The past half century has brought a large number of changes to how we live life everyday including many that we now take for granted. It is hard to believe that inventions before that including such great discoveries as the atomic bomb where conceived on just pen and paper, by like minded individuals inside a room filled with nothing more than desks and chairs.
Today we have a myriad of electronic help to aid us in tasks we need to complete and after we are done we use a variety of others to entertain us while we relax. Let’s look at a few of these that might just be the most important and have at the very least shaped the way the world works in today’s modern age.
Before the days of GPS, or global positioning satellites navigating was done the old fashioned way. If you are old enough to remember having to fumble with a huge paper map while traveling for the holidays then we feel for you. As far as cars go Oldsmobile in 1995 was the first to incorporate the technology into a production vehicle and twenty years later it is becoming hard to find one where the technology doesn’t come standard.
Today GPS commonly includes traffic data and is accurate to about one meter. Although improvements have slowed as it gets closer and closer to perfection companies continue to surprise with the release of new features to help you in your everyday commute.
The Compact Disc
The compact disc changed digital storage forever by vastly increasing typical storage capabilities and data access times. Originally created only sound sound storage the technology was so successful it was later adapted for other data as well. Though expensive this technology has been available to consumers since 1982.
From this technology several other formats emerged including CD-R, CD-RW, VCD and more. At the time of it’s release the compact disc had more storage capacity than the typical consumer’s hard drive although today hard drive size eclipses optical media’s storage limits. Over 500 billion CDs have been sold to date and the technology changed storage forever.
Nintendo Entertainment System
The Nintendo Entertainment System was released in Japan under the name Famicom in 1983. The Famicom, short for Family Computer was later released in North America and followed by Europe. Being the best selling console of it’s time the NES revived the crashed video game industry in North America that happened in 1983.
With the introduction of the NES Nintendo introduced the now standard practice of licensing third-party developers to create and also distribute games for the platform. The console is widely believed to be the number one video game system of all time and was followed by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, another huge success for the company. With the rise of Sony and Microsoft’s dominance in the industry Nintendo has recently struggled to stay relevant but no one can deny the impact the companies first system had on the world.
No on can deny the effect that Apple had with the iPod paired with iTunes on the music industry. In 2001 the Cupertino based company changed the way people consume music and other media forever. Released by a then struggling Apple this product was the first step in a new journey to become the world’s most valuable company at over $700 billion USD.
Now powered by Apple’s iOS operating system and sporting a touch screen display the size of the device the iPod can play videos, run apps and do just about anything a modern cellphone can without the call making feature. Some say the future of the iPod is in jeopardy but rumors are strong that a 6th generation iPod Touch will be released later this year. Whether the rumors are true or not the iPod is the king of all music players and completely changed the game for both Apple and the music industry.
Although 3D printing has actually been around since the mid 1980s, it has only recently become available in the form of affordable solutions obtainable by small companies and individuals looking to explore the technology. Originally 3D printing was achieved on a powder bed with inkjet printer heads but in today’s world the term is much broader encompassing methods such as extrusion and sintering. Extrusion remains the most popular in affordable table top 3D printing using a corn based plastic.
In any printing method “layers” are applied one on top of the other by a robotic head using CAD or other software based maps to create the desired object. Since becoming opensource 3D printing has really taken off with units to be had for as cheap as $450 USD if you’re willing to assemble the printer yourself.
The personal computer has made a great many things possible including the Apollo missions in the 1960’s. NASA used 10 of the first “desktop personal computers” made by Olivetti, an Italian company who debuted the device and the 1964 world’s fair. Companies such as Apple and Microsoft really helped the “PC” take off in the late 1970s and early 80’s and Microsoft dominated the market in the 90’s with the help of chip maker Intel.
Personal computers brought on such technologies as the hard drive, the monitor and multicore processors to name a few. Its uses are limitless. From video games to spreadsheets the PC has proven it can do anything. A staple household item for decades the computer has seen a decline in recent years due to the rise of mobile devices but some things are only capable on this device that changed the world forever.
Although Google Glass might be a failure it still changed the way society views the future wearables. Having a computer screen in your sight at all times which allows you to vocally look up information and record “what you see” the instant you need it to is pretty impressive. Add to it that the right side of the device is actually a touch screen and sound is transferred from a “Bone Conduction Transducer” to your ear and you have a truly ambitious device. Too much so to the point that it caused it’s own demise.
Even though Google has stopped selling Glass in its “Explorer” form they have stated that it is not gone just back to the drawing board. With a promise to re engineer the idea from the ground up we think that this is not the last we will see of Google’s head mounted computer. The company set out to prove a point with the device and they definitely made it.
Apple has made it on the list again but this time with their ground breaking iPhone. Released in 2007 this was the first truly “smart” phone. Shortly after the release Apple debuted it’s app store that let developers create applications called Apps for the device which helped it realize it’s full potential. A new version has been released every year since and the iPhone continues to innovate and remain the best selling smartphone year after year.
Since it’s release many competitors have emerged most notably being Google’s Android powered open-source devices. Most of the Android smartphones lack the fit and finish and premium feel of the iPhone although many prefer the operating system’s openess to that of Apple’s iOS. Which ever you prefer there is no doubt that Apple once again turned things upside down with this device and sparked another revolution.
The Electric Car
With fossil fuels running out finding alternative energy sources for automobiles has become increasingly important. The most popular alternative recently has become cars powered by electricity. Although invented in the 1800’s they have just recently gained traction. Pioneered by the Large automobile makers the market is growing in demand for electric cars. Recently Companies like Elon Musk’s Tesla have added a luxury aspect to being green. As battery technology advances so does the range of these once impractical transportation solutions.
Close to 300 miles is now achievable and rivals all but diesel powered cars in terms of range. At the rate advancement is moving at the distance these quiet cars can travel may eclipse that of gasoline’s capabilities.
Last and possibly the most important is the Internet. The world would absolutely not be where and what it is today without such a great invention. It connects everything and everyone. The answer to your question is never more than a few seconds away and neither are your loved ones. It is hypothesized that one day the only way to keep up with the internet is for our brains to be directly linked. In it’s earliest forms it existed in the 1960’s in small packet switching networks such as Telnet. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when individuals with personal computers could gain access that it really took off.
With the recent push of the Internet of Things or “IoT” our lives have become even more connected to this digital world. Soon even your toaster will have a MAC address. With such a powerful tool society need weigh the benefits and dangers of relying so heavily on a system that may on day control itself. Even if it is the invention that ends us all there is no argument that it is humanity’s greatest one yet.