8 Modern Inventions That Are So Obviously Necessary That It's Embarrassing

Life, they say, used to be simpler.

But think about it. You had to write letters and wait at least a week until you heard a response. To find out how to get somewhere you had to use an actual map, or—gasp—ask somebody. And while there's some romance in the way things used to be (wasn't it nice when the boss couldn't reach you after 6 p.m.?), it's an indisputable fact that technology has made doing the things you need to do, and the things you want to do, much more efficient. Like almost everything that makes life easier, you probably take these things for granted, so we put together a sort of Hall of Fame for the latest wave of game-changing innovations.

Below, eight modern advances that have made life just a littler easier to deal with.

1. GPS For the Road

Car GPS units often elicit the same types of proclamations that cell phones do: "How did anyone ever do anything without these?!" It's borderline hilarious to think that drivers in the not so distant past relied on physical maps for directions, not to mention the traffic accidents caused by distracted drivers trying to read those infuriatingly tiny words.

Navigation systems and GoogleMaps can tell you—out loud!—how to get to where you're going, while alerting for heavy traffic and possible re-routes. We all share Larry David's enthusiasm for GPS. 

2. Bikes That Lock Themselves

Fact: bikes are stolen every second of the day, and Yerka Project knows this better than anyone. This summer the company created a bike that locks itself—the downtube detaches and the bike-post unhooks to create a parallel lock when the bike's wrapped around a pole. The whole thing takes about 30 seconds, and sure, a thief could potentially break the lock, but then the bike would be destroyed and the thief would look like a complete idiot in front of his thief friends. 

3. Wireless Speakers

Anyone who attended college in the aughts totally missed out on this revolution. The days of wiring speakers from your room to the living room to blast 50 Cent at your Golf Pros party are long gone. Bluetooth-capability for portable speakers with long range and deep power are now decisively the norm, thanks to products like the UE Boom and Amazon's new Echo

4. Airport Kiosk 

Sure, you can check-in for a flight on your phone, but how many times have you tried only to receive, "Please see an airport representative" or "Service unavailable at this time"? Exactly. Too many times. Hope appears in the form of a line-less, ATM-like booth: the check-in kiosk. Reliable as any human and ubiquitous at most major airports, the kiosk saves you time, stress, and will even scan your passport for international flights.

5. Mobile Ticket Sharing

Scenario: you and three friends are going to the baseball game. You're running late, but they’ve got your ticket. You’re buddies don't want to miss the first pitch by waiting around for you, and the line at Will Call is a nightmare.

All of this is now moot. Companies like StubHub allow fans to transfer tickets wirelessly to friends' phones via email or text message. Scan the barcode at the turnstile, and voila, you're in and your friends aren't seething at the sight of you.

6. Traffic Light Sensors

In larger cities, a lot of traffic lights work on a timed system and there's nothing you can do about it. But at night, or in smaller towns, traffic lights are typically motion sensitive and will turn green upon recognizing a car is waiting to go through an intersection. See those circles above? That's where you want to stop. It's worth noting that many of these motion detectors only pick up on objects the size of cars so stopping on your bike and flailing your arms wildly probably won't trigger it. But you'll still look cool.

7. E-Z Pass 

They have many names, but you know what we're talking about. It's crazy to think we used to just sit in what seemed like miles of traffic simply to pay tolls. Nowadays, sensor passes for your car have made it possible to bypass this agony and never slow to a stop when in a hurry or on an impossibly long road trip. Better yet, you can have your E-Z Pass hooked up to your checking account, so it automatically deducts, even furthering the convenience factor. 

8. Wi-Fi

You didn't think we'd really forget about Wi-Fi, did you? Believe it or not, Wi-Fi's only been a mainstay in homes for nine or ten years. And only recently has it become fast enough to handle a few devices—sure, more devices exist now, so this could be a chicken and egg dilemma, but it isn't really; one directly perpetuated the other. From Seamless to Tinder, I think we can all agree a robust Wi-Fi connection brings us unfathomable joy in any home, hotel, airport, and airplane.