This is the third part of a chronological version of the “Best Inventions of All Time” list, covering the period from 1900 to the Present. These lists are much longer than the one arranged by rank, which only includes inventions found on 4 or more of the 21 original source lists. The chronological lists contain every invention that was on at least two of the “Best Inventions” lists I found. This version of the list also contains much more information about the invention, including precursors, improvements and further developments. Most inventions are not the product of one human mind but many and the person named “inventor” is usually one link in a chain that extends backwards and forwards in time.
ELECTRIC VACUUM CLEANER – 1901 – Herbert Cecil Booth – UK
Before the electric vacuum, there were manual carpet sweepers (US, 1860), hand-cranked carpet cleaners (US, 1868 and 1876) and John Thurman’s gasoline-powered cleaner (US, 1898), although it blew instead of sucked air. Herbert Cecil Booth (UK) saw a demonstration of Thurman’s device and thought he had it exactly backwards. Booth built a large gasoline-powered, horse-drawn vacuum cleaner that sucked in dust, called “Puffing Billy”, in 1901. He then built an electric model, which was also very large, and started a cleaning service. Meanwhile, David T. Kenney (US) was developing an electric vacuum in the U.S. between 1903 and 1913. The first portable vacuum suitable for home use was made by Walter Griffiths (UK) in 1905. In 1907, James Murray Spangler (US) invented a motorized portable vacuum cleaner with a rotating brush but couldn’t afford to build it, so he sold the patent to his cousin, William Henry Hoover (US). Hoover redesigned Spangler’s machine and began selling it in 1908. Disposable filter bags came along in 1920. The first portable vacuums in Europe were sold by Fisker and Nielsen (Denmark) in 1910. Electrolux (Sweden) began selling an innovative model that lay on the floor on two thin metal runners in 1921. The first cyclonic separation vacuum was invented in 1928 and marketed in 1939, but it was the Dyson cyclonic vacuum, introduced in 1979 by Sir James Dyson (UK), that caught the public’s attention. Hand-held vacuums were introduced in 1979. Robotic vacuums first arrived in the late 1990s.
Herbert Cecil Booth’s jumbo-sized vacuum cleaner in the early 20th Century.
AIR CONDITIONER – 1902 – Willis Haviland Carrier – US
Air cooling techniques have existed since Ancient Egypt, when people hung reeds in windows and moistened them with trickling water – the evaporating water cooled the air blowing through the window. Ancient Roman houses had cool water circulating through the walls. Ding Huan (China) invented a manually-powered rotary fan in 180 CE, and by 747 CE, there are references to water-powered fan wheels in China. Medieval Persians used cisterns and wind towers to cool their buildings. Cornelius Drebbel (The Netherlands) developed an evaporation-based cooling system in the 17th Century. Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley (US) conducted important evaporation experiments in 1758. In 1820, Michael Faraday (UK) discovered the cooling power of compressed, liquefied ammonia. In 1842, American physician John Gorrie created ice using compression and then used fans to circulate the cool air, but financial woes prevented him from developing the invention. In 1851, James Harrison (Australia) developed an ice-making machine. Willis Carrier (US) invented the first modern electrical air conditioner in 1902 in order to control temperature and humidity in a printing plant. Stuart Cramer (US) developed a similar machine in 1906 for a textile mill. Cramer coined the term ‘air conditioning’, which Carrier adopted. An air conditioning unit was installed in the home of Charles Gates (US) in 1914. Thomas Midgley, Jr. (US) invented Freon, the first non-flammable, non-toxic refrigerant, in 1928. (Unfortunately, Freon and other chlorofluorocarbon gases destroy the ozone layer and are being phased out.) In 1931, H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman (US) created a very expensive individual room air conditioner. The DuBose house in Chapel Hill, NC (US) became fully air conditioned in 1933. Packard introduced the first air conditioned automobile in 1939. In 1945, Robert Sherman (US) invented an affordable, portable, in-window air conditioner. In the 1970s, central air conditioning was developed.
Willis Carrier and his Chiller air conditioner, from 1922.
AIRPLANE – 1903 – Wilbur & Orville Wright – US
Humans have tried to fly since ancient times. Abbas Ibn Firnas (Berber/Andalusia) built a glider in the 9th Century; Eilmer of Malmesbury (UK) tried it in the 11th Century; and Leonardo da Vinci (Italy) designed a man-powered aircraft in 1502. Sir George Cayley (UK) designed fixed-wing airplanes from 1799 and built models from 1803. He built a successful glider in 1853. In 1856, Jean-Marie Le Bris (France) took the first powered flight when a horse pulled his glider, the Albatross, across a beach. John J. Montgomery (US) made a controlled flight in a glider in 1883, as did Otto Lilienthal (Germany), Percy Pilcher (UK) and Octave Chanute (France/US) about the same time. Between 1867 and 1896, Lilienthal made numerous heavier-than-air glider flights. Clément Ader (France) built a steam-powered airplane in 1890 and may have flown 50 meters in it. Hiram Maxim (US/UK) built an airplane powered by steam engines in 1894 that had enough lift to fly, but was uncontrollable and never actually flew. Lawrence Hargrave (Australia) experimented with box kites and rotary aircraft engines in the 1890s. In 1896, American Samuel Pierpont Langley’s Aerodrome No. 5 made the first successful sustained flight of an unmanned, engine-driven heavier-than-air craft, but his attempts at manned flight in 1903 did not succeed. There is some evidence that Gustave Whitehead (Germany/US) flew his Number 21 powered monoplane at Fairfield, Connecticut (US) in 1901, two and a half years before the Wright Brothers, but the matter is subject to debate. Most believe that Orville and Wilbur Wright (US) accomplished “the first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight” (FAI) on December 17, 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. By 1905, the third version of the Wright Brothers’ airplane was capable of fully controllable, stable flight for substantial periods. Traian Vuia (France) flew in a self-designed, fully self-propelled, fixed wing aircraft with a wheeled undercarriage in 1906. Jacob Ellehammer (Denmark) also flew a monoplane in 1906. In 1906, Alberto Santos Dumont (Brazil) flew 220 meters in less than 22 seconds, without the assistance of a catapult. In 1908-1910, Dumont designed a number of Demoiselle airplanes that were well received. In 1908 and 1909, Louis Blériot (France) designed airplanes that were improvements over earlier models. The first jet aircraft was the German Heinkel He 178, first tested in 1939, followed by the Messerschmitt Me 262 in 1943. The first aircraft to break the sound barrier was the Bell X-1, in 1947. The first jet airliner was the de Havilland Comet, introduced in 1952. The first widely successful commercial jet was the Boeing 707, which arrived in 1958. The Boeing 747 was the largest passenger jet from 1970 until 2005, when it was surpassed by the Airbus A380.
The Wright Brothers’ first powered flight, December, 1903.
RADAR – 1904 – Christian Hülsmeyer – Germany
In 1886, Heinrich Hertz (Germany) showed that radio waves could be bounced off solid objects. In 1897, while testing an early radio communication device (the spark-gap transmitter) between two ships at sea, Alexander Popov (Russia) noted that the passage of a third ship caused interference in the signal. Christian Hülsmeyer (Germany) was the first to use radio waves to detect the presence of distant objects in a 1904 experiment in dense fog, but the device could not measure the distance to the object. In 1922, U.S. Navy scientists Albert Taylor and Leo Young noticed that that ships reflected radio signals. In 1930, Taylor and Young, with Lawrence Hyland (US), detected a plane using the same method, but without information about distance or speed. The team, with new member Robert Page (US), then developed a pulse-interference device and successfully used in to identify the range and speed of an airplane in December 1934. Earlier in 1934, a team of German scientists led by Rudolf Kühnhold used Doppler-beat interference to detect ships and airplanes, including their range. On January 3, 1934, Russian scientists M.M. Lobanov and Y.K. Korovin detected an airplane at 600 meters range and 100-150 meters altitude using a Doppler signal; later the same year, the Bistro device was introduced. Maurice Ponte, in France, had developed a short wavelength device that did not measure distance. Meanwhile, by 1935, the Germans had developed a much more accurate pulse-modulated system. In 1935, Robert Watson-Watt, Arnold “Skip” Wilkins and Edward Bowen (UK) demonstrated a device that could detect radio waves reflected off a flying airplane 17 miles away and determine its range. By 1936, the U.S. Navy had a prototype radar system that could detect aircraft at 25 miles distance. Also by 1936, German companies Lorenz and Telefunken had developed accurate radar systems. The U.S. Army developed its own radar system by 1937. By 1938, the U.S. Navy system could detect aircraft at 100 miles and the first radar was placed on an American ship. In 1939, the USSR developed a radar system capable of determining range and velocity. In 1940, the word ‘radar’ was coined from the phrase ‘Radio Detection and Ranging.’ In 1940 John Randall and Harry Boot (UK) invented the cavity magnetron, which made short wavelength radar a reality. Robert Page invented monopulse radar in 1943. Luis Alvarez (US) invented phased-array radar during World War II. Goodyear Aircraft Corp. (US) invented synthetic-aperture radar in the early 1950s.
