- Fire (400,000 BCE) – The controlled use of fire was an invention in the early Stone Age, with some of the earliest evidence dating back to hundreds of thousands of years ago. It’s not exactly certain when fire was first being used by humans, but most research puts it somewhere between 200,000 and 600,000 years ago.
- The Telephone (1860) – In 1860, the telephone was invented by Johann Philipp Reis. He was the first to produce a functioning electromagnetic device that could transmit understandable sounds. Sixteen years later, Alexander Graham Bell received the first patent for telephones and invented the first commercially successful telephone.
The Mobile Phone (1973) – In 1973, Motorola launched the first handheld mobile phone. The first prototype weighed 2.5 pounds, offered 30 minutes of talk time, and featured a battery that took ten hours to recharge.
The Smartphone (2007) – On January 9, 2007, the iPhone launched, the first widely available smartphone with multi-touch capabilities (the ability to detect two fingers at once, enabling more complex user interactions such as pinch-to-zoom). The lowly telephone had turned into a cloud-connected smartphone with built-in GPS, compass, voice recorder, camera, maps, and web browser with an app store that allowed the user to download from a selection of millions of specialty applications. The multitouch smartphone paved the way for the tablet and the coming convergence of the laptop/tablet/and smartphone and new hybrids such as cloud-connected glasses and smartwatches. A world with smartphones with sufficient processing power and memory to be used as full-featured computers connected via docking stations to flexible frame monitors with hand gesture inputs and a projected keypad was soon approaching.
- The Internet (1969) – In 1969, we saw the creation of the early Internet, called the ARPANET, which was built by the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (then called ARPA, today called DARPA) to connect researchers at different locations. The ARPANET delivered its first message on October 29, 1969 between UCLA and Stanford. The first message was simply the word “log in.” The message crashed the network and only the first two letters, L and O, made it through. By the end of 1969, four computers were connected to the ARPANET. By the 1980s, the ARPANET had turned into a global network that was used to send files and data from one computer to another. But it took until 1991 for the creation of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) by Tim Berners-Lee, which enabled the creation of a web of hyperlink documents. The World Wide Web became a communication tool that formed a constantly updating record of human knowledge and expression. A year later, in 1992, researchers of the University of Illinois developed a browser that created a user-friendly way to view the World Wide Web. Initially called Mosaic, that first browser turned into the company and product Netscape, which revolutionized the ability of individuals to access information globally.
- Money (3000 BCE) – The next critically important innovation that contributed to the development of a strong human civilization was money. Around 3000 BCE, the Sumerians were one of the first societies (if not the first) to begin using money to help the ease of commerce and exchanging of goods, replacing the barter system.
- The Light Bulb (1800) – In 1800, Humphry Davy, an English scientist, created the first light bulb. It was improved in 1879 by Thomas Edison, who discovered that a certain type of carbon filament, when placed in bulb without oxygen, could glow for 40 hours. Later on, Edison would create a bulb that could last for over 1,500 hours—a tremendous advancement in our ability as a society to be able to do things even after the sun has set.
- Television, 1926 – The creation of television happened in 1926, but there were many inventions that led up to it, including the discovery of the photoconductivity of selenium in 1873 by Willoughby Smith and the 1884 invention of the scanning disk by Paul Nipkow. It was John Logie Baird who created the first televised moving images in 1926. Ten years later, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) broadcast the first public television show.
- Electricity (1600) – Going forward to 1600, English scientist William Gilbert coined the term electricity, which originated from the Greek word for amber. Later, in 1752, Ben Franklin showed that lightning and the spark from amber were one and the same substance: electricity.
- Penicillin (1896) - In 1896, the French medical student Ernest Duchesne originally discovered the antibiotic properties of Penicillium, however his research went mostly unnoticed. It took until 1928 for Scottish biologist Alexander Fleming to re-discovered penicillin. Penicillin enabling doctors to fight bacterial infections, save lives, and cure syphilis, gangrene and tuberculosis.
- The Radio (1897) – The next great invention was the radio. In 1897, Nikolai Tesla applied for and received the first radio system patent after demonstrating it the year before at the World’s Fair. Radio took advantage of the amazing invisible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum to transmit information through waves. Today, we take it for granted that signals can travel invisibly through the air, but 130 years ago it was quite radical to demonstrate that there were things that we could not see that were still real. In fact, the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is only a very small fraction. From the studies of the electromagnetic spectrum now know that there are gamma waves and x waves and radio and television, which have revolutionized human communication globally.
- The Airplane, 1903 – In 1903, we saw the invention of the airplane by the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, on the North Carolina coast with the first successful flight of a manned machine occurring on December 17.