ByAllanah Faherty, writer at
Senior staff writer | Twitter: @allanahfaherty | Email: [email protected]
Allanah Faherty

Though it's easy to dismiss the hype around celebrity culture as a blight on society, whether you like it or not it seems like it's here to stay. But, although some undoubtedly horrible things have come out of society's obsession with stars, what you may not be aware of is some of the more life changing things.

Take a look below at ways in which celebrities (and one TV character) all made serious contributions to ways we use or talk about modern technology, some due to the general public's fascination with celebs, one because of their ability to reach wide audiences, and one simply because she was a badass who saw being a celebrity only one aspect of her talents. Check them out:

Jennifer Lopez and Google Images search

Arriving at the 42nd Grammy Awards in 2000, Jennifer Lopez stunned crowds when she stepped out wearing a revealing, green Versace silk chiffon dress. The dress — which has its own Wikipedia entry — was a turning point in the career of Donatella Versace, but it was also the birth of something we now take for granted: Google Images search.

That's right, prior to 2001, Google was simply limited to its basic search function, returning a page of text with links to your queries. But following the 2000 Grammy awards, when J Lo wearing the dress became the most popular query from users, it became pretty clear that Google users wanted something other than links to satisfy their inquiries. The developers responded to the demand, and the result was the birth of Google image search in July 2001.

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Google

Buffy might be the most kickass vampire slayer in the land, but it was actually her friend Willow who, in 2002, made TV history during the series final season when she used "google" as a verb.

During Season 7, Episode 4 "Help," Willow asks Buffy, "have you googled her yet?" To which Xander replies "She's 17!" Willow then goes onto explain that Google is a search engine, and immediately uses the site to find a useful link. Months after the episode aired, "to google" was voted 2002's most useful new word by the American Dialect Society, and in 2006 the Merriam-Webster and Oxford English Dictionaries went on to note the coinage.

14 years later, "to google" and its various conjugated forms have made their way into our every day vernacular, but way back in 2002, it was Willow Rosenberg who brought it to the masses.

Hedy Lamarr and cellphones, GPS and Wi-Fi

Hedy Lamarr in 1940
Hedy Lamarr in 1940

She died in 2000, shortly before the impact of her invention would really be felt by the general public, but Austrian-American actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr is one of the people we can thank for modern cellphones, GPS and Wi-Fi.

On-screen Lamarr was known for her beauty, as well as staring in risqué Czech-Austrian film Ecstasy, which is thought to be the first non-pornographic film to show sexual intercourse and the female orgasm (though the camera only showed the actors faces in these scenes). However, after immigrating to America during the World War II, Lamarr felt the need to contribute to the war effort, and began designing a jam-proof radio guidance system for torpedoes with the help of composer, George Antheil.

Lamarr and Antheil developed a frequency-hopping sequencer which would constantly change the radio signals sent to a torpedo, making them hard for the enemy to jam and therefore send off course. Though their invention wasn't used in WW2, an updated version of their designed was used during the Cuban missile crisis, and today it's an important component behind spread-spectrum communication technology such as GPS, CDMA and Wi-Fi networks, as well as Bluetooth technology.

Lamarr differs from the others on this list in that she herself actually created the product, rather than providing the inspiration for it, proving that you can have both beauty and brains.

Janet Jackson and YouTube

Justin Timberlake realizing he just gave revealed a breast and the idea for YouTube
Justin Timberlake realizing he just gave revealed a breast and the idea for YouTube

It was the moment that changed live broadcast forever, but the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime-show controversy (better known as 'Nipplegate') didn't just lead to a worldwide blacklisting of Janet Jackson singles and music videos (yeah, really) and five-second delays on live television broadcasts, it was also the inspiration for YouTube.

Jawed Karim, one of the three founders of YouTube, told USA Today back in 2006 that the idea for what would eventually become YouTube came from two events in 2004, the first being Nipplegate and second being the Indian Ocean tsunami. After being unable to find footage of either events online, the idea for a video sharing site was born, and on April 23, 2005 the first YouTube video was uploaded.


Did you know about the unusual contributions these celebrities and TV series had?


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