The U.S. Navy installed the experimental XAF radar on the USS New York in late 1938.
TEA BAG – 1904 – Thomas Sullivan – US
A.V. Smith (UK) created a precursor to the tea bag in 1896. Patents for hand-sewn fabric tea bags first appear in 1903. It was Thomas Sullivan (US) who made the first commercially successful tea bags in 1904 (or 1908) when he sent tea samples in small silk bags and customers decided to dunk the bags into hot water. When Sullivan got complaints that the silk was too fine, he began making bags of gauze. In 1920, Joseph Krieger (Germany/US) developed and sold tea bags to hotels and caterers. Eventually, tea bag manufacturers began using paper instead of fabric. William Hermanson (US) invented the heat-sealed paper tea bag and sold his patent to the Salada Tea Company in 1930. The familiar rectangular tea bags arrived in 1944. Lipton (US) introduced the four-sided ‘flo-thru’ bag in 1952. Tea bags were first mass produced by Joseph Tetley (US) in 1953. Tetley introduced a round bag in 1992. In 1996, Brooke Bond (UK) introduced a tetrahedron-shaped tea bag.
These gauze tea bags were made by Thomas Sullivan in the early 20th Century.
PLASTIC – 1907 – Leo Henrik Baekeland – US
Leo Baekeland, a Belgian-born chemist working in the US, invented Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, in 1907 in an effort to find a substitute for shellac. The chemical name of Bakelite is polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride. The substance was used for multiple purposes in the early 20th Century, It is now mostly used for inexpensive toys made in China and India. Some Bakelite products are now collectors’ items.
This bakelite radio was sold by General Electric in Australia in 1932.
ELECTRIC WASHING MACHINE – 1908 – Alva J. Fisher – US
For centuries, humans washed clothes and other textiles by hand. A UK patent was issued in 1691 for a Washing and Wringing Machine. A drawing of an early washing machine appears in a British magazine in 1752. Jacob Schäffer (Germany) invented a hand-driven washing machine in 1766. Rogerson (UK) invented a machine in 1780 and Henry Sidgier (UK) created a machine with a rotating drum in 1782. In 1787, Edward Beetham and Thomas Todd (UK) successfully promoted their own washing machine. By 1790, Beetham was promoting a portable washing mill designed by James Wood (UK). Kendall (UK) offered a rival invention in 1791. John Turnbull (Canada) invented a washing machine with a wringer in 1843. In 1851, James King (US) patented a hand-powered washing machine with a drum. Commercial laundry machines advanced more quickly than those for domestic use. Steam-driven commercial machines were sold in the mid-1850s in the US and UK. Hamilton Smith (US) patented a rotary washing machine in 1858. Richard Lansdale (UK) demonstrated a rotary washing machine with rollers for wringing/mangling in 1862. William Blackstone (US) built a hand-driven washing machine for his wife’s birthday in 1874. Margaret Colvin (US) invented the Triumph Rotary Washer in 1876. Some believe that Louis Goldenberg (US) at Ford Motor Co. invented the first electric washing machine in about 1900. Newspaper advertisements for electric washing machines appear as early as 1904. There is evidence that J.T. Winans (US) designed an electric washing machine that was produced by the 1900 Company in 1907. In 1908, Alva Fisher (US) invented an electric washing machine called The Thor that was manufactured by the Hurley Machine Co. The Thor was a drum-type machine with a galvanized tub and an electric motor. In 1911, the Upton Machine Co. (later Whirlpool) introduced an electric motor-driven wringer washer. Washing machines with spin dryers instead of wringer/manglers were introduced in the 1930s. Bendix Corporation introduced the first automatic washing machine in 1937. General Electric introduced a top loading automatic washing machine in 1947. Schulthess Group (Europe) produced an automatic washing machine in 1951. The first microchip-controlled automatic washing machines were introduced in 1978. In 1994, Staber Industries released the System 2000 machine, the only top-loading, horizontal axis washer made in the US. Fisher & Paykel (NZ) introduced SmartDrive washing machines in 1998. Maytag released a water-efficient top-loader in 2003. Sanyo made a drum-type machine with Air Wash in 2007.
A 1910 Thor electric washing machine.
GEIGER COUNTER – 1908 – Hans Geiger – Germany
The Geiger Counter detects the emission of nuclear radiation. In 1908, Hans Geiger, a German student studying under Ernest Rutherford in the UK, developed an experimental technique for detecting alpha particles. In 1928, Geiger (now in Germany) and Walther Müller (Germany) developed a sealed tube (known as a Geiger-Müller tube) that was small and rugged and could detect more types of ionizing radiation. The Geiger-Müller tube allowed for a practical, inexpensive portable instrument for detecting radiation. After Sidney Liebson (US) invented the halogen tube in 1947, that tube replaced the Geiger-Müller tube, because of its longer life and lower operating voltage.
Hans Geiger constructed this Geiger Counter for laboratory use in 1932.
SONAR – 1912 – Lewis Richardson, UK; Reginald Fessenden, Canada
Sonar (short for “Sound Navigation and Ranging”) uses propagated sound to navigate, communicate with or detect objects on or under water. In 1490, Leonardo da Vinci put his ear to a tube placed in water to detect approaching vessels. In 1906, Lewis Nixon (US) invented a listening device for detecting icebergs. Lewis Richardson (UK) filed a patent for an underwater echo ranging device in 1912, just after the sinking of the Titanic. While working in the US, Canadian Reginald Fessenden built an experimental sonar system in 1912, which was successfully tested on a Coast Guard cutter in 1914 and built into newly-built British submarines in 1915. German physicist Alexander Behm obtained a patent for an echo sounder in 1913. In 1915, Paul Langevin (France) and Constantin Chilowski (Russia) developed more sophisticated sound devices using quartz and electrostatic transducers. Until this point, all sonar was passive – listening for sounds made by objects. In 1916, Robert Boyle (Canada) and A B Wood (UK), working for the UK, began developing the first practical underwater active sound detection apparatus, or ASDIC. Boyle and Wood created a prototype in 1917; tested it on a ship in 1920 and began production in 1922.
Display unit from a 1944 British ASDIC device.
ELECTRIC TRAFFIC LIGHTS – 1912 – Lester Wire – US
A set of traffic lights was installed outside the British Houses of Parliament in 1868 by J.P. Knight and Saxby & Farmer (UK). It consisted of three semaphore arms with red and green gas lamps at night, and was operated by a police officer. After several weeks, it exploded. Utah police officer Lester Wire (US) installed the first electric traffic lights (red and green) in Salt Lake City in 1912. The American Traffic Signal Co. put a traffic light designed by James Hoge (US) in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914 that had red and green lights and a buzzer. It also allowed the police and fire department to control the lights in an emergency. Salt Lake City had the first interconnected traffic signal system in 1917, when six sets of lights were connected. Michigan police officer William Potts (US) created the first four-way, three-color light in Detroit in 1920. Houston, Texas introduced the first automatic system of connected traffic lights in 1922. Garrett Morgan (US) invented a traffic signal and patented it in 1923. It was a hand-cranked semaphore device – a T-shaped pole with three positions. Morgan sold the rights to General Electric and his device was installed at many intersections where electric lights had not yet arrived. The first traffic lights in the UK were installed in Piccadilly Circus in 1926. In 1963, Toronto became the first city to computerize its entire traffic signal system.
