Believe it or not, the idea for roller blades came before roller skates. In-line skates were created in the early 1700s when a Dutchman attached wooden spools to strips of wood and nailed them to his shoes. In 1863, an American developed the conventional rollerskate model, with the wheels positioned side by side, and it became the skate of choice.
SCOTT AND BRENNAN OLSEN INVENT ROLLERBLADES
In 1980, Scott and Brennan Olsen, two Minnesota brothers, discovered an older in-line skate in a sporting goods store and thought the design would be perfect for off-season hockey training. They improved the skate on their own and soon were manufacturing the first Rollerblade in-line skates in their parents' basement. Hockey players and alpine and Nordic skiers quickly caught on and were seen cruising the streets of Minnesota during the summer on their Rollerblade skates.
Rollerblade Becomes a Generic Name
Over time, strategic marketing efforts thrusted the brandname into public awareness. Skating enthusiasts began using Rollerblade as a generic term for all in-line skates, putting the trademark in jeopardy. Today 60 in-line skate manufacturers exist, but Rollerblade is credited with introducing the first polyurethane boot and wheels, the first heel brakes and the development of Active Brake Technology (ABT), which makes stopping easier to learn and to control. Rollerblade has approximately 200 patents and 116 registered trademarks.
TIMELINE OF ROLLERBLADES
n 1983 - Scott Olson founded Rollerblade, Inc. and the term "rollerblading" meant the sport of in-line skating because Rollerblade, Inc. was the only manufacturer of in-line skates for a long time. Still, the first mass-produced rollerblades, while innovative, had some design flaws. They were difficult to put on, adjust and prone to collecting dirt and moisture in the ball-bearings. The wheels were also easily damaged and the brakes came from the old roller skate toe-brake and were not very effective.
The Olson brothers eventually sold Rollerblade, Inc. and the new owners had the funds to really improve the design. The first massively successful Rollerblade skate was the Lightning TRS. In this pair of skates, the flaws had vanished, fiberglass was used to produce the frames, the wheels were better protected, the skates were easier to put on and adjust and stronger brakes were placed at the rear. With the success of the Lightning TRS, other in-line skate companies appeared, such as Ultra Wheels, Oxygen, K2 and others.
* 1989 - Rollerblade, Inc. produced the Macro and Aeroblades models, the first skates fastened with three buckles instead of long laces that needed threading.
* 1990 - Rollerblade, Inc. switched to a glass-reinforced thermoplastic resin (durethane polyamide) for their skates, replacing the polyurethane compounds used previously. This decreased the average weight of skates by nearly 50 percent.
* 1993 - Rollerblade, Inc. developed ABT or "Active Brake Technology." A fiberglass post, attached at one end to the top of the boot and at the other end to a rubber-brake, hinged the chassis at the back wheel. The skater had to straighten one leg to stop, driving the post into the brake, which then hit the ground. Before ABT, skaters had been tilting their foot back to make contact with the ground. The new brake design increased safety.
Mary Bellis has been writing about inventors since 1997. www.thoughtco.com
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