The wheel was invented by Ug, son of Urg, at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 24, 100,007 BC. Well, it would have been if someone had invented clocks and calendars then. As it was, Ug was enjoying a fresh, cool morning. He always liked this time of day. It was before the sun heated up the blood in the dinosaurs and they started to get all frisky. There was a particularly tyrannous Tyrannosaurus Rex that Ug always had to look out for. But now he had space to think.
And he was thinking of ways to impress Ooma, the archetypal girl-next-cave, who sometimes smelled enticingly of entrails. He wasn't really looking at the wild apple tree, it just kind of occupied the middle distance into which he was staring. And when an apple fell from the tree and rolled down the hill, Ug had an epiphany, if someone had invented epiphanies by then. He was so excited, he forgot to discover gravity. But he stumbled upon something even more important.
Work still needed to be done. Ug first tried chiseling his stones into apple-like shapes, sort of oval. They didn't work so well, although Bozo, the cave clown, loved them. One of his ancestors fitted some oval wheels to his car to great comic effect. Even back then, genius was always one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, which probably didn't go down too well with Ooma, considering no one had invented showers or deodorants then, but Ug eventually went on to become the Bill Gates of his day. Everyone started using Wheels. Stonehenge, the pyramids (Egyptian, Mayan, and Inca), all manner of early construction was made possible with round transportation devices.
Pulleys, volume knobs, so many things rely on circular movement to function. Even Charles Babbage's early attempts at making a computer involved wheels.
Putting teeth on the edge to make gears was another stroke of absolute genius, which really did reinvent the wheel. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Ug had a nemesis. Well, he would have if the concept of a nemesis had been invented then. The abrasive, obsessive Jabz lived a couple of caves down, his walls adorned here and there with minimalist hand paintings. Jabz had worked out a way to make the wheel perfectly round, as well as lighter and thinner. He called his creation the eye-wheel, because it was easy on the eye.
People began to forsake Ug's products and favor Jabz's, who started wearing a turtle around his neck to make him stand out from the crowd.
Ug didn't have to worry too much, since he already had more loincloths, mammoth tusks, and pterodactyl-tooth necklaces than he knew what to do with. But he liked to be busy. Normally, people worried about basic things, like if their family members were still going to be alive when they returned from hunting. Or, indeed, if they themselves would return from hunting.
Ug suddenly had too much free time on his hands and that led to his second and least popular invention: existentialist angst. Ooma, Ug's now-wife, could see that something had to be done. Having cured society of permanently grazed knuckles (the solution was simple: stand more upright), she decided Ug's vast stockpile of possessions could be used to help the less fortunate.
Together, Ooma and Ug came up with a third invention: philanthropy. Phil Anthropy was especially pleased that they named it after him, although he never knew why. Evolution doesn't always take a straight road, but the compassionate trait that made us not run everyone over with the first invention has to be given some kind of credit.