In the 1960s, many stores had rubber mats in front of the sliding glass entry and exit doors. Stepping on these would activate the door causing it to slide open. These have gone away, replaced by motion sensors. I asked some millennials who had never even seen one of these gadgets.
These doors would be located at such stores that had shopping carts, and places like emergency rooms where stretchers would be moved in and out. Places where it was highly inconvenient to open the door.
The earliest known automatic doors can be traced back to ancient Greece and Roman times. These doors were often powered by hydraulic mechanisms or ropes and pulleys. The Roman engineer Hero of Alexandria is credited with inventing the first known automatic door system. His device used steam power to open temple doors.
The industrial revolution brought significant advancements in technology, including progress in automatic door mechanisms. In the mid-1800s, various inventors developed rudimentary automatic door systems using levers, weights, and springs. The early 1900s witnessed significant progress in automatic door development. In 1903, Dee Horton and Lew Hewitt patented a pneumatic automatic door system in the United States. Shortly after, in 1921, a prototype of an automatic sliding door was introduced by a company named “Bessemer.”
The commercial success of automatic doors can be attributed to the invention of the first practical automatic sliding door system by Lew Hewitt and Dee Horton. Their invention utilized a mat actuation system, which involved pressure-sensitive mats triggering the door’s opening mechanism.
Throughout the 1960s, automatic sliding doors became progressively more common. Pneumatic-powered and with an emergency break-out feature and electric floor mat activation, their application became increasingly widespread in commercial buildings such as large banks, hotels, and various public buildings.
Later in the 1960s, the introduction of motion sensors revolutionized automatic door technology. Instead of relying on pressure mats, doors could now detect human motion and open accordingly. This advancement greatly improved convenience and safety.
The 1970s saw the rise of automatic revolving doors, offering a more energy-efficient solution for high-traffic entrances. These doors feature multiple panels rotating around a central axis and are commonly found in large buildings and hotels.
In recent years, automatic doors have continued to evolve with the incorporation of advanced technologies such as infrared sensors, microwave sensors, and optical sensors. These sensors can detect motion, presence, or even the intention to enter, allowing for a seamless and convenient user experience.
Today, automatic doors can be found in just about every commercial building; opening as if by magic as we approach and closing efficiently behind us. Triggered by optic or motion sensors, this ensures that they open as soon as we approach them. The mat actuators are long gone.
- Hero of Alexandria was an ancient Greek mathematician, engineer, and inventor who lived during the 1st century AD. He is renowned for his numerous contributions to science and technology, including the invention of various mechanical devices. Hero’s most notable creation was the aeolipile, a steam-powered device that is considered one of the earliest examples of a steam engine. He also devised sophisticated automata, hydraulic mechanisms, and pneumatic devices. Hero’s works, particularly his treatise “Pneumatica,” provided valuable insights into the principles of pneumatics and hydraulics. His pioneering inventions and writings laid the foundation for subsequent advancements in engineering and automation. [Back]
- “The History of Automatic Doors” (2023) https://www.automaticaccess.co.uk/blog/the-history-of-automatic-doors/
- “The History of Doors” (Jun 20, 2022) https://muraflex.com/en/blog/the-history-of-doors
- “Automatic door” (Updated May 17, 2023) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_door
- “Automatic Sliding Doors: A Brief History” by Horton Automatics: https://www.hortondoors.com/blog/automatic-sliding-doors-a-brief-history/
- “A Brief History of Automatic Doors” by Overhead Door Company of Burlington: https://overheadoorvt.com/a-brief-history-of-automatic-doors/
- “Automatic Doors: A History and Evolution” by AAADM (American Association of Automatic Door Manufacturers): https://www.aaadm.com/resources/Documents/AAADM%20Automatic%20Doors%20-%20A%20History%20and%20Evolution.pdf
- “Hero of Alexandria” by Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hero-of-Alexandria
- “Hero of Alexandria” by Ancient History Encyclopedia: https://www.ancient.eu/Hero_of_Alexandria/