Malaysia is known for being a cosmopolitan nation that has made a reputation for itself in the tourism industry, from its colorful past to soaring skyscrapers.
But what about the inventions that embody Malaysian culture and help locals go about their daily lives? Here are some of the fantastic items you’ve been using but didn’t realize were made by Malaysians.
#1. Face mask for surgery
Surgical face masks are usually only worn in operating rooms, but due to seasonal flus (and pandemics), they’re steadily becoming part of our everyday attire. However, how many of us are aware that this well-known fabric was created by a Malaysian?
Yes, you read that correctly. Dr Wu Lien-Teh, a Malaysian epidemiologist, invented surgical face masks in 1910, which many believe are the origins of today’s N95 mask. The Penang native earned a medical degree from Cambridge University and was recruited to work on the devastating Manchurian Plague epidemic.
Dr. Wu discovered that the sickness was pneumonic plague, which is highly contagious and spreads by respiratory droplets. He then created a custom surgical mask out of cotton and gauze, with multiple layers of material to filter inhalations. The surgical masks came with severe SOPs requiring masks to be worn at all times, travel and mobility restrictions, quarantines, and disinfection of vulnerable locations.
His contribution and medical recommendations were important in the pneumonic plague being eradicated just four months after these stringent procedures were implemented.
#2. Cooker for half-boiled eggs
The trick to getting a flawlessly soft-boiled egg is revealed. kopitiams and mamak shops, a handy appliance found in every Malaysian home, have permanently changed the way soft-boiled eggs are prepared.
Datuk Hew Ah Kow, the man behind this ingenious device, came up with it after failing to prepare the perfect half-boiled egg due to his profession as a bulldozer operator at a logging site. He was always left with overdone eggs for breakfast due to his constant need to check the engines and getting carried away with his operations.
Datuk Hew used a nail to puncture the bottom of Ovaltine cans and filled them with eggs and hot water in order to prepare the ultimate breakfast. After multiple experiments over the course of a year, he ultimately found the solution after determining the proper water-to-egg ratio. He eventually sold the prototype for RM7,000 to a direct-selling stockist.
All you need is this removable four-piece plasticware, hot water, and eggs, as well as the patience to wait for the water to completely drain before enjoying your perfectly cooked half-boiled eggs, thanks to Datuk Hew Ah Kow.
#3.USB flash drive
If you’re a college student, you’re probably familiar with the USB flash drive, which can be a lifesaver when it comes to storing all of your presentations and homework — but can also be a nightmare if you lose it. Pendrives, on the other hand, are a Malaysian creation.
Pua Khein-Seng, a Sekinchan native, designed the world’s first single-chip USB flash drive controller in 2001. While he wasn’t the first to invent a pendrive, his single-chip design is an improvement above previous multi-chip designs. His design was not only smaller and had a larger storage capacity, but it was also far less expensive to manufacture.
After failing to gain a placement at a local public university, the Malaysian-born engineer found success in Taiwan, where he had to finish his studies abroad. After finishing his studies, Pua started Phison Electronics and made a name for himself in the IT business by inventing the pendrive.
Pua Khein-Seng, who was 27 at the time, invented the flash drive. Take the first step toward that goal by enrolling in an engineering program.
#4. Passport with biometrics
Did you know that before biometric passports, there was a significant risk of your identity being stolen as a result of passport forgery?
Biometric passports, like MyKads, have a microchip with your personal information, thumbprints, and travel history, which is used to verify your identification at borders. At immigration checkpoints, fingerprint scanners and facial recognition technology are used to read this information.
Malaysia, in fact, was the first country in the world to issue a biometric passport in 1998, long before the rest of the globe did. IRIS Corporation, a Malaysian technology firm, was in charge of upgrading this essential document for increased security.
People will find it difficult to steal your information, let alone duplicate your passport, because everything is saved in a system.
#5. The Walls of Nehemiah
Okay, you probably don’t encounter these “honeycomb-shaped” walls every day, but there’s a good possibility you’ve seen them on the highway or when crossing a flyover.
Nehemiah walls are concrete hexagon-shaped walls built on top of each other and reinforced by steel bars, named after the inventor, Dr. Nehemiah Lee. The wall is built to withstand varying soil conditions over a single stretch of wall, something that a normal concrete wall cannot do.
After working at the Reinforced Earth Company in the 1980s, Dr. Nehemiah Lee came up with the idea for nehemiah walls. He investigated the topic while working on his Master’s degree and came up with a system for building soil-retaining walls that are both structurally solid and adaptable. This design is so popular that it is utilized not just in Malaysia, but also in other nations such as Singapore, Australia, and Hong Kong.
There you have it: popular items created by our own people! Malaysia has a plethora of undiscovered talents just waiting to be discovered. You, too, can invent the next big thing if you have the necessary talents, desire, and determination.
Are you astounded by these engineering wizards? You won’t believe what you’ll see when you see these bizarre inventions.