

Partly due to Covid-19 contact restrictions that have been in place in recent months, more and more things in Germany have now gone online and many hope that Germany is, as one Twitter user joked, ‘’slowly approaching the technical level of 1996″ and now entering the 21st century.

READ ALSO: How the pandemic is bringing German bureaucracy out of the 1980s

Before the pandemic, many German offices (including the Bundestag) used fax machines. Photo: DPA

Coronavirus specific:

Ummeldung

Obtaining a document that proves you have a residence in Germany is often the first step to registering for multiple other essential services.

Prior to the crisis, this meant obtaining an appointment and waiting in line. Due to the pandemic, you can now register by post or email. 

However, you can only do this if you have previously registered, and so it only applies to those changing their address – an Ummeldung.

You can email or mail the documents necessary to the Burgeramt in your new district, and they will take a few weeks or days to reply.

Registration of entry into Germany

Those travelling back into Germany from a risk area have to register upon entry to ensure proper quarantine regulations are upheld. Due to the pandemic, this process can be done online via a form found here.

Opening a bank account

Some banks, such as N26, let you open a bank account entirely online. You may be required to verify your identity, which you can also do online via webcam or email verification code.

Benefits

Elterngeld

If you and your partner recently welcomed a baby, you might be able to receive parental allowance (Elterngeld) which is a benefit given to all new parents to subside potential loss of earnings caused by the birth of a new child.

The benefit is shared between parents to give both the time to spend time with a newborn. This can now for the first time be done online, by following this form here.

Kindergeld

On the same note it is also now possible to apply for Kindergeld via an online form. Kindergeld is a monthly benefit given to all parents in Germany, to ensure that their basic needs are met.

Both Kindergeld and Elterngeld can now be filled out in one document – a Kombi-Antrag online – although they must still be printed out, signed and sent to the relevant office. 

READ ALSO: From Kindergeld to tax benefits: What changes for families in Germany in 2021

Arbeitslosengeld 

Most people are entitled to Arbeitslosengeld if they have lost their job, and also in some cases if they have quit and are on the lookout for a new position.

An important part of receiving this unemployment benefit is registering in time (usually around three months) which you can do online here. It is important to note however, that you still have to book an appointment at your local office to finish the process.

BAföG

BAföG provides crucial financial support to students during their studies. Whilst foreign students are only eligible subject to certain requirements, the application process can be done online by following this link.

READ ALSO: How to finance your master’s studies in Germany as an international student

Medical

Prescriptions via QR code

From July 1st, patients will receive their prescription from their doctor via QR code and app and transmit it to the pharmacy. The pharmacy can then inform the patient whether the preparation is in stock or when it will be ready for collection. 

This model is to be mandatory for people with statutory health insurance as early as 2022, and is set to completely replace the paper prescription.

Sick notes submitted electronically to health insurance

Until now, employees had to submit their sick note (Krankenschein) to the insurer themselves when they called in sick at work.

An ‘Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung’, or sick note, which until now the employee submits directly to their employer after receiving it from a doctor. Photo: DPA

As of January, this can be done electronically: the doctor will then send the so-called eAU (electronic certificate of incapacity for work) directly to the insurer. However, the patient will still receive a paper certificate which they can pass on to their employer.

From 2022, the employer will also be able to retrieve the sickness notification directly from the health insurance company.

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to ditch paper sick notes for digital ones

Tax

Register and pay your TV tax

Although the majority may not enjoy having to pay TV tax monthly (especially if they don’t have or use a TV) you can make the process less painful by now registering your flat and setting up a payment method online.

Apply for a tax number

Your tax number, or Steuernummer can also be collected online. It is useful primarily for freelancers and businesses. The form can be filled out online and submitted to the Finanzamt, or tax office. You can find help filling out the form in English here. If you own a business, and it moves to a different Finanzamt’s area, your tax number will also change. 

File taxes

Again, especially relevant for freelancers or those self-employed, you can use ELSTER, an online tax office system designed by the Budeszentralamt fur Steuern, or the Central Tax Office to submit your tax returns online.

The first step is to create an account and either choose to auto-fill in the form or fill it in yourself. You will receive a digital signature and be able to fill out your forms and submit them online.

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