February 15, 2017


Mormor has been under the weather lately, so the kids and I decided to video chat with her, rather than making our weekly trip to The Danish Home to see her. While doing so, she commented how wonderful it was that we were still able to visit from the comfort of her own homes. To which I replied, “you are such a tech savvy lady, to be Skyping with your grand/great-grand kids!” She was obviously very proud of that!


The fact is, technology has come a very long way in her lifetime, and I often forget that. Even just 20 or 30 years ago we were making phone calls on a rotary landline phone or writing letters, and today we are video chatting, texting and tweeting. In fact, I know that many of Mormor’s septuagenarian, octogenarian, and nonagenarian friends have embraced these technological changes with fervor!


This got me thinking about all of the correspondence I found in that hope chest so long ago. How different life was like for Emma Thorsen and her friends and family back at the turn of the century. It really is amazing to contemplate.


That said, it is an auspicious time for The Danish Home of Chicago, with this year being the quasquicentennial (125th) anniversary of Emma founding The Danish Home. Back in 1891, she could never have imagined that we would be broadcasting the 125th celebration of her life’s work on a global scale via blogs, websites, e-mail and social media. The shear scope of how the world has changed since that first meeting is really quite unbelievable!


Just as she and her 11 Danish-born venner (friends) revolutionized senior living in the Chicago area over the past 125 years, there have been countless innovations in technology made by Scandinavians and Americans, which have revolutionized the way we live our lives today. Of the world’s leading nations for innovations and technology, Finland, US, Sweden and Denmark are all in the top 10. Literally, we would not be able to do anything if it weren’t for these contributions!


What is even more exciting is that Denmark has just become the first nation in the world to appoint a so-called ‘digital ambassador’. Of the plan, Denmark’s Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said, “[that] through the ambassadorship, which has not yet been filled, Denmark will work toward better relationships with the American tech firms that have amassed fortunes much larger than some of the countries with which Denmark practices traditional diplomacy.”


Furthermore, with Facebook in the works to build a new data center in Hans Christian Andersen’s home- town of Odense, it is easy to see that Denmark is one of the world’s leaders in tech innovation.



Due to these above-mentioned technological announcements, this week I continue my exploration of Scandinavian-American contributions to cultural advancement by featuring some of the greatest technological innovations you never knew (or perhaps you did) were Scandinavian ideas. Here are a notable few:



The name originated from the words “sky” and “peer” and was developed by Niklas Zennstrom of Sweden and Janus Friis of Denmark. This peer-to-peer networking idea originated in the early 2000s to utilize voice transmission on a free network, used by an estimated 700 million globally (including Mormor!). Microsoft recently bought Skype for $8.5 billion, ratifying the value of this novel method of communication.


The Flat Screen Monitor

Sven Torbjörn Lagervall discovered ferroelectric liquid crystals in 1979, contributing to the development of the flat-screen monitor. After the technology was developed, mass production began. And now you can thank Lagervall for all of those Netflix binges! (Read more on the history of screens and displays)





Danish merchant C.F. Tietgen organized three small telegraph companies to connect Scandinavia, England and Russia in 1868. Three cable ships undertook the main cable laying work. One of which, Danish naval vessel Tordenskjold, was the first Danish vessel to pass through the Suez Canal. Tietgen’s contribution improved technology for millions (and eventually billions!).


The Loud Speaker

Danish engineer Peter Jensen and American, Edwin Pridham, invented the ‘Magnavox’ in 1915, the first loudspeaker the world had ever seen. Clearly, the use of a speaker for public address was forever changed. Now large audiences could actually hear every word loud and clear. In fact, U.S. president Woodrow Wilson used the Magnavox in 1919 to address an audience in San Diego.




Blue Tooth Technology

These days Bluetooth capability seems to be built into just about every device, allowing us to avoid all of those annoying wires. Invented by Swedish cell phone company Ericsson, it was a tenth century Viking king who inspired the name. Harald ‘Blåtand’ (‘blå’ meaning blue and ‘tand’ meaning tooth) was famous for uniting Denmark and Norway under Christianity in the late 900’s. When it came time for Ericsson to name their new technology, Blåtand’s legacy was obviously an inspiration, considering Bluetooth technology literally ‘unites’ various devices!



Bluetooth technology has revolutionized communications


Global Positioning System (GPS)

If you are like me and depend on GPS far too often, you have Swedish inventor Håkan Lans to thank! He is the great mind behind important developments to the satellite-guided Global Positioning System, ensuring that I (and many, many hundreds of millions of other motorists) reach their destinations on time and without hassle.


Angry Birds

Perhaps this isn’t as innovative as some of the previous mentions, however, this video game franchise, developed by Finnish company Rovio, completely took over our lives in 2009! As of mid-2015 the series’ games had been downloaded over 3 billion times, and a movie based on the game, featuring the voices of Jason Sudeikis and Sean Penn, was released in 2016. We went completely mad for these birds!


Speaking of technology, do you want to score the easiest $100?  Take this survey and you’ll be entered to win a $100 Visa Gift Card!  Your answers will help us tailor our posts to what you, the readers, want to read.  Your participation is appreciated! (Winner will be randomly chosen on March 1st)



Do you have any additions to the list? I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below or submit your own story to The Danish Home’s 125th Catch the Spirit and the Prize contest. You could win cash and prizes!




See you right back here next week!