Lester Wire and his 1912 two-color traffic light.
ZIPPER – 1913 – Gideon Sundback – Sweden/US
In 1851, Elias Howe (US) obtained a patent for a clothing fastener that resembled an elaborate draw-string. In 1893, Whitcomb Judson (US) created a ‘clasp locker’ and began the Universal Fastener Co. to manufacture it, but it was impractical and did not sell. Gideon Sundback, a Swedish-born engineer living in the US, came to work for Judson’s company in 1906. By 1913, he had invented the modern zipper, which was gradually adopted for clothing and other items. Further developments included the waterproof zipper, designed by NASA for spacesuits, and the zipper that opens at both ends.
Early zipper advertisement.
ASSEMBLY LINE – 1913 – Henry Ford – US
Elements of the assembly line include division of labor, interchangeable parts, and a moving, linear start-to-finish assembly process. A very early example of a division of labor comes from China in the 3rd Century BCE, when workers created the Terracotta Army for the tomb of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Another early example was the Venetian Arsenal (Italy) in the early 16th Century, which employed 16,000 workers and used standardized parts to build ships. The notion of interchangeable parts was championed in the mid-18th Century by Honoré Blanc (France), who inspired Eli Whitney (US) to use some of Blanc’s ideas in making muskets in 1798. Oliver Evans (US) built an automatic flour mill in 1785 using conveyors, elevators and other devices. An early example of a linear and continuous assembly process was Porstmouth Block Mills (UK), built by Marc Isambard Brunel (France/UK) between 1801 and 1803. Another assembly line factory was the Bridgewater Foundry, built by James Nasymth and Holbrook Gaskell (UK) in 1836. Starting in 1867, Chicago meatpackers began to use assembly lines in which workers would stand at fixed stations and a pulley system would move the meat along the line. Ransom Olds (US) built a modern assembly line in 1901 to mass-produce the Oldsmobile Curved Dash automobile. The assembly line idea was brought to Henry Ford by his employee William “Pa” Klann, after visiting a Chicago slaughterhouse, and was implemented by a team of Ford employees. The Ford assembly line to build the Model T began operating on December 1, 1913. Soon, the assembly line method had spread throughout automobile manufacturing.
The Ford Model T assembly line in 1913.
BRA – 1913 – Mary Phelps Jacob – US
Garments and devices that support, restrain or cover women’s breasts have a long history. As long ago as the 14th Century BCE, women athletes of the Minoan civilization in Crete wore what appeared to be brassieres or bikini tops. There are depictions of a fitted corset-like garment that supports but also reveals the breasts from Minoan Crete in 2000 BCE. Women in Ancient Greece in the 5th and 4th Centuries BCE often wore breast-bands, bands of wool or linen wrapped across the breasts and tied or pinned at the back. A similar band or belt could be worn over a tunic below or over the breasts. Ancient Roman women (1st Century BCE to 4th Century CE) often wore breast bands that tightly secured their breasts, due to a belief that large breasts were unattractive. References to brassieres is found in India during the 1st Century CE. Brassieres were popular in India during the 14th to 17th Centuries. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1912), upper class Chinese women wore an undergarment with cups and straps that was drawn over the shoulders and tied to the girth seam at the lower back. European women in the late Middle Ages wore snugly-fitted clothes that functioned as breast support. A recent archaeological dig in Austria found linen bras with shoulder straps, cups, and eyelets for fastening, dating to between 1440 and 1485. Beginning in the mid-15th Century CE, wealthy women in Western civilization wore corsets, which pushed the breasts up from below. Lower class women, or women who needed flexibility, wore a simple tie under the breasts. In the 19th Century, concerns were raised about corsets from medical, feminist and practical grounds (esp. from sportswomen). In response, a number of brassieres or bra-like garments were introduced, including what is alleged to be the first push-up bra, found in storage at the Science Museum in London. In 1859, Henry Lesher (US) patented a device that gave a “symmetrical rotundity” to the wearer’s breasts. Luman Chapman (US) patented a corset substitute in 1863. In 1876, Olivia Flynt (US) designed the ‘true corset’ for larger-breasted women. Herminie Cadolle (France) designed a two-piece corset, the upper piece of which resembled a brassiere, in 1889. The same year, a modern-type bra was patented by Christine Hardt (Germany). Marie Tucek (US) patented a wire supported bra-like garment in 1893, but failed to market it successfully. In the beginning of the 20th Century, smaller corsets led to the invention of the bust bodice. In 1910, 19-year-old New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob made a bra out of two silk handerchiefs, pink ribbon and some cord for a debutante ball. The invention proved so popular that she patented and sold them, although she ultimately sold the patent. Sigmund Lindauer (Germany) designed and mass produced a brassiere in 1912. Because corsets required metal, their use was discouraged in World War I, thereby increasing the popularity of bras. In the 1920s, bandeau-style bras held the breasts in and down. In 1922, Ida & William Rosenthal and Enid Bissett (Russia/US) began to increase the shaping of the bandeau bra to enhance and support women’s breasts. They created a company, Maiden Form, that sold the first seamed uplift bras. The familiar A-D cup sizes were developed by S.H. Camp & Co. in October 1932. Also in the 1930s, manufacturers introduced multiple eye and hook positions to create adjustable straps. In the 1940s, the conically pointed torpedo or bullet bra was introduced, and manufacturers began to use underwire in bra construction. Maternity and nursing bras became popular during the Baby Boom years. The 1950s saw the first training bras. Rudy Gernreich (Austria/UK) created a ‘no-bra’ bra in 1964 and followed up in 1965 with a no-side bra, a no-front bra and a no-back bra. Louise Poirier (Canada) designed a push-up bra for Wonderbra in 1964, although it was not launched outside Canada until the 1990s. The first sports bra was designed by Lisa Lindahl, Polly Smith and Hinda Miller (US) in 1977.
The patent application for Mary Phelps Jacobs bra in 1910.
CROSSWORD PUZZLE – 1913 – Arthur Wynne – US
The children’s magazine St. Nicholas published crossword-like puzzles beginning in 1873. In 1890, Giuseppe Airoldi (Italy) created a four-by-four grid puzzle with no shaded squares that included horizontal and vertical clues, which was published in the Italian magazine Il Secolo Illustrato della Domenica. The first crossword puzzle with modern features was designed by Arthur Wynne, a British-born journalist, and published in the New York World on December 21, 1913. The first book of crossword puzzles was published in 1924 by Simon and Schuster.
Arthur Wynne’s original 1913 crossword puzzle.
