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A cup holder is a device, such as a zarf, to hold a cup or other drinking vessel. It may be free standing to hold cups securely on a desk or other flat surface, or in a tree style to store sets of cups in kitchens. They may be built into automobiles or chairs, or fixed to the walls of airplanes, boats, buses and trains.
The development of the drive-in restaurant was a step in the cup holder's development. Servers would attach a tray that hooked over the car's side window, which needed to be left up a little for it to attach to. This gave a temporary table to hold drinks and food while eating in the car. The drive-in restaurant and cinema encouraged the development of built-in tray tables; often, the inside of the glove compartment lid, when folded down, had indentations to hold cups and cans, and were found in cars as early as the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air. These were sufficient to hold beverages when the car was stopped, but not while in motion.
The later development of the drive-through restaurant encouraged the development of better holders for drinks, and a more fast-paced life and longer commute times made many drivers desire to drink their morning coffee in the car on the way to work. The 1960s saw coffee cups with wide, flat, rubberised bases being sold, which would keep them steady on the dash or console. A little later, aftermarket cup holders began to be sold. These often clipped onto the door windows, although other designs wedge in between the front seats and the center console.
Built-in cup holders began to be available in the 1920s. Minivans were pioneers in their availability, and they still offer the greatest number of them. Over time, automotive cup holders have become larger and more sophisticated, so that they can hold a variety of different cup sizes securely. Many offer spring-loaded holders that clasp the cup securely, no matter how large or small. The development of ever-larger cups by fast-food chains and convenience stores in the United States has proven a challenge to automotive designers; many fast-food chains now offer 44 fl.oz. (1.3 L) drinks. The automobile cup-holder has also driven the development of "car cups" designed to fit within most cars' cup holders; these have a narrower base but flare outward after a short cylindrical distance.
The installation of cup holders in automobiles increased significantly after Stella Liebeck v. McDonald's Corporation, in which a 79-year-old woman in Albuquerque, New Mexico ordered hot coffee from a McDonald's restaurant and, when it spilled, was scalded so severely she required skin grafts. In her suit against McDonald's the jury awarded her US$2.7 million in damages (later reduced by the judge to US$640,000). Before the inevitable appeal could be heard, the case was settled privately for an undisclosed sum.
Many people,[who?] particularly in the United States, consider the design, location and number of cup holders in a vehicle to be one of the most important attributes influencing their vehicle purchase. Others take a contrary view: that they are not only irrelevant but encourage a dangerous practice which distracts drivers from their primary task. Cars designed primarily for the North American market have tended to have larger cup holders, while those for which the primary market is outside of North America tend to have smaller ones.
Common etiquette dictates that, in a car with cup-holders on an axis that is perpendicular to the vehicle's axles, the front-most cup-holder belongs to the driver, while the holder farther to the rear should be used by the passenger.
In Europe, cup holders in cars are not used as much as in the United States and are viewed with amusement or contempt by some motorists.[who?] It is actually a legal offense to drink from a cup while driving in many countries. However, as most cars are now built for a global market which includes the United States, many cars in Europe do feature cup holders.
Desktop cup holder
With the development of computers and laptops in the 1980s and 90s, people started to drink beverages at their tables and work desks. It is very easy to knock over a cup or mug full of hot tea or coffee and this can then damage expensive laptops or keyboards. Also the hot liquid may cause injury to people or damage to books or carpets.
On a table or work desk, coffee cups can be knocked over by the person sitting and working at the desk by their arms or hands. This can happen very easily if they are disturbed e.g. by a telephone call or by a sudden impulse move. Coffee cups on desks can also be knocked over by pets such as dogs or cats who may jump up on to the desk. Coffee or tea can also spill out of a cup if the table is knocked by a person walking by.
Several devices were patented to hold coffee cups. The main problem in the endeavor is to provide a mechanism to hold the handle of the cup which usually protrudes a few centimeters from the side of the mug. Another problem facing the inventors is the varying sizes of coffee cups. Some devices which were patented are as follows.
- US patent number 5984136 1999. This cup holder has slots to hold the handle and relies on an extended base to hold the cup upright.
- US patent number 6039206 2000. This cup holder features legs which extend when the cup is placed into the holder.
In Japan several patents were applied for, but they were not finalized. They have since been commercialized by other manufacturers. These are:
- Number 2006314739.
- Number 2995040642. This cup holder has slots to accommodate the cups handle and has a suction cup to attach the holder to a smooth flat surface, so that it is held securely.
New Zealand patent number 565067. This is a completely free-standing desktop coffee cup holder that can sit on any flat surface this was invented by Digby Green, George Green and Aly Matthews. It can be manufactured in several materials, e.g. wood, metal or plastic. It has been manufactured in plastic by Adovationz Ltd in New Zealand under the brand name of Adkaf.
There is also a Korean invention which consists of a plastic item that clips onto the side of a desk and has a round hole to hold cups.
The bus/train/boat cup holder
Before the automobile cup holders, many buses and trains were built with wall-mounted cup holders. These cup holders are usually constructed by thin stainless steel plates. Some of them are covered by rubber. There are now many cup holders available which can be screwed to the walls of boats and buses and recreational vehicles.
Another popular cup holder for boats is the "drop in" cup holder. This is a round plastic item, that has a lip at the top. It requires that a hole is drilled into the boats table or console and then the unit is inserted and the lip holds it in place. These do not accommodate cups with handles.
The cup holder tree
These are devices which hold several mugs usually in a kitchen or dining room. People often buy sets of mugs for use in a family or guest situation and they need a place to store them ready for use. These cup holder trees are available in two types. The first type has a base with a vertical mast from which there are hooks to hold each cup. The second type is screwed or mounted underneath shelves or in kitchen cupboards etc.