The world is a continually evolving entity, a place where innovations and discoveries are changing more rapidly as we progress. Phones used to have buttons, you used to need a computer to access the internet – now your mobile, tv, tablet, watch and even fridge can. Old fashioned clothes used to be for old people – now we are fighting our grandparents for their sweaters. Cars used to run on petrol – now we can plug them to charge along with the many other devices we use on a daily basis.
With all this rapid advancement it can be hard to stop and appreciate how we used to live. Take a scroll down memory lane and look back at the 10 most influential inventions that changed the world we live in today.
Let us start with a simple question. How did you get to work this morning? Did you drive, ride a bike or take a train? Unless you walked or flew to work this morning, odds are you took some form of wheel based transportation. A shape of consistent circular motion played an important role in the agricultural efforts of many cultures. It was used to spin pottery for the Egyptians and can be spun by contestants who are looking to win game show fortunes.
The Light Bulb
While the lightbulb was invented in the early 1800s, 1879 saw the first commercially practical iteration by a man named Thomas Edison. This creation removed the need for fire based lighting and allowed the world to extend its living hours past sundown. If you’re sceptical of the light bulbs’ impact, turn your lights off (at night) and run through your house.
Originally a bulky experimental alternative to radio in the 1920s, television grew into a large social influencer of opinion and imagination. Televisions advanced from a black and white box, to a flat and colourful medium of entertainment. Once a propaganda tool to stir opinion, television can now create knowledge and understanding by reaching a global audience all at once. Whether it’s the world news or cartoons, your mind is being opened to a growing understanding of the global society you live in.
The telephone’s original purpose was to be a device that would transmit sound via cables back and forth between two devices to communicate across distance. The telephone has evolved to the point where it transmits both voice and image wirelessly, is small enough to fit in your pocket and is now barley used for its original purpose of vocal communication. The smart generation allows you to express yourself with more than just your voice; your phone is now your key to the world. Newspapers, cassette players, computers, TVs, cameras and nice family dinners – these are all things that you can live without due to the technological advancement of the phone.
It is hard to imagine having to import ice from mountains to store in ice houses or regulate cool pots of water at night till they freeze, but that was the reality of what once was for early food cooling. Without the luxury of a refrigerator, things like eggs, milk and meat were a luxury and ice cream was nothing but a distant dream. The fridge increased quality of life and value of produce by creating greater access to a variety of edible foods for a longer period of time.
The camera is a future tool to document the past. A device of considerable size and process to function in its early iterations, it was quiet an ordeal to go from capturing and documenting an image. Cameras then evolved to a more mobile size, requiring film and dark room processing to get that perfect image. All prior methods of imagery became prehistoric once the camera and the phone became one. Today the size, memory and accessibility of modern cameras allow us to document not only important milestones in life but life itself, from the food we eat to the places we’ve been. Looking back at the history of early cameras, one would imagine how much more different our recollection of history would’ve been if such greats as Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali and Ghandi had the power of the selfie.
In 1903, the Wright brothers conducted the first successful heavy scale aeroplane flight. The success of a fixed wing method of transport opened up a plethora of possibilities in the fields of military combat and transportation. The plane dramatically reduced the time and health risks that boat travel created and prevented the need for us strap wings to our backs and avoid flying too close to the sun. Long distance flights can now take only a matter of days, allowing the world to develop into the global society it is today.
The MP3 player
Music is an influencer of emotion, a connector to the soul and for anyone who experienced a disc jump on a CD player or rewinding tapes for your Walkman, a nightmare. Music before the MP3 required shelf space for your collection and a supply of batteries to keep the beats flowing. The late 90s however introduced the option of digitally stored music. Many portable digital devices came and went but only one has remained as a benchmark of portable music. In 2001 Apple released the first iPod and has improved and evolved the device every year since to make it one of the most used musical devices of the modern era. We have the power to access thousands of songs from the comfort of anywhere we please.
Mechanical analogue computers were in use as early as the World War 2 era for military applications such as torpedo aiming. Conflicts with computers today are predominantly to do with difference of opinion and can been seen being waged in comment sections all over the internet. The original computer took up an entire room and needed the power of a hundred modern PC’s to run. The technology in the phone or tablet you’re probably reading this on is more powerful than the super computers that NASA used to put men on the moon in 1969. The computer in modern society is a necessity. At some point in the day, in some form, you used a computer today. I could chisel this blog into stone and hand them out on a mountain top, but the ease, reach and accessibility of my computer is much less strenuous.
The World Wide Web
One innovation that impacts most if not all world changing innovations is the web. Photos can be sent directly from cameras, music can be shared wirelessly, you can view what shows are popular, track flight arrivals and communicate on multiple mediums all on a global scale. Globalisation of our life creates a wealth of knowledge and opportunity that turns the world into a global community. The web has allowed resources to be cloud transferable, further removing the need of tangible forms of information. The web is all about connection either by taking what you have and making it an international piece of knowledge or using others resources to improve your own knowledge. Think about how many people worldwide are currently reading this very blog and appreciate that without such world wide access how the ability to reflect on our innovations would have eluded such a wide audience.
We have come a long way from living in caves, but part of the appreciation of looking back on what has changed the world is the question of what will change in the future? Will we have fully electric commercial vehicles? Will my shoes ever lace themselves? Will I have a one bedroom apartment on Mars? When questioning what the future will hold, always remember that the world changing innovations we find commonplace today started out as distant possibilities yesterday.