TANK – 1915 – Ernest Swinton – UK
A tank is a tracked, armored fighting vehicle with offensive and defensive capabilities. Leonardo da Vinci sketched a proto-tank in the late 15th Century. French captain Levavasseur designed a tracked armored vehicle in 1903 but the French Army abandoned the project in 1908. H.G. Wells imagined tanks in his 1903 story “The Land Ironclads.” In 1911, Austrian engineering officer Günther Burstyn proposed a tank design, as did Australian civil engineer Lancelot de Mole. Both were rejected. Beginning in 1904, British and US companies began making tracked, crawler-type tractors. Vasily Mendeleev (Russia) designed a heavy tank between 1911 and 1915 but it was too expensive to build. When World War I broke out, the British Army began using Caterpillar tractors made by Benjamin Holt (US) to transport supplies and artillery in difficult terrain. In 1914-1915, the French designed the Boirault machine, but it was a failure. Other efforts – the Frot-Laffly, tested in March 1915 and the electric Aubriot-Gabet “Fortress” – also tanked. The French then designed two different tanks based on the Holt tractor and successfully tested them in 1915, ordered mass production in 1916 and began operating them in 1916 and 1917. In the UK, Ernest Swinton proposed the idea of using Holt’s Caterpillar tractors to make a tank in 1914, but the tank idea was shelved until Winston Churchill, on Swinton’s advice, revived it a year later. The UK made numerous attempts of various designs in 1915 without success until January 1916 when a rhomboidal design by Walter Gordon Wilson passed the test, leading to the delivery of the first Mark I tanks in August 1916. Aleksandr Porokhovschikov (Russia) built the Vezdekhod proto-tank in 1915 but it was not pursued, nor was Lebedenko’s Tsar Tank, which failed tests in 1915. The British Army was the first to use tanks in warfare when it deployed Mark I tanks at the Battle of the Somme on September 15, 1916. The French introduced their two types of tanks later in the war, and introduced the Renault FT in 1918. Germany brought in the A7V in 1918. The US Army produced the Mark VIII Liberty and the M1917 in 1918. In the 1920s, France developed the Char B1 bis. The Soviet Union deployed the KV-1 in 1939 and the T-34 in 1940. In the 1930s, Germany had the Panzer I and II; after 1940, it developed the Panzer III and IV; the Tiger I arrived in 1942 and the Panther in 1943. The US developed the M4 Sherman tank in 1942. The UK brought in the Centurion in 1945; the Soviets put the T-54/55 in service in 1946. The US introduced the M48 Patton in 1951. In 1979, West Germany developed the Leopard 2 and Israel made the Merkava. The US started the M1 Abrams in 1980. Former Soviet states built the T-90 in 1992 and the T-84 in 1999. Ukraine developed the T-84-12 Oplot. Italy made the C1 Ariete in 1995. Russia made the Black Eagle in 1997. The UK introduced the FV4034 Challenger 2 in 1998.
British troops surround a Mark I tank during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
TUBE LIPSTICK – 1915 – Maurice Levy – US
Women in Mesopotamia crushed gemstones and used them to decorate their lips. Women in the Indus Valley civilization also decorated their lips. Ancient Egyptians made red dye from plants and chemicals to adorn their lips. In the 10th-11th Centuries, Arab Andalusian cosmetologist Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi made perfumed sticks in special molds – the first solid lipsticks. In the 16th Century in the UK, upper class women and male actors began to use lipstick that was a blend of beeswax and red stains from plants. For much of the time, however, wearing of cosmetics was associated with prostitution. In 1884, Paris perfumers began making the first commercial lipstick from deer tallow, castor oil and beeswax; it was covered in silk paper. In the 19th Century, some Americans used bright red lipstick made from carmine dye, but the color was considered too unnatural for anyone but actors. Actress Sarah Bernhardt was one of the first to wear it publicly. In the early 1890s, manufacturers mixed carmine with an oil and wax base, giving it a more natural lookmaking it more natural. It was sold it paper tubes, tinted papers or small pots. Sears Roebuck sold lip rouge in the late 1890s. In 1915, Maurice Levy (US) invented a metal cylinder with a tiny lever on the side for dispensing lipstick. James Bruce Mason (US) invented the swivel-up tube in 1923. Organic chemist Hazel Bishop (US) created the first long-lasting lipstick in the late 1940s. In the 1990s, the Lip-Ink company invented a wax-free semi-permanent liquid lipstick.
Maurice Levy’s 1915 lipstick tube. The user pushed up on the outer lever to push up the lipstick.
ELECTRIC POP-UP TOASTER – 1919 – Charles Strite – US
In the early 19th Century, toasters consisted of a metal frame or long-handled toasting fork into which one placed a slice of bread and held it near a fire or grill. Crompton & Co. (UK) invented the first electric toaster in 1893, but there were problems with the heating element. The Simplex Electric Heating Co. made a flatbed electric toaster for commercial use in about 1900. Albert Marsh (US) designed a better heating element (called Nichrome) in 1905 and George Schneider (US), of the American Electric Heater Co., obtained a patent for a toaster using an improved wire at about the same time, although there is no evidence it was ever made. There is some evidence that the Pacific Electric Heating Co. made an electric toaster in 1905. In 1909, Frank Shailor, of General Electric, designed the D-12, when became the first commercially successful electric toaster. In 1919, Charles Strite (US) invented the automatic pop-up toaster. The Waters Genter Co. introduced the Model 1-A-1 in 1925 – it was the first pop-up toaster that could brown bread on both sides at the same time. Toaster sales increased in the early 1930s with the advent of pre-sliced bread. Beginning in the 1940s, Sunbeam made toasters that automatically lowered the bread for toasting and raised it when done. In the 1980s, toasters with larger slots for bagels arrived, as did four-slice and six-slice toasters.
A Waters-Genter toaster from the 1920s, based on Charles Strite’s design.
PORTABLE HAIR DRYER – 1920 – Racine Universal Motor Co., & Hamilton Beach Co. – US
Before hair dryers, some people used their vacuum cleaners to dry their hair. The first true hair dryer was invented by Alexander Godefroy (France) in 1890 for use in his hair salon; it resembled today’s hair hood dryers in salons. Gabriel Kazanjian (Armenia/US) also invented a hair dryer in 1911. The National Stamping and Electricworks (US) developed an improved hair dryer for personal use in 1915, but it was U.S. Racine Universal Motor Co. and Hamilton Beach Co. that, in 1920, invented the first portable handheld hair dryer. The first hair dryers were heavy and low energy, but also prone to overheating and electrocution. Since then manufacturers have sought to made dryers less heavy, more powerful and safer. In 1954, GEC moved the motor inside the casing.
A German hair dryer from the 1920s.
INSULIN EXTRACTION AND PREPARATION – 1921 – Frederick Bunting & Charles Best – Canada
In a series of experiments beginning in 1869 in Germany, scientists identified the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas and determined that these islets secreted a substance that controlled blood sugar levels. Absence of this secretion caused diabetes mellitus. Early attempts to treat diabetes with general pancreatic fluids had had mixed results. Frederick Banting (Canada), working with medical student Charles Best (Canada) finally isolated and extracted the substance, now known as insulin, in 1921. James Collip was instrumental in developing a purified extract. The first successful treatment of a human diabetic occurred in 1922. Later the same year, Eli Lilly and Co. developed a method for producing large quantities of insulin. Frederick Sanger (UK) identified the molecular structure of insulin in the 1950s. In the early 1960s, Panayotis Katsoyannis (US) and Helmut Zahn (Germany) independently invented the first synthetic insulin, but it was not specifically designed for humans. In 1977, a team of scientists (Arthur Riggs, Keiichi Itakura and Herbert Boyer) created the first genetically engineered synthetic ‘human’ insulin. It went on the market in 1982 as Humulin.
Frederick Banting (right) and Charles Best in 1924.
TISSUES – 1924 – Kimberly-Clark Co. – US
For centuries, residents of Japan have used tissue paper, or washi, to blow their noses. Facial tissue as we know it today was introduced by Kimberly-Clark Co. in 1924 for removing makeup and/or the cold cream used to remove makeup, under the name Kleenex. In a short time, however, consumers began using tissues as disposable handkerchiefs and the company changed its marketing strategy. In 1928, the first pop-up tissue box appeared. In 1929, tissues of various colors were introduced. In 1932, pocket packs arrived.
A 1920s advertisement for Kleenex as a cold cream remover.
