If you ever drop your keys into a river of molten lava, forget em', cause, man, they're gone. –Jack Handey
Question #91101 posted on 04/03/2018 10:42 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

What is the story behind the origin of automatic doors and how they became a grocery store staple?

-Future Man


Dear Future Man,

Once upon a time (approximately 1st century AD) there lived a man named Heron of Alexandria. Through some engineering magic, he created the first automatic door for the temple, so the doors automatically opened during the time people came to pray. 

Unfortunately, mankind took a turn for the worst, so the secret of automatic doors was lost until 1931. It was then that engineers Horace H. Raymond and Sheldon S. Roby created an automatic door, primarily to help waiters carrying food and drink. Our commonly seen sliding automatic door was finally created in 1954 (source).

There's a number of benefits for grocery stores to use automatic doors rather than regular doors:

  • people don't struggle opening the doors when their hands are full of groceries;
  • they save energy by keeping hot or cool air inside the store—no more pesky doors left open!;
  • it's easier for employees to bring carts back into the store;
  • they keeps foot traffic moving, instead of being held up at the door;
  • they avoid unnecessary injuries, such as a door being slammed on a child's fingers (great way to avoid those annoying lawsuits);
  • they're easier to turn on and off than remembering to lock all the doors.

I'm guessing most large stores saw these benefits and decided to build automatic doors to all their stores. And then Jane went to her local grocery store, had to struggle opening the doors to leave because her hands were full of groceries, her daughter's fingers were caught in them because the door closed too quickly, Jane dropped her groceries and stormed back inside to complain to the manager, everyone in the store heard "BUT WALMART HAS AUTOMATIC DOORS AND I DIDN'T HAVE THIS TROUBLE THERE, SO WHY DON'T YOU GET THEM?!?!!", and then the next week the local grocery store had automatic doors. And this pattern repeated across the country until the automatic door company became rich automatic doors helped increase the safety and accessibility of stores across the nation.

-guppy of doom