Bubble wrap is about as ubiquitous and recognizable as all shipping material could ever hope to be – which is ironic because bubble wrap began to life like, of all things, wallpaper.
In 1957 inventor Alfred Fielding invented and Marc Chavanne invented bubble loops by sealing two clear shower drapes together and catching a pattern of bubbles between the two plastic plates. Their vision for the product? Background.
By the late 1950s and 1960s there was a bulky wall deck and people adorned their walls with all kinds of things like bamboo, textured fabrics and other materials. The two engineers tried to capitalize on this and marketed the early bubble wrapping patterns as wallpaper.
The tank never took on and the two began to market it as greenhouse insulation. Although the bubble wrapper is clear and quite good at insulation, they failed to make bubble wrappers as a commercially successful greenhouse insulator.
It was not until the marketer Frederick Bowers resigned the idea that bubble was rolled as security for IBM as the company and their soon-to-be iconic product found a niche. IBM was the first bubble wrap customer; they packed their new line of 1401 data processing system units into bubble loops before they digged the machines.
Since then, bubble wrap has created appearances in everything from padded mail envelopes to insulation panels along with a range of creative DIY solutions and creations.
Photo by Rainer Knäpper / Wikimedia (Free Art License)