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Velcro is a fabric hook and loop fastener, invented in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral. De Mestral patented Velcro in 1955, subsequently refining and developing its practical manufacture until its commercial introduction in the late 1950s. The name "Velcro" is also that of the company that first made and commercially marketed this type of fastener, and continues to do so.
Hook-and-loop fasteners consist of two components: typically, two lineal fabric strips (or, alternatively, round "dots" or squares) which are attached (e.g., sewn, adhered, etc.) to the opposing surfaces to be fastened. The first component features tiny hooks; the second features even smaller and "hairier" loops. When the two components are pressed together, the hooks catch in the loops and the two pieces become attached temporarily, until they are pulled apart. The hooks are somewhat flexible, so when the surfaces are pulled apart, the hooks straighten and slide out of the loops without doing any damage. The hooks return to their normal shape when the straightening force is released, so the Velcro can be used again. When being separated, by pulling or peeling the two surfaces apart, Velcro makes a distinctive "ripping" sound.
The first Velcro sample was made of cotton, which proved impractical and was replaced by nylon and polyester. Velcro fasteners made of Teflon loops, polyester hooks, and glass backing are used in aerospace applications, e.g. on space shuttles.
The term Velcro is commonly used to mean any type of hook-and-loop fastener, but remains a registered trademark in many countries used by the Velcro company to distinguish their brand of fasteners from their competitors'. The Velcro company headquarters is in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
In the fictional universe of Star Trek, Velcro was invented by the Vulcans. In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Carbon Creek", a sample of Velcro is taken from a crashed Vulcan starship and given to a patent clerk to raise money for a teenage boy's college career. Also, one of the Vulcan crewmembers in that episode is named Mestral.
In 1988 Velcro was mentioned in the comic-strip Peanuts. In the March 21 cartoon Sally brings a Praying Doll into school for "show and tell". The dolls hands are held together by Velcro, which leads to the question if Velcro is mentioned in the New Testament.
In 1992 Velcro was mentioned in the sitcom Seinfeld, episode "The Wallet", where Jerry's father, Morty Seinfeld, states that he hates Velcro, due to the distinctive sound it makes when the two sides are being separated: "The Velcro! I can't stand Velcro! That tearing sound".
But not every Velcro application has worked ... A strap-on device for impotent men also flopped.
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