Credit Cards (1888)
Leave it to a college-dropout-turned-science-fiction-author to come up with the idea for credit cards. The concept was first introduced in Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel, Looking Backward, and as one character explains it, each person is given a physical punch card “with which he procures at the public storehouses, found in every community, whatever he desires whenever he desires it. This arrangement, you will see, totally obviates the necessity for business transactions of any sort between individuals and consumers.”
It’s a utopian vision of the future, though many credit card owners may disagree with that whole “whatever he desires whenever he desires it” part—especially after last month’s bill!