TELEVISION – 1925 – John Logie Baird – Scotland
Television had many inventors. Abbe Giovanna Caselli (Italy) transmitted the first still image over an electronic wire in 1862. In 1877, George Carey (US) designed a machine that would use selenium to allow people to see electrically-transmitted images; by 1880, he had built a primitive system with light-sensitive cells. In 1884, Paul Nipkow (Germany) sent images over wires with 18 lines of resolution using a rotating metal disk (mechanical model). In 1906, Lee De Forest (US) invented the Audion vacuum tube, which could amplify electronic signals. In the same year, Boris Rosing (Russia) combined a cathode ray tube with Nipkow’s disk to make a working television. In 1907, Rosing begin developing an electronic scanning method of reproducing images using a cathode ray tube (electronic model). In 1908, Alan Campbell-Swinton (UK) described how a cathode ray tube could be used as a transmitting and receiving device in a television system. In 1909, Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier (France) demonstrated instantaneous transmission of images in a mechanical system. In 1911, Rosing and Vladimir Zworykin (Russia) developed a mechanical/electronic system that transmitted crude images. In 1923, Zworykin (now in the US) patented a TV camera tube, the iconoscope, and later the kinescope, or receiver, although a 1925 demonstration was unimpressive. On March 25, 1925, John Logie Baird (Scotland) demonstrated transmission of silhouette images. In May, 1925, Bell Labs transmitted still images. On June 13, 1925, Charles Francis Jenkins (US) transmitted the silhouette image of a moving toy over a distance of five miles. Also in 1925, Zworykin patented a color TV system. On December 25, 1925, Kenjiro Takayanagi (Japan) demonstrated a mechanical/electronic system with 40 lines of resolution. In the USSR, Leon Theremin developed a series of increasingly higher resolution television systems, from 16 lines in 1925 to 100 lines in 1927. On January 26, 1926, Baird demonstrated a system with 30 lines of resolution, running at five frames per second, showing a recognizable human face. Also in 1926, Kálmán Tihanyi (Hungary) solved the problem of low sensitivity to light in television cameras through charge-storage. In 1927, Philo Farnsworth patented the Image Dissector, the first complete electronic television system. On April 7, 1927, Herbert Ives and Frank Gray of Bell Labs (US) demonstrated a mechanical television system that produced much higher-quality images than any prior system. Charles Jenkins received the first television station license in 1928. In 1929, Zworykin demonstrated both transmission and reception of images in an electronic system. After a series of improvements to his design, Farnsworth transmitted live human images in 1929. In 1931, Jenkins invented the Radiovisor and began selling it as a do-it-yourself kit. Manfred von Ardenne (Germany) demonstrated a new type of system in 1931. Farnsworth gave a public demonstration of an all-electronic TV system, with a live camera, on August 25, 1934. The BBC began the first public television service on November 2, 1936 with 405 lines of resolution. In 1937, the BBC used new equipment that was far superior to prior systems. In 1940, Peter Goldmark invented a mechanical color TV system with 343 lines of resolution. In 1941, the US adopted a 525-line standard. In 1943, Zworkin developed an improved camera tube that allowed recording of night events. In 1948, USSR began broadcasting at 625-lines of resolution, which was eventually adopted throughout Europe. Cable television was introduced in 1948 to bring television to rural areas. Videotape broadcasting was introduced in 1956 by Ampex. In 1962, the launching of the Telstar satellite permitted international broadcasting. Color televisions began to outnumber black & white TVs in the 1970s. Satellite television began in 1983. High definition TV appeared in 1998. Analog broadcast TV ended on June 12, 2009, leaving digital television.
John Logie Baird, with one of his earliest television systems. In the end, it was the electronic path of Zworkin and Farnsworth that carried the day.
CARDIAC PACEMAKER – 1926 – Mark Lidwell & Edgar Booth – Australia
There are reports of using electrical shocks to revive seemingly dead persons going back to the 18th Century. The theory behind the pacemaker was established in 1899, when J.A. McWilliam reported that applying an electric impulse to a non-beating heart could cause it to contract. In 1926, physician Mark Lidwell and physicist Edgar Booth (Australia) constructed a portable device for external use that had variable rate and voltage. In 1928, the device was used to revive a stillborn infant. Albert Hyman (US) independently devised a similar artificial pacemaker in 1932. John Hopps (Canada), using medical information from Dr. Wilfred Bigelow, created a pacemaker in 1950, although it was crude and painful. In 1950-1952, Paul Zoll (US) devised a smaller pacemaker with a battery. William Weirich (US) conducted numerous animal experiments with a myocardial electrode, which he published in 1957, showing its efficacy. Alberto Vejarano Laverde and Jorge Reynolds Pombo (Colombia) constructed and successfully used an external pacemaker in 1958 that was connected to electrodes attached to the heart. Once silicon transistors became available in 1956, pacemakers became more practical. In 1958, Earl Bakken (US) invented the first wearable external pacemaker. Rune Elmqvistand & Ake Senning (Sweden) invented the first implantable pacemaker in 1958. In 1959, Furman and Schwedel demonstrated temporary transvenous pacemaking. Wilson Greatbatch (US) developed an implantable pacemaker with primary cells that was first used in humans in 1960. Transvenous pacing with an implanted pacemaker first took place in 1962-1963 by doctors in the US (Parsonnet), Sweden (Lagergren) and France (Welti). Issues with body fluids were resolved by a hermetically-sealed titanium case, designed by Telectronics (Australia) in 1969 and Cardiac Pacemakers, Inc. (US) in 1972. Greatbatch’s development of the lithium-iodide battery in 1971 greatly improved the lifetime and reliability of implanted pacemakers.
External pacemaker made by Paul Zoll in the early 1950s.
AEROSOL CAN – 1926 – Erik Rotheim – Norway
Aerosol cans contain gas and a liquid held under pressure so that when a valve is opened, the liquid is forced out a small hole and emerges as a mist or aerosol. In 1790, self-pressurized carbonated beverages were introduced in France. In 1837, Charles Plinth, or Perpigna, invented a soda siphon with a valve. In 1862, heavy steel spray cans were tested. Inventors Helbling and Pertsch patented aerosols in 1899. In 1926-1927, Norwegian engineer Erik Rotheim patented the first aerosol can and valve that could hold and dispense products and propellant systems. He received a U.S. patent for the invention in 1931. In 1939, Julian S. Kahn (US) obtained a patent for a disposable spray can but did not appear to develop it. In 1941-1943, Americans Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivan created a small aerosol can for soldiers to spray insects carrying malaria. In 1948, the U.S. government gave licenses to three companies to make aerosols. In 1949, Robert Abplanalp (US) invented a crimp-on valve that allowed liquids to be sprayed from a can under the pressure of an inert gas. Also in 1949, Edward Seymour invented canned spray paint. The gases used in the earliest aerosol cans were fluorocarbons, which were found to destroy the ozone layer, so in the 1970s, Abplanalp substituted water-soluble hydrocarbons. Abplanalp also invented a clog-free valve and the pump spray.
One of the anti-malaria aerosol cans sent with American troops in World War II.
QUARTZ CLOCK – 1927 – Warren A. Marrison, Canada/US; and J.W. Horton, US
By using an electronic oscillator that is regulated by a quartz crystal, quartz clocks are much more accurate than mechanical clocks. Jacques and Pierre Curie (France) first discovered the piezoelectric properties of quartz in 1880. Walter G. Cady (US) built the first quartz crystal oscillator in 1921. In 1923, D.W. Dye (UK) and Warren Marrison (US) independently produced sequences of precision time signals with quartz oscillators. In 1927, Marrison and J.W. Horton created the first quartz clock at Bell Telephone Labs. In 1967, Centre Electronique Horloger (Switzerland) and Seiko (Japan) developed prototypes of analog quartz wristwatches. Seiko produced the first commercial quartz watch, the Astron, in 1969.
The first quartz clock, built in 1927 by Marrison and Horton at Bell Labs.
