If you’ve ever played a board game that’s timed by an hourglass, you can probably imagine how difficult it would be to use one of those timers to cook a roast or boil an egg while you’ve got ten other things going on in the kitchen. But until the late 1930s, there wasn’t much alternative (besides unwieldy alarm clocks). Then came the Lux Minute Minder (known as the Minute Meter in the early years), invented in 1936 and mass-produced beginning after World War II. Some version of this simple wind-up timer is a fixture in many American kitchens today, although now there are also fancy digital models with multiple time settings. Regardless of style, timers have helped us become better culinary multitaskers and saved us from a fair number of burnt birthday cakes.