Forget the automobile, the fighter jet, and Cheez Whiz: the Fender Telecaster is the greatest invention of the last two centuries. That might sound hyperbolic, but it’s really quite a reasonable thing to say. Every other great invention in the modern era has changed drastically after its initial birth. Model Ts share only four wheels and a steering wheel in common with modern Fords, and modern planes look like alien technology compared to the Wright Brothers’ original contraption (and anyway, you can’t play the blues on a fighter jet, so who cares, anyway?).
By contrast, the modern Telecaster is almost exactly the same as the first prototype Leo Fender ever built in 1950. More impressively, this guitar—which was originally built to cater to the tastes of Western swing guitarists before rock and roll was even a twinkle in Chuck Berry’s eye—found devotees in every musical genre under the sun. What’s the secret behind the wide-ranging, lasting appeal of the original design? Well, frankly, the answer is simple: the Telecaster is a perfect instrument, and you can’t improve on perfection.