The Good Eats faithful might be familiar with a unique piece of equipment I keep in my kitchen: a high-powered pepper hack built from a cordless drill, aka, the Pepper Drill. This stroke of genius came about while mulling over the shortcomings of pepper-grinding technology.
Although I suspect that a controlled sonic pulse system is the key to perfect pepper grinding, almost every pepper mill currently on the planet is based upon a design introduced in 1874 by Jean-Pierre and Jean-Fredrique Peugeot, who, at the time, were best known for manufacturing hand saws of all things. Their design featured a wooden tube that fed the pepper into a rotary mill, composed of a grooved male head and a grooved female ring.
While steel has long been the norm, quieter ceramic mechanisms (which I think are more precise) are now coming onto the scene.
In another new development, some mills are replacing the classic drive shaft with a mill housing that allows the entire container to be turned.