ANTIBIOTICS – 1928 – Alexander Fleming – Scotland
There are many kinds of antibiotics, but there are two basic types: (1) bactericidal antibiotics kill bacteria; (2) bacteriostatic antibiotics stop bacteria from multiplying. Antibiotics may also be categorized by whether they are naturally-occurring or synthetic. People in ancient Egypt, China and Mesoamerica used molds to treat infected wounds. The germ theory of disease, propagated by Louis Pasteur (France) in the mid-19th Century, sparked the search for antibiotic agents. In 1871, Joseph Lister discovered that bacteria would not grow in mold-infected urine. John Tyndall (Ireland/UK) noted fungal inhibition of bacteria in 1875. In 1895, Italian physician Vincenzo Tiberio noted that the Penicillium mold killed bacteria. In the 1890s, Rudolf Emmerich and Oscar Löw (Germany) created an antibiotic but it often failed. In 1904 Paul Ehrlich (Germany) sought the ‘magic bullet’ against syphilis and systematically tested hundreds of substances before finding Salvorsan in 1909. In 1928, Alexander Fleming (Scotland) discovered that a mold, Penicillium notatum, destroyed bacterial colonies. In 1932, German scientists at Bayer (Josef Klarer, Fritz Mietzsch and Gerhard Domagk) synthesized and tested the first sulfa drug, Prontosil. In 1939, Rene Dubos (France/US) created the first commercially manufactured antibiotic – tyrothricin – although it proved too toxic for systemic usage. After years of research following up on Fleming’s discovery, Howard Florey (Australia/UK), Norman Heatley (UK), Ernst Chain (Germany/UK) and Andrew J. Moyer (US) developed a method of manufacturing penicillin as a drug in 1942. In 1943, Selman Waksman (US), derived stretomycin from soil bacteria. In 1955, Lloyd Conover (US) patented tetracycline. In 1957, Nystatin was patented. SmithKline Beecham patented the semisynthetic antibiotic amoxicillin in 1981; it was first sold in 1998. A major concern throughout the history of antibiotics is the development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, which is such a significant problem that researchers are looking for alternatives to antibiotic treatments.
Fleming, Chain and Florey shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1945 for their work on penicillin.
SLICED BREAD – 1928 – Otto Frederick Rohwedder – US
Otto Rohwedder (US) invented a prototype bread-slicing machine in 1912, but it was destroyed in a fire. By 1928, he had built a fully-working machine that sliced a loaf of bread and wrapped it, keeping it fresh. He sold the first machine to his friend Frank Bench, who installed it at the Chillicothe Baking Co., where the first sliced bread was sold on July 7, 1928. Gustav Papendick (US) bought the machine and made improvements on the wrapping design. In 1930, Continental Baking Co. introduced Wonder Bread – a loaf of sliced, packaged bread. By 1933, American bakeries were making more sliced than unsliced bread. In 1943, the U.S. government briefly banned sliced bread to aid the war effort, causing great consternation.
A 1930 demonstration of a bread slicing machine in St. Louis, Missouri.
ELECTRIC RAZOR – 1928 – Jacob Schick – US/Canada
Jacob Schick (US/Canada) invented the first electric razor in 1928. Remington Rand Corp. produced a more advanced model in 1937. Alexandre Horowitz (Belgium/The Netherlands), of Philips, invented the rotary electric razor in 1939. Battery-operated electric razors were introduced in the mid-1960s. The original electric razors were intended to be used on dry skin, but recent models permit use in wet shaving.
A 1932 advertisement for an electric razor.
ADHESIVE TAPE – 1930 – Richard Drew/3M – US
In 1845, Horace Day invented pressure-sensitive adhesive. Oscar Troplowitz (Germany) invented an adhesive patch called Leukoplast for Beiersdorf AG in 1901. In 1908, Swiss engineer Jacques Brandenberger invented Cellophane. Richard Drew (US), of 3M, invented Scotch Tape, the first transparent adhesive tape, in 1930 by adding pressure sensitive adhesive to one side of a piece of cellophane. In 1932, John Borden, also of 3M created a Scotch tape dispenser. A similar product called Sellotape was invented by Colin Kininmonth and George Gray (UK) in 1937. In 1961, 3M created Scotch Brand Magic Transparent Tape.
A dispenser of Scotch Tape from 1942.
ELECTRON MICROSCOPE – 1931 – Ernst Ruska & Max Knoll – Germany
Hans Busch (Germany) developed the first electromagnetic lens in 1926, and laid down the theoretical framework for the electron microscope. In 1931, physicist Ernst Ruska and engineer Max Knoll (Germany) made a prototype transmission electron microscope (TEM); Ruska built a more powerful microscope in 1933. Reinhold Rudenberg (Germany) of Seimens-Schuckertwerke obtained the patent for a TEM in 1931. Ernst Lubcke (Germany) of Siemens & Halske built a prototype TEM in 1932, based on Rudenberg’s design. Ladislaus Marton (Belgium) constructed a number of primitive TEMs and produced the first micrograph in 1934. In 1936, L.C. Martin (UK) of Imperial University produced the E.M.1 TEM for Metropolitan Vickers. Then, in 1937, Siemens sponsored Ernst Ruska, his brother Helmut Ruska and Bodo von Borries to develop applications for the microscope. Manfred von Ardenne invented the scanning electron microscope (SEM) in 1937. The first practical TEM was built in 1938 by Eli Franklin Burton (Canada), a professor at the University of Toronto, and his students Cecil Hall, James Hillier, and Albert Prebus (Canada). Siemens developed the first commercial TEM in 1939. Hitachi (Japan) developed a number of ultrahigh voltage TEMs in 1954 (300 kV), 1964 (500 kV), 1968 (650 kV), 1969 (1 MeV), 1970 (3 MeV), and 1976 (1250 kV). Cambridge Instruments introduced the first commercial SEM in 1964. In 1988, Electroscan produced the first commercial environmental scanning electron microscope. In 2000, Harald Rose (Germany), Maximilian Haider (Austria) and Knut Urban (Germany) developed the aberration-corrected TEM.
A replica of Ernst Ruska’s 1933 electron microscope.
PARKING METER – 1932 – Carlton C. Magee – US
Roger W. Babson (US) filed the first patent for a parking meter on August 30, 1928. The design required the automobile to be connected to the meter. In 1935, Oklahoma City lawyer and journalist Carlton “Carl” Magee chose Oklahoma State engineering professors Holger Thuesen and Gerald Hale (US) to build a parking meter. The resulting “Black Maria” was installed in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935. Industrial production began in 1936 and lasted until the mid-1980s with only minor variations in the design. The first parking meter in England was installed on July 10, 1958 in London. In the mid-1980s, digital parking meters replaced the original versions. In 1992, the POM Co. began selling a fully electronic parking meter that ran on solar or battery power. In the 2000s, multi-space meters and pay by space meters began to dominate.
Magee’s original parking meter from 1935, now in an Oklahoma museum.
POLYETHYLENE – 1935 – Eric Fawcett & Reginald Gibson – UK
Polyethylene is the most common type of plastic in use today. German chemist Hans von Pechmann was the first to synthesize polyethylene, albeit accidentally, while heating diazomethane in 1898. His colleagues Eugen Bamberger and Friedrich Tschirner (Germany) analyzed the resulting substance and named it polymethylene. In 1933, Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson (UK) of ICI, accidentally synthesized polyethylene using a very high pressure method that was industrially practical (unlike von Pechmann’s). ICI chemist Michael Perrin was able to reproduce the synthesis in 1935 and industrial production of the plastic began in 1939. Its first use was for insulation of radar cables during World War II. In 1951, Robert Banks and J. Paul Hogan (US) at Philips Petroleum discovered a catalyst that allowed synthesis of polyethylene at milder temperatures and pressures. Karl Ziegler (Germany) discovered an even better catalyst in 1953. Polyethylene now comes in two basic types: (1) hard, or HDPE or (2) soft, or LDPE.
A 3-D model of a polyethylene molecule.
