Electronics cutters have existed in one form or another for as long as there have been electric cables to cut.
Dedicated wire-cutting tools originated in the mid-to-late 19th century, starting in the United States. Barbed wire was invented to mark the boundaries of cattle ranches in the Wild West, where hedges wouldn’t grow, and cables began to be laid down alongside new railways to transfer power and communications.
Lineworkers had to be able to cut wire to the right length, but there were also a lot of people who wanted wire-cutting tools for less constructive reasons. Cattle rustlers and rival ranchers needed good tools for cutting through fences, and the demand for wire-cutting tools shot up during the Texas “Fence Cutting Wars”, where farmers removed the fences of rivals who had laid barbed wire across public land.
New companies began competing to make the best wire-cutting tools, trying to design a mechanism that was easy to use while still creating enough leverage to cut through the hardest wires.
In the First World War it became very important for soldiers to be able to cut through barbed wire as quickly as possible, using compact tools that could be easily transported across no man’s land and didn’t make too much noise at night. They also had to be able to cut through enemy telephone lines. This benefited the design of wire-cutting tools, making them smaller, quieter and easier to use whilst maximising their cutting strength.
Early forms of household electrical wiring consisted of single conductors that were often bare, or only insulated by cloth. This made them thin and easy to cut compared to modern electrical cables.
During the 20th century, wire cutters had to change to keep pace with new power cables, which have thermoplastic insulation and multiple conductors, making them much thicker than early wiring.
With the advent of modern computer technology, engineers needed new cutting tools that could be applied to very sensitive components, often in tight spaces. Modern electronics cutters, with small jaws for precision cutting work, are the only cutting tools precise enough to work with circuit boards and computer electronics.