History of the Zip Tie

Zip ties

Zip tiesI would love to tell you about the sordid and shocking history of the zip tie, but the truth is that zip ties have the kind of mundane and predicable history that you would expect from such a necessary and vital tool. The short version, for those who are just browsing to kill some time at work and don’t really care is this: someone realized that it would be useful, and they invented it.

In fact, the original zip ties were called cable ties — indeed they are still frequently called cable ties today — and were designed specifically to bundle cables together. As use of electrical cables grew more and more prevalent the need to bundle and sort all those messy strings of cable increased as well.

Zip Tie Pantents

Thanks to the infinite knowledge of some guy on the internet — in other words Wikipedia — we know we can see the history of zip tie patents here.

The first zip ties were patented by a company called Thomas & Betts in 1958 and the purpose of the zip ties was originally to hold wire harnesses in airplanes. Interestingly the first zip ties were entirely metal and were constructed in a 2-piece design. I think we can both agree that using a metal tooth and ratchet design to close tightly over electrical wires was not the best possible implementation of the idea.

Happily for us and the airline industry, other companies improved on the design. The first step was moving away from metal with the realization that nylon would probably be a better material to risk coming into contact with wires — not to mention the fact that the nylon was fantastically less expensive to produce. The first nylon zip ties were two-piece designs in which the zip tie and the ratchet head were manufactured separately.

Finally in 1968 a company called All-States settled on the one-piece nylon zip tie design that we know and love today. Easy to use, and capable of holding just about anything onto anything else — holding signs onto fences, holding my office door open, holding the rabbit fence onto the garden posts, and stringing Christmas lights outside the house.

Oh, and they’re still good for bundling wires together too.

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