Few people would argue that building a better mousetrap would generate much excitement amongst consumers. But the designer of the mousetrap sure caused a stir. Here are some other more pertinent innovations.
John Logie Baird filed his first patent in 1923, for a device that yielded an eight-line image. Years later this was followed by the sale of the first television set, a device that he baptized a televisor. In 1932, the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) launched the world’s first regular TV broadcasts. Today, the jury is still out on whether it serves an educational benefit or is a cultural curse.
The Printing Press
The printing press was the first one of many communication mediums, changing how information was collected, stored, retrieved, criticized, discovered, and promoted. It has been implicated in the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution.
Forty years after Einstein drew up the concept of the stimulation of light waves, a doctoral student earned a patent on Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (LASER) and the resulting beam to cut, heat and measure. Consumers love lasers thanks to CD players and laser printers. Doctors love lasers because they simplify and quicken cosmetic and eye surgery. Scientists love lasers for their precision and power.
"You can have any color as long as it is black" boasted Ford at the turn of the Century. Automobiles have come a long way. They permitted rapid transportation of people and goods. The next challenge lies in developing environment-friendly automobiles. We're still waiting for the flying cars that Back to the Future promised.
A secret Pentagon project, the Internet served as a communication network that would remain intact, even if several of its strands were broken. While your parents were celebrating Woodstock, two computers in southern California exchanged information.
The Net has emerged into mainstream culture after Tim Berners-Lee thought up a structure of links and addresses for sending data, unhampered by central authority and proprietary software, bringing the Internet to life and effectively making the globe a village by fostering the sharing of information.
Bicycle manufacturers, the Wright brothers, accomplished the first motorized flight in 1903 while British engineer Frank Whittle filed the first patent for a jet engine in 1930. Parallel tests in Germany made that country the first to fly a jet-powered plane, the Heinkel He 178, in 1939. Thirty years later, the Boeing 747 Jumbo jet made international air travel fast, comfortable and affordable.
Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid - DNA
Okay, so it's not so much an invention as it is a discovery, but nevertheless, scientists have learned to manipulate it to our advantage. "We have discovered the secret of life," said British scientist Francis Crick in 1953, in reference to deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA), the double-helix molecule in the cell nucleus that determines heredity. Unraveling the genetic code has made it possible for humans to fight disease and improve food production.
The Steam Engine
The steam engine powered the Industrial Revolution and inspired the science of thermodynamics, broadening and deepening the understanding of the world as expressed in Isaac Newton's laws of nature. From steam engines to fogged-up car windows, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
This mixture of two hormones that suppress ovulation unleashed a sexual and social revolution. Overnight, women gained effective control over their fertility, smashing constraints on women's sexual freedom and the right to work, eventually giving them unprecedented political and economic clout.
The first operational electro-mechanical computer was used to crack secret Nazi codes. Innovation has miniaturized computers while increasing their power exponentially: the transistor (1947), the integrated circuit (1959) and the microprocessor (1970), increased the speed to process data, while the hard disk (1956), modem (1980) and mouse (1983) boosted their power to make data accessible.