Some of the most exciting discoveries and inventions became launching pads for a new era of innovation in computers, electronics, manufacturing, and medicine. Today we take a look at 9 amazing innovations that have been so revolutionary that they will continue to shape our lives well into the future, for good or bad.
- The Laser
- Semiconductor Chip
- Quantum Computing
- The Elevator
- Human Genome Project
- The Automobile
- Global Position System
Let’s face it when you actually think about it, could we live without electricity? This amazing innovation is the foundation on which the rest of these innovations stand. The rest of these 9 amazing innovations would even exist if it was not for electricity.
We owe everything to the early discoverers of electricity like Benjamin Franklin who studied it, and inventors like Nikola Tesla who tested ways to turn it into power, electricity has not only been fueling generations of new innovations but also become an irreplaceable tool of modern life.
The first working laser was in 1960 but had its foundations way back in 1917 by nonother than Albert Einstein. In fact, lasers (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) were so sci-fi that even scientists had no clue as to their future. Applications for the laser came much later. In the past few decades, the laser has found its way into pretty much every part of our modern lives, from scanning our groceries at checkout to the way medicines are produced.
Consumer electronics would not be what they are without the laser. Your phone would not be able to autofocus with the laser. In fact, now, on an average day, nearly every person comes into contact with a laser¹ in some shape or form.
Early concepts of an integrated circuit go back to 1949 when German engineer Werner Jacobi filed a patent for an integrated-circuit-like semiconductor amplifying device showing five transistors on a common substrate in a 3-stage amplifier arrangement.
Jacobi disclosed small and cheap hearing aids as typical industrial applications of his patent. Immediate commercial use of his patent has not been reported.
The electric circuit with many components such as transistors and wiring opened the door to the evolution of the laptop, followed by the smartphone and tablet. In fact, if you have ANY electronic device then it has a semiconductor chip inside.
The other 9 amazing innovations are all in wide use throughout the world. However, the Quantum computer is at the start of commercialization. In October 2019, it was announced that a quantum computer, which uses quantum mechanics to massively increase processing power, solved a problem that a standard computer could never do in just 200 seconds, marking a new realm of potential applications to explore.
In terms of speed, Google reported that their new quantum computer was 100 MILLION times faster than any of the other ‘normal’ computers in their lab.
It may seem odd that we’ve put the elevator as a part of 9 amazing innovations, at least at first sight. Let’s face it, the humble elevator is not exactly quantum mechanics. But could you imagine the modern city and it’s skyscrapers without the elevator, there are 2,909 steps in the Burj Khalifa.
The first real description of an elevator was in the year1000, the Book of Secrets by Al-Muradi in Spain described the use of an elevator-like lifting device, in order to raise a large battering ram to destroy a fortress. Moving ahead to1852, Elisha Otis introduced the safety elevator, which prevented the fall of the cab if the cable broke. He demonstrated it at the New York exposition in the Crystal Palace in a dramatic, death-defying presentation in 1854. The first such passenger elevator was installed at 488 Broadway in New York City on 23 March 1857.
There is now a new class of elevator, the Multi, able to move horizontally as well as vertically. As the word gets more and more crowded we’ll have no other option than to build vertically and that’s why the elevator is on this list.
The Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was one of the great feats of exploration in history. Rather than an outward exploration of the planet or the cosmos, the HGP was an inward voyage of discovery led by an international team of researchers looking to sequence and map all of the genes — together known as the genome — of members of our species, Homo sapiens. Beginning on October 1, 1990, and completed in April 2003, the HGP gave us the ability, for the first time, to read nature’s complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.
No other modern advancement in science has transformed medicine so radically as the Human Genome Project. Individualized analysis based on each person’s genome will lead to a very powerful form of preventive medicine. We’ll be able to learn about the risks of future illness based on DNA analysis. Physicians, nurses, genetic counselors, and other health-care professionals will be able to work with individuals to focus efforts on the things that are most likely to maintain health for a particular individual.
Truly a vehicle for change: once the first car rolled off the assembly lines, it never stopped moving. Originally seen as a panacea for all mobility challenges, the car has had to adapt to a global demand to eliminate fossil-fuel use and decrease traffic. Enter the next generation: hybrid cars, electric cars, and driverless cars, proving the car will be with us for centuries to come.
The invention of the automobile opened up doors to new inventions. It allowed for people to worry less about making it to dinner on time, and worry more about the actual dinner. People can travel faster in automobiles and feel more comfortable at the same time. Automobiles were and continue to be the main source of transportation not only for Americans but for everyone on Earth. They will continue to influence every part of our economy. Without automobiles, life as we know it would not be the same, and the changes that they have brought upon the earth can be seen in every aspect of society.
The Global Positioning System
While cars accelerate our day-to-day life, getting from A to B can still be a challenge, especially in a new place. First invented in 1973, Global Positioning System (GPS) technology came on the market in 1995. Using satellites, it pinpoints a location and helps you navigate. More recently, it has been the cornerstone of a host of smart city and urban mobility apps.
The uses for GPS are myriad but some of them are:
- Locating Positions. This is the main and most common application of GPS—tracking locations
- Easy Access to Emergency Road Side Support
- Preventing Car Theft
- Flying planes
- Mapping and Surveying
- Tracking for Law Enforcement
- Locating Your Pets
- Keeping Watch on Elderly People.
- Securing Artwork and other precious items
- Hiking and backpacking
- Finding Treasure!
We hate to admit it, but the smartphone has become ubiquitous and absolutely necessary for modern living. There are currently 3.8BILLION smartphones in the world, and that’s growing by 100million per year. One reason why it is so special is that it can be linked up to, and harnessed by, so many other technical advancements, from GPS to mobile banking to fitness apps. When Apple launched its first smartphone in 2007, there was simply no going back.
Just some of the 1000s of uses for a smartphone are:
- Sending and receiving emails, text, photographs and multimedia messages
- Registering contacts
- Calculator, currency, alarm, etc. functions
- Browsing the Internet using a mobile browser
- Playing games
- Creating Art
- Translate languages in real-time
- Video chat
- Control other devices in the smart house
- Measure heartbeat
- Point of sale terminal when paying for goods or services
- Barcode scanning
- Creating high-quality photographs or video
- Determining a user’s exact location utilizing GPS
- Making a phone call!
The next big thing
Technical advancements have always proven to be exciting because they are never stand-alone. They give rise to new inspirations and the next innovation, often launching a new era, whether in medicine, communications, or mobility. Material science in particular is moving at an immense pace. Which of these 9 amazing innovations do you see as the most important?