When the first Swiss Army Knife was developed in the 1890s, it was the first pocket knife of its kind to incorporate such a variety of helpful tools. In other words, the Swiss Army Knife was essentially the first multi-tool. Introduced in Switzerland – hence its name – this multi-tool would become the standard for all pocket-sized multi-tools that followed.
The Swiss’s need for a multi-tool makes sense considering how diverse Switzerland’s geography is, with many mountains, forests and plateaus, including the famous Swiss Alps. This geographical diversity helps explain why the Swiss Army Knife is all about having multiple tools on hand, to suit any environment or occasion. It’s no surprise, then, that the Swiss Army Knife became popular around the world for its utility as a multi-tool.
Early Multi-Tool Features
Many of the early features of the Swiss Army Knife multi-tool are specific to the era: lock picks, can openers, filers, small saws and various tools for building for example. During World War II, American soldiers praised the resourcefulness of their Swiss multi-tools but couldn’t pronounce the original Swiss version of the name correctly, so they dubbed it the Swiss Army Knife instead.
These days, there are versions of the Swiss Army Knife that include a USB thumb drive, digital clock and even an mp3 player. Multi-tools nowadays come in all varieties, making it easy for just about anyone to find a multi-tool that is right for them.
It is not uncommon for a modern multi-tool to include 15-20 tools. The Guinness book of world records the Swiss Army Knife as the leader for having the most different functions incorporated into one multi-tool device. One version contains up to 140 different functions – with everything from a key ring to a fish scaler and a shoelace tightener. But the point remains clear: Multi-tools are here to stay, and they are evolving with the times.
[ photo by: Mykl Roventine ]