You may have heard the term “spanner” used for wrenches before, but it also refers to security screws with multiple pinholes or slots on the screw head. The pinholes and slots act a bit like a lock. A specific bit is required for removal, making them difficult for hooligans and ne’er-do-wells to tamper with. (You also can’t jam a common flathead into the screw to turn it, as you might with a pentalobe or security Torx screw.)
The pentalobe is a five-pointed, flower-shaped screw—and it’s famous for being Apple’s tiny security screw of choice. Mechanically, the pentalobe tends to be inferior to other screws. It has a shallow draft that makes the screw prone to stripping out. And back when it first started popping up, the pentalobe was pretty good at locking down Apple devices.
Trusty. Iconic. As all-American as Ma’s apple pie. Yes, the Phillips screwdriver. Bearing the name of a Portlandian businessman who didn’t even invent it, the Phillips is the reigning standard in most American toolboxes. Henry F. Phillips bought the screw design from inventor John P. Thompson, who wasn’t able to muster up any commercial interest for his screwhead. Phillips was obviously a better (or luckier) salesman—or we might all have Thompson screwdrivers in our toolboxes now.
I learned at an early age that Phillips is a pretty great screwhead—that it was invented to enable unskilled factory workers to assemble products much more quickly and effectively than was possible with slotted screws (the centuries-old reigning champion). At iFixit, we praise the Phillips’ accessibility and know it as the enabler of repair and the friend of DIYers. Turns out that’s only half the story—and Canada has been hiding the other, fantastic half from the rest of us for years. Before the Phillips, there was the Robertson.
The flathead is unapologetically utilitarian. Which makes sense, because of all the drivers, it’s apparently the oldest—dating back to the Middle Ages. It’s gone by many names over the years: the standard, the common blade, the flat-blade, the slot-head, the straight, the flat-tip, and, of course, the “flat-head.” Learn more about the history of bits on our blog!