Innovation is perhaps the quality that separates humans from other species better than any other. The human capacity of working on a problem and coming up with solutions is awe-inspiring.
Some inventions changed the shape of our lives forever, while others were small. Here we’ll discuss some of the life-altering innovations developed in modern times.
1. Printing Press (Germany)
The printing press enabled people to share ideas with the masses for the first time. Before the printing press, books were a thing for the elite. After the German inventor and printer Johannes Gutenberg brought about the printing press, the general public could afford books for the first time.
This invention paved the way to The Age of Enlightenment. By 1660, only 140 years after building the first printing press, 200 million new books were created and published. For the first time, the wisdom of science, philosophy, religion was accessible to the masses. This change affected society at large and opened up the capacity of human thinking.
2. Telegraph (USA)
The Telegraph was the first of many inventions that allowed humans to communicate long-distance with ease. The telegraph, invented between 1830 to 1840, was followed by the radio, the telephone, text messages, etc.
The work of several inventors, including Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail, led to the invention of the telegraph machine. This technology worked by communicating pulses of electricity to another machine. This meant people couldn’t directly communicate words or letters. Thus, a code was developed, which is known as morse code. Electrical impulses were associated with the alphabet and numbers which, were transcribed by telegraphers into text.
3. Internet (USA, Switzerland)
The internet doesn’t have a single inventor. It evolved into what it is today. The American computer scientist J.C.R. Licklider was the first to propose a network of computers that could talk to each other.
ARPANET, the predecessor of the internet, was the U.S. Government’s computer network. In 1969, the first-ever message was sent from one computer to another over the ARPANET.
But the 90s is when the internet started to gain speed. In 1989, the World Wide Web was invented by Tim Burners-Lee, an English computer scientist. At the time, he was working at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
From there, the internet truly began.
4. Personal Computer (USA)
Computers have touched human lives and changed the way we work forever. It has increased human efficiency and eliminated many tedious tasks that we used to do manually.
The personal computer, like the internet, didn’t have a single inventor. Most of the important developments in the invention of the personal computer happened in the United States.
The first commercially successful computer came out in 1975. It was called the MITS Altair 8800. The first product ever made by Microsoft was the Altair BASIC, which was distributed by MITS.
From there, different companies started introducing their personal computers and inventing new products and technology along the way.
5. Steam Engine (England)
The invention of the steam engine played a great role in bringing about the industrial revolution. The invention of the first practical steam engine is credited to Thomas Savery, an English inventor, and engineer.
With the advent of the steam engine, the pace of manufacturing increased rapidly. The textile industry grew so much during this time that it made up half of Britain’s export by 1820.
Steam engines created entirely new fields of engineering and transportation. Steam-powered machines increased the efficiency at factories and increased the speed of transporting goods on water and land.
6. Electric Bulb (USA)
Thomas Edison is famously credited with the invention of the light bulb. Before the light bulb, gas lights were used to keep towns alight. They weren’t very bright and produced extreme heat, wasting a lot of energy.
Then came the electric light bulb that could run for 45 hours and, artificial light finally became available to the masses. Edison used charred bamboo fibers to produce the filament that went inside the airtight glass jar of the first lightbulb that could run for long.
In 1898, Carl Auer von Welsbach, an Austrian inventor, was the first to produce a metal filament lamp. This invention made the lightbulb much brighter than before. But the tungsten filament electrical bulb that we still use didn’t come into the market until 1905.
7. Airplane (USA)
Flying machines have been dreamt of by many inventors since Leonardo da Vinci tried building one. Many inventors worked on this subject, and based on their observations, the Wright brothers successfully built the first sustainable airplane.
The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, were born in the United States. They were both fascinated by aerodynamics and flight. By late 1901, the Wright brothers had collected all the data they needed to build an airplane.
They had identified an efficient wing shape, producing the expected lift, and also engineered sufficiently responsive controls. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers completed the world’s first successful flight.
8. Vaccination (England)
Vaccines have saved countless lives. By the Middle Ages, The Chinese had developed the first technique of inoculation. Inoculation means to purposefully develop an infection for stronger immunity.
In the 18th century, Europeans adopted this technique and it was then called variolation. Edward Jenner was an English physician who made the practice of vaccination more widespread when he invented a vaccine for smallpox.
Dr. Jenner was aware of cowpox and he had also heard that milkmaids who contracted cowpox were immune to smallpox. Most people at the time didn’t believe this but Jenner in 1798, inoculated a handful of his friends with cowpox.
As his friends had developed immunity against smallpox, more people saw them and got vaccinated. By 1980, WHO declared smallpox as eradicated. This was a disease that killed more than 300 million people. So, the invention of vaccination was no small feat for humankind.
The pace at which the world is changing is hard to keep up with. In just the past two centuries, technology has made the world a new place.