BALLPOINT PEN – 1935 – László & György Bíró – Hungary
Quill pens were the standard until the 19th Century, when inventors began creating pens that could hold their own ink. In 1884, L.E. Waterman (US) invented the first fountain pen, which would be the standard design until the 1940s. In the late 19th Century, pens were invented in which ink was placed in a thin tube with a tiny ball at the end. The ink clung to the ball and the ball spun as the pen wrote. In 1888, John J. Loud (US) invented and patented a ballpoint pen for writing on leather, but it didn’t work well on paper and the patent expired. Over 300 ballpoint pen patents were filed between 1890 and 1930, but each one had problems and none was produced commercially. In 1935, László and György Bíró (Hungary) developed a much more effective ink formula and ball-socket mechanism, which they patented in 1938. They moved to Argentina in 1943 and further improved the design, which they manufactured. Because the new pens worked at high altitudes, the British government obtained a license from the Biros for RAF aircrews. In 1945, Eversharp Co. and Eberhard Faber Co. obtained the license from Biro to sell in the US. At about the same time, Milton Reynolds (US) bought a Biro pen in Argentina and modified it enough to obtain a US patent. He introduced his version, the Reynolds Rocket, at Gimbels in New York City on October 29, 1945, where he sold 10,000 pens the first day. In the UK, the Miles-Martin Pen Company markets ballpoint pens in December 1945. In 1949, Patrick J. Frawley and Fran Seech (US) began working on improvements to the ballpoint pen and by 1950 had developed a pen with a retractable tip and no-smear ink called the Papermate. They continued to introduce improved ink formulas in the 1950s. Marcel Bich (France) introduced a Biro-design pen to the US in 1950 and an improved version with a clear-barrel in 1952. The brand name was changed to BIC in 1953. In 1954, Parker Pens released The Jotter, which was more reliable and convenient than earlier models. In 1957, Parker introduced a pen using a tungsten carbide textured ball bearing. By 1960, BIC dominated the ballpoint pen market.
A birome pen made by the Biro brothers in Argentina in the 1940s.
MONOPOLY – 1935 – Charles Darrow, et al. – US
Elizabeth Magie (US) created a board game called The Landlord’s Game in 1902 (patented in 1904) with the intent of illustrating the Georgist economic concept of a single land tax. Some hand-made boards were made between 1902 and 1906, when it was first manufactured and published. A version of the game called Brer Fox an’ Brer Rabbit was published in the UK in 1913. Variant versions of the game were played and spread by Quakers, Georgists and college students and professors. At some point after 1910, a shorter version of the game that eliminated the second round became known as Auction Monopoly and eventually just Monopoly. Magie (now Magie Phillips) patented a revised version of The Landlord’s Game in 1924. In 1926, Daniel Layman (US) learned the Monopoly game and began producing a modified version of it in 1932 under the name The Fascinating Game of Finance (eventually just Finance). At the same time, a modified version of The Landlord’s Game called Prosperity was also published. Ruth Hoskins learned to play Monopoly in Indianapolis, Layman’s home town, but then brought it to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she made a new board with Atlantic City street names. This version ended up being taught to Charles Darrow of Philadelphia, who began to distribute hand-made versions of the game and then brought in a printing company to print his home-made designs on the board. Darrow obtained a patent in 1933. In 1934, Darrow brought the game to Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers, both of whom rejected it, but Parker Brothers reconsidered in 1935. To avoid patent disputes, Parker Brothers also bought the patents to The Landlord Game and Finance and settled with the owners of Inflation, Big Business and Easy Money, all of which were derived from The Landlord Game. A British version using London locations was first produced in 1936 and subsequently a variety of European versions were sold. The first Monopoly card game was developed in 1972. World Championship tournaments began in 1973. In 1985, the first spin-off board game was created. In 1989, Hasbro began producing the first of many video and computer game versions. In 1990, ABC broadcast 12 episodes of a television game show based on Monopoly. The same year, Monopoly Junior was introduced. Beginning in 1994, variations of the game, made to fit different cities or themes have been produced.
One of Charles Darrow’s hand-made Monopoly sets from 1933.
JET ENGINE – 1937 – Frank Whittle, UK and Han Von Ohain, Germany
Ancient Greek scientist Archytas is reputed to have invented an artificial, self-propelled flying device that flew 200 meters propelled by a jet of steam between 400 and 350 BCE. In 150 BCE, Hero of Alexandria described a device called an aeolipile that used steam to cause a sphere to spin rapidly on its axis. Chinese engineers invented rockets in the 13th Century and Lagari Hasan Çelebi, of the Ottoman Empire, reputedly launched himself into the air on a homemade rocket in 1633. John Barber (UK) patented a turbine design in 1791. Charles Parsons (UK) invented the steam turbine in 1884. In 1903, Aegidius Elling (Norway) built the first gas turbine with a centrifugal compressor. Between 1903 and 1906, Armengaud and Lemale (France) built an inefficient gas turbine engine. Hans Holzwarth (Germany) began work on an explosive cycle gas turbine in 1908 and reached 13% efficiency by 1927. In 1908, René Lorin (France) patented a ramjet engine, which was modified by Georges Marconnet (France) in 1909 to create the pulsejet. In 1910, Henri Coandă (Romania) built and briefly flew the Coandă-1910, the first motorjet. Sanford Alexander Moss (US) began work on turbochargers at General Electric in 1917. In 1921, Maxime Guillaume (France) designed the first axial-flow turbine engine. In a seminal 1926 paper, Alan Arnold Griffith (UK) explained how jet engines are possible. A single-shaft turbocompressor based on Griffith’s theory was tested in the UK in 1927. Frank Whittle (UK) presented a jet engine design to the UK Air Force in 1928 but it was rejected. He submitted a patent for the design in 1930. Also in 1930, Paul Schmidt (Germany) patented a pulsejet engine. In 1931, Secondo Campini (Italy) patented a motorjet engine. In 1934, Hans Von Ohain (Germany) patented a jet propulsion engine. In April 1937, Whittle bench tested an engine with a single-stage centrifugal compressor coupled to a single-stage turbine, a prototype of the turbojet engine. In September 1937, Von Ohain and Ernst Heinkel (Germany) bench tested a jet engine. Also in 1937, György Jendrassik (Hungary) designed and built the first working turboprop engine, although it was never installed in a plane. Heinkel built an airplane to test Von Ohain’s engine – the Heinkel He178 – which flew for the first time on August 27, 1939. Von Ohain then improved his design and flew it in the He S.8A aircraft on April 2, 1941. On May 15, 1941, the Pioneer aircraft flew with a Whittle engine (the W1) for the first time. A centrifugal jet engine designed by Frank Halford (Scotland) called the de Havilland Goblin flew in 1942. Anselm Franz (Austria) improved on the centrifugal jets by creating the axial-flow compressor, with the first test in 1940. His engine was used in the Messerschmitt Me 262 in 1942. The first axial-flow engine in the UK, the Metrovick F.2, was tested in 1941 and flown in 1943. By the 1950s, almost all combat aircraft used jet engines. In 1952, the first commercial jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet, entered the market, and by the 1960s, almost all large civilian aircraft were jet-powered. In the 1970s, the high bypass jet engine increased fuel efficiency beyond that of piston and propeller engines.
In an undated photo, Frank Whittle stands next to the prototype of his jet engine.
PHOTOCOPIER – 1937 – Chester F. Carlson – US
Chester Carlson (US) developed his original electronic photocopying process in 1938, using a zinc plate covered with sulfur. His invention was rejected by 20 companies, including IBM and GE. In 1944, the Battelle Memorial Institute contracted with Carlson to improve the design. In 1947, Haloid Corp. obtained a license from Carlson to create a copy machine. Haloid changed its name to Xerox Machines and introduced the first model in 1949. A copier using a different process was introduced by RCA in the early 1950s. Beginning in the 1960s, Savin Corp. developed liquid toner copiers. The first color copier was released by 3M in 1968, using a dye sublimation process. Gary Starkweather of Haloid (now Xerox) invented the laser printer in 1969. In 1973, Canon introduced an electrostatic color copier. Some photocopiers now have inkjet or transfer film technology. Many copiers are now digital and consist of a combination scanner/laser printer.
On the left is the first Xerox copier, from 1949. On the top right is Chester Carlson with his original 1938 prototype.
TEFLON – 1938 – Roy Plunkett – US
Teflon is a synthetic plastic with the chemical name of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). In 1938, Kinetic Chemicals chemist Roy Plunkett (US) was trying to create a new refrigerant when he found an unknown substance had formed during an experiment. It was analyzed and identified as PTFE. Kinetic (which was co-owned by DuPont and GM) patented the new material and registered the trademark Teflon in 1945. By 1948, DuPont was making 900 tons of Teflon annually for a variety of uses. Marc Grégoire (France) created the first Teflon coated pan in 1954 and marketed it as Tefal or T-fal. Marion A. Trozzolo (US) marketed a Teflon-coated frying pan, called “The Happy Pan”, in 1961. Studies of PTFE indicate that at high temperatures the substance can break down into decomposition products that may be harmful to birds and humans. Also, Teflon is used to describe people to whom criticism doesn’t seem to stick.
