Let’s talk about Bubble Wrap.
Bubble Wrap is about as ubiquitous and recognizable as any shipping material could ever hope to be–which is ironic because Bubble Wrap started life as, of all things, wallpaper.
In 1957 engineers Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes invented Bubble Wrap by sealing two clear shower curtains together, trapping a pattern of bubbles between the two sheets of plastic. Their vision for the product? Wallpaper.
Throughout the late 1950s and into the 1960s there was a bit of a funky-wall-covering-craze and people were adorning their walls with all manner of things like bamboo, highly textured fabrics, and other materials. The two engineers sought to capitalize on this and marketed the early Bubble Wrap designs as wallpaper.
The idea never caught on and the two of them started marketing it as greenhouse insulation. Although Bubble Wrap is clear and fairly good at insulating, they failed to make a go of Bubble Wrap as a commercially successful greenhouse insulator.
It wasn’t until marketer Frederick Bowers pitched the idea of Bubble Wrap as shipping protection to IBM that the company and their soon-to-be iconic product found a niche. IBM was the first Bubble Wrap customer; they packed all 10,000 of their 1401 Data Processing System units in Bubble Wrap before crating the machines up.
Since then Bubble Wrap has made appearances in everything from padded mailing envelopes to insulation panels and a slew of creative DIY solutions and creations.
We feel bad that fielding and Chavennes didn’t succeed in their original endeavor to market a really cool (to me) wallpaper variety. but their initial loss is our gain. Wikipedia adds that, due to the very recognizable (and funny, I might add) sound made when popping the bubbles, “it can be used as a source of amusement and to alleviate stress.”
If you or someone you know is in need of having stress alleviated, then may I direct you to this cute (and wacky) website, where popping bubble wrap is the main draw. Of course, it’s not the same as popping the wrap by hand–it’s a virtual wrap and you have to use your mouse to click/pop away–but it still a good choice if you don’t have a real bubble wrap on hand. The site even comes with cute extras like “diagnostics” (a list of terms related to bubble wrap) and “etiquette” (the dos and don’ts of popping bubble wrap). I suggest you read through the site first, but if you can’t help it, just start popping. The site won’t mind.