Marc A. Chavannes had his head in the clouds — literally — when he came up with the idea for Bubble Wrap, reports James Barron in the New York Times (1/26/10). The year was 1960, and Marc and his business partner, Al Fielding, had invented "a textured plastic wall paper" some three years earlier. They had yet "to find a profitable application for it," though. But as the plane descended, it seemed to Marc that the clouds were "cushioning the descent." And that’s how he got the idea that his textured wallpaper might make dandy packing material.
Fifty years later, Bubble Wrap is all that and so much more. Bubble Wrap has been used to create "wedding dresses, chocolate molds, paint applicators," and more. It has been the subject of a book, "The Bubble Wrap Book," and even has its own day — Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day — which is always the last Monday in January. This was established "some years ago, after a shipment of microphones was delivered to a radio station in Bloomington, Ind." The station’s announcers had a lot of fun popping bubbles on-air.
Perhaps Bubble Wrap’s ultimate legacy is its therapeutic value, as documented by Kathleen M. Dillon, who conducted "experiments that established that popping Bubble Wrap reduces stress and leaves the popper less tired." If you can’t get your hands on some wrap, there’s virtual bubble wrap online (link). You just move your cursor across the bubbles, pointing and popping. It’s not quite as satisfying as the real thing, but it might help. As Kathleen notes, there’s just "something about the experience of making those little packets of air explode."