From Hands to Lasers: The Interesting Evolution of Measuring Tools

From the beginning of time people were obsessed with measuring the length and width of things. If it wasn’t for this obsession we wouldn’t have impressive feats of engineering such as the Great Pyramids of Giza or even the Eiffel Tower. And like engineering and architecture evolved, the measuring units and tools became more sophisticated step by step, or should I say foot by foot.

The Human Body as a Measuring Tool

Today, modern construction workers, architects and engineers are lucky enough to have many precise and convenient tools on their disposal, such as a laser measure, level, or measuring tape. However, people in ancient times had to come up with ways to measure stuff with what they had available. And the only thing they could come up with was using their bodies. Many of those measuring methods have remained in use today as standardized units for distance.

Inch: The inch was originally meant to refer to the width of a man’s thumb (or the one of a particularly muscular woman). But King Edward II of England was not happy with this simple approach for some reason (probably because he had tiny hands like another world leader we know). He made an official ruling that 1 inch should equal 3 grains of barley placed end to end. Imagine men in the past trying to measure their private parts with barley grains.

Hand: Besides their finger, people also used their entire hand for measuring, placing it in a horizontal position, so basically one hand equalled 5 inches. Today, a hand is 4 inches long and is used to measure horses from the ground to their shoulder.

Foot: Because pinpointing road distance with their hands would have been disgusting, our ancestors started using their feet as measurement tools. This soon became a cause for confusion since some people have bigger and some smaller feet.

Yard: The yard was originally the length of a man’s belt, long before the era of beer bellies. But another weird English ruler decided to change the meaning of a yard to represent the distance from his nose to his thumb when his arm was stretched out. Just because he could!

Lick: Okay, sure ancient people had worse understanding of basic hygiene than us, but they wouldn’t be so disgusting to use their tongues to measure things. The lick was invented by the ancient Greeks and it referred to the length of the index finger from its tip to the point where the thumb reached.

Laser Measurer

Modern Measuring Tools

When people eventually figured out that not everyone had the ideal body proportions, they decided to come up with a more precise tool for official measuring. The result was the invention of the ruler in the 16th century, followed by the measuring tape in the 19th century (What took you so long, people?). Since we all hate rulers thanks to fourth grade geometry classes, let’s move on to something way cooler, like lasers for instance.

Yup, lasers are the future of measuring. Quite the quantum leap, I must say. With the help of a laser measurer, a person can measure distances up to 100 meters from their standing point. These high-tech measuring tools allow you to reach inaccessible and dangerous areas such as ceilings and rooftops without the need of climbing a ladder. With this type of digital tool, there’s no scales to interpret or misread, meaning there isn’t any room for error left. You don’t even have to worry whether you are positioning the device at the right angle, it has an integrated system that measures all distances at a 90 degree angle. Moreover, many laser measure devices have features that allow for quick addition and subtraction of distances.

The areas that most benefit from using laser measuring technology are architecture and engineering. With the help of these tools, an engineer can go to a site and be able to correctly map out the way the building will look, reducing and even eliminating potential mistakes. A laser measurer can even perform sophisticated Pythagoras calculations which can increase the safety and accuracy of the building that is being constructed. Another benefit of laser measurers is that they can be used in dark conditions because the laser is completely visible and will allow you to point it exactly to the object you want to measure.