Humans are constantly inventing! Everywhere we look we can see inventions designed to help make life easier or better. Just think, there was a time when there was no easy way to toast your bread or heat up your bath! Some inventions help us in small ways but other inventions need special mention as they have made significant changes to how many of us live.
The 20th century (January 1, 1901 – December 31, 2000) was a time of great innovation. In a very short time, humans made huge advances in science and technology.
Here is our list of the 10 most important inventions of the 20th century. These inventions are game changers and without them the world would be very different.
1. The Personal Computer
Computers had been around since World War Two, but they were heavy and massively expensive units that didn’t have all the features that today’s computers have. When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak from Apple computers introduced the world’s first personal computer in 1976, the world changed forever. The Apple computer was smaller, affordable and could do more than just calculate. Today we use the personal computers for a range of tasks, including staying in touch with our loved ones, designing logos, selling real estate, looking after our finances, creating and even watching movies… the list is endless! It makes it hard to understand how our ancestors did so well without them!
2. Nuclear Power
The invention of nuclear power can be thought of as a breakthrough in terms of clean energy. Suddenly humanity had a power source that didn’t pollute (unlike fossil fuels), was efficient and practically unlimited. Unfortunately, along with this new energy source, came the creation of nuclear weapons. The fear of ultimate destruction probably prevented the world from experiencing a third world war and, when operated safely, nuclear power plants are a great and cost-efficient energy source that has the ability to power entire cities. The only question is whether we can make safe and responsible decisions that will mean that the use of nuclear power is always positive in the future.
3. The Internet
It’s hard to imagine a life without the internet. The internet made it possible to find out information with a few clicks. It also helped us communicate with our loved ones overseas and not pay high prices for it. Being able to sell and trade things online has had a significant impact on how we do business. The possibilities the internet has brought about are endless with new uses being invented all the time. Where would we be without it?
4. The Airplane
It’s pretty amazing to think that we can get on a massive, heavy piece of metal and be able to fly in the air, and stay in the air, arriving at a place kilometres away – and that we do so with the science of aerodynamics. With this invention, a person can fly anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. Flight has had a massive impact on how the world is today. It has helped improve cultural understanding, create faster trade routes, fight fires more effectively and change the way we fight wars.
Before the invention of the automobile, we had horses. As you can imagine, it was a much longer and more uncomfortable ride from one place to the next. Cars brought about a revolution in the market place, suddenly making it possible to transport goods that otherwise would be impossible to get. In the US, Henry Ford’s assembly-line production style made the automobile affordable and accessible to the average person. Before Ford’s Model T was introduced in 1908, only the very wealthy could afford a car. The automobile gave many the freedom to get around. It is hard to imagine travelling around on just a horse and cart these days.
Rockets were first invented and used by the Chinese over 3000 years ago, however, it wasn’t until the 1900’s that rockets became more than just a form of entertainment or an ancient weapon. In the 20th century, rockets became more powerful and much larger. They became more controllable and therefore extremely useful as a powerful weapon of war. And of course, they gave us access to outer space! Without the invention of the ‘new’ rocket, we never would have visited the moon or accessed other planets in our solar system, such as Mars. Rockets also place satellites into orbit around our planet, so without them we wouldn’t be able to use GPS, make international calls, predict the weather, or even use our mobile phones effectively.
Until Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, almost any little bug that someone picked up could cause major health problems or even death. An innocent cut from a rose bush that became infected could be life threatening- pretty scary! Once penicillin and later a whole range of other antibiotics were developed, it increased the length of life for many. The introduction of vaccines stopped many deadly sicknesses including small pox and typhoid.
The ‘movies’ – (motion picture) was invented as early as 1867, so being able to watch a show in the comfort of your own home was an obvious next step. Young inventor, Philo T. Farnsworth, made a few important advances towards this dream. It was, however, John Logie Baird who invented the first successful TV in 1928. The television was originally designed to broadcast the news, but as the years progressed, it became more of an entertainment source for the whole family to enjoy. The TV has given people access to information like never before, understanding different cultures through moving images and opening up the world to each other’s stories.
If over used, the television can be a terrible time waster – killing off brain cells and stopping productivity in our lives!
9. Mobile Phones
It’s hard to believe but not that long ago we were chained to the household ‘landline’ phone when calling others. If you weren’t home at the time of the phone call, you missed it. If you were running late to a meeting or lunch date, you had no way of letting people know! In 1973, on the streets of New York, inventor Marty Cooper made history by making the first call from a handheld portable mobile (or cell) phone. Today, we use the mobile phone for much more than just making phone calls; we can send emails, check the weather, send a text, use social media, ask google a question… the list is endless. For some people, the smart phone is one the most relied upon devices in their daily lives.
Although the first commercial ice-making machine was invented in 1854, it wasn’t until 1913 that refrigerators for home use were invented. Before this time, the common household would have iceboxes. These were like refrigerators but instead of being cooled electrically, they were cooled by having actual ice in them. Before that was available, people had cool cellars and some had ice houses where ice could be stored, often under sawdust. Mostly food was preserved some other way — by smoking it, salting it, or drying it.
Seems like a whole lot of effort just to keep food fresh!