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The history of the selfie stick

While the selfie stick seems like a modern device that's only been around for a few years, the concept has actually existed for quite a while in a variety of different forms.

An almost 100 year-old photograph provided by freelance journalist Alan Cleaver from 1925 taken in central England shows a couple – the man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, the woman looking on in confusion – snapping their picture with a camera suspended from a stick-like device. Then, closer to today, a book called 101 Un-Useless Japanese Inventions highlighted the selfie stick over 20 years ago back in 1995.

In the bizarre 1969 Czechoslovak sci-fi movie Zabil jsem Einsteina, pánové (aka I Killed Einstein, Gentlemen), one of the characters even takes a selfie with a stick that extends just like a selfie stick before a polaroid prints out of the base of the device.

But it wasn't until 1984 that the selfie stick would be officially patented by Hiroshi Ueda and Yujiro Mima, who originally called their invention the "extender stick". Ueda said that he invented the extender stick because he had a hard time comfortably taking pictures with his wife while they were sightseeing in Europe.

Unfortunately their patent ran out in 2003, and that's when Wayne Fromm, a Canadian inventor and entrepreneur, picked up the baton – er, I mean stick – in 2005 and kept on running with the idea.

Fromm's selfie stick design, which he called the Quik Pod, was only slightly different from the selfie stick we know and love (or hate) today, but after variations of his patent began popping up in stores for sale, Fromm began to sue all other selfie stick creators. However – spoiler alert – Fromm's patent never actually prevented other people from designing their own selfie-taking sticks; it simply gave him exclusive rights to sell his in the United States (cue very sad trombone for Mr. Fromm).

In an interview between Fromm and New York Magazine, intellectual property lawyer Bart Lazar explains the loop holes in a product patent with something like the selfie stick.

"There are all sorts of ways to get around a patent," Lazar said in the New York Magazine piece called Did the Selfie-Stick Inventor Get Shafted?. "You can't patent an idea, only a specific way of doing something. If one selfie stick uses a spring to extend and another uses a slide, that might mean it's not patent infringement."

In 2014, the term selfie stick became extremely popular, and in the same year, Time Magazine announced that the selfie stick made the cut as one of the best inventions of 2014 (clearly they need to watch more Czechoslovakian sci-fi flicks).

According to Google trends, the first measurable searches began for selfie sticks in March of 2014, and since then there's been a steady stream of news and buzz surrounding the utility.

Whether they're being banned at Disney World, called "narcissticks" or "wands of narcissus", given a sleek and modern makeover with the Cliquefie Max and Mini, or being modified to fit a laptop, it appears that today's day and age is dominated by the almighty selfie/selfie stick.

Now we're just waiting for one that extends itself with the push of a button…

Oh. Never mind.

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau

4 Comments
  • With all that is happening in the World of Technology thank goodness that this hard hitting example of journalism found its way to iMore!!
  • This is really interesting, and if you've ever been on holiday you'll see how many people use Selfie Sticks, so it's good to know about them
  • 1) Thank you for this story! 2) Me, I see the selfie stick more as a tool for extending the range of camera positions (in combination with a Bluetooth shutter), like seeing the bottom side of a mushroom or providing some overview. (I tend to leave mine at home, though.)
  • Czechoslovakia hasn't existed for over 25 years.. Time to update your atlas. Good try, though. Sent from the iMore App