Jack Rebok, left, and Roy Plunkett, right, with another chemist, Bob McHarness, reenact the 1938 discovery of Teflon at the Jackson Laboratory, Du Pont Chambers Works, Deepwater, New Jersey.
ELECTRONIC DIGITAL COMPUTER – 1941 – Konrad Zuse – Germany
The Ancient Greeks made analog computing machines to perform astronomical calculations, including the Antikythera mechanism and astrolabe (c. 150-100 BCE) and Hero of Alexandria’s automata and programmable cart (c. 10-70 CE). Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (Persia) invented the planisphere in 1000 CE; Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Zarqali (Moorish Spain) invented an equatorium and latitude-independent astrolabe about 1015 CE. In China, Su Song created an astronomical clock in 1090 CE. John Napier (Scotland) invented Napier’s Bones, an abacus-like device, in 1617. William Oughtred (UK) and others invented the slide rule in 1622. In 1623, Wilhelm Schickard (Germany) invented a calculating clock but it was destroyed in a fire in 1624. Blaise Pascal (France) created a mechanical calculator (Pascaline) in 1642 and built 20 copies, nine of which survive. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (Germany) invented the Stepped Reckoner in 1672; he also described the binary number system. In 1801, Josephe-Marie Jacquard (France) used punch cards to control a loom weaving a pattern. Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar (France) made the first successful mass-produced mechanical calculator – the Thomas Arithmometer – in 1820. Between 1833 and 1837, Charles Babbage (UK) used a punch card system to design an analytical engine that, if ever completed, would have been the first programmable computer. (In 1843, Per Georg and Edward Schulz, of Sweden, built a working model of an older, less sophisticated Babbage design – the difference engine.) Beginning in the 1880s, a number of other mechanical calculators arrived that were based on Colmar’s Arithmometer, such as: the comptometer (Dorr Felt, US, 1887); the Addiator (Louis Troncet, France, 1889); the Yazu Arithmometer (Ryoichi Yazu, Japan, 1903); the Monroe (Jay R. Monroe, US, 1912); the Addo-X (AB Addo, Sweden, 1918); and the Curta (Curt Herzstark, Austria, 1948). Late in the 1880s, Herman Hollerith (US) used punch cards on a machine that could store and read the data contained on them by using a tabulator and a key punch machine. The machine was used to tabulate the 1890 U.S. Census. Hollerith’s company eventually became IBM. In the first half of the 20th Century, a number of analog computers were developed, usually for specific purposes. These include the Dumaresq (John Dumaresq, UK, 1902); Arthur Pollen’s fire-control system (UK, 1912); the differential analyzer (H.L. Hazen and Vannevar Bush/MIT, US, 1927); the FERMIAC (Enrico Fermi, Italy/US, 1947); MONIAC (US, 1949); Project Cyclone (Reeves, US, 1950); Project Typhoon (RCA, US, 1952); and the AKAT-1 (Jacek Karpiński, Poland, 1959). In 1909, Percy Ludgate, of Ireland, apparently unaware of Babbage’s work, independently designed a programmable mechanical computer. In 1936, Alan Turing (UK) published a paper that described the Turing Machine – the theoretical basis for all modern computers. John von Neumann (Hungary/US) invented a computer architecture based on Turing’s theory. In a 1937 MIT master’s thesis, Claude Shannon (US) showed how electronic relays and switches can realize the expressions of Boolean algebra. In 1937, George Stibitz (US), of Bell Labs, invented and built the first relay-based calculator to use binary form – the Model K. Starting in 1936, Konrad Zuse (Germany) built a series of progressively more complex programmable binary computers with memory: the Z1 (1938) never worked reliably, but the Z3 (May 1941) is considered by some the first working programmable fully automatic modern computer that meets the criteria for Alan Turing’s “universal machine.” In 1939, John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry (US) at Iowa State created the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, which was electronic and digital but not programmable. In 1940, George Stibitz and his team produced and demonstrated their Complex Number Calculator. In 1943, Max Newman, Tommy Flowers and others (UK) built the Mk I Colossus, a computer designed to break the German encryption system, building on 1941 work by Britons Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman (who in turn built on 1938 work by Marian Rejewski, of Poland). Some consider Colossus to be the world’s first electronic programmable computing device. The improved Mk II Colossus followed in 1944. Also in 1944, the Harvard Mark I began operation, after being built at IBM’s Endicott labs by a team headed by Howard Aiken, starting in 1939. Beginning in 1943, the U.S. Government sponsored the development of ENIAC under the lead of John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert (US) at the University of Pennsylvania. When it began operating at the end of 1945, ENIAC met all of Alan Turing’s criteria for a true computer. Also in 1945, Konrad Zuse developed the Z4, which unquestionably met Turing’s criteria. Improvements to ENIAC in 1948 made it possible to execute stored programs set in function table memory. Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill (UK) at Victoria University of Manchester, built the Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, or “Baby” in 1948, the first stored-program computer. Baby led to the Manchester Mark 1, which became operational in 1949. The Mark 1, in turn, led to the first commercial computer, the Ferranti Mark 1, in 1951. Maurice Wilkes (UK) at Cambridge developed the EDSAC in 1949. Not to be outdone, Australians Trevor Pearcey and Maston Beard built CSIRAC in 1949. Another commercial computer was the LEO I, made by J. Lyons & Co. (UK) in 1951. Also in 1951, the U.S. Census Bureau purchased a UNIVAC I (essentially a variation of ENIAC using a new metal magnetic tape) from Remington Rand. After years of delays, EDVAC, Eckert and Mauchly’s follow-up to ENIAC, began operations in 1951 at the Ballistics Research Lab. IBM began marketing the 701, its first mainframe computer, in 1952. In 1954, IBM released the IBM 650, a smaller, more affordable computer. Maurice Wilkes (UK) invented microprogramming in 1955. In 1956, IBM introduced the first hard disk drive – it could store five megabytes of data. Beginning about 1953, transistors began replacing vacuum tubes in computers. The invention of the integrated circuit, or microchip, led to the invention of the microprocessor in the late 1960s.
A reconstructed model of Konrad Zuse’s Z3 computer. The original was destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II.
NUCLEAR ENERGY – 1942 – Enrico Fermi, Italy/US, et al.
In 1898, Pierre and Marie Curie (France) discovered radiation. In 1902, Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy (UK) identified that radiation was caused when atoms broke down into other elements. In 1934, Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie (France) discovered induced radioactivity by bombarding materials with neutrons. At the same time, Leó Szilárd (Hungary/UK/US) proposed the notion of a nuclear chain reaction using neutrons. Enrico Fermi (Italy) increased the effectiveness of induced radioactivity in the 1930s. In 1938, Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassmann (Germany), Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch (Austria) discovered nuclear fission, whereby the neutron split uranium atoms into two roughly equal pieces. Leó Szilárd (Hungary) and others soon recognized that a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction could be produced. Frédéric Joliot-Curie confirmed this finding experimentally in 1939. Fermi emigrated to the US and developed the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, which reached criticality on December 2, 1942. Between 1942 and 1945, the US and UK collaborated on the Manhattan Project, led by J. Robert Oppenheimer (US), to create atomic bombs using uranium and plutonium. A successful test of a plutonium device occurred on July 16, 1945. A uranium bomb was exploded over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and a plutonium bomb was detonated over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. The first use of nuclear power to create electricity occurred at the EBR-1 experimental station in Idaho (US) on December 20, 1951. The hydrogen bomb was developed by a US team led by Edward Teller (US) in 1952. A nuclear powered US submarine was tested in 1953 and launched in 1954. The USSR’s Obninsk Nuclear Power Plant became the first nuclear plant to generate enough electricity for a power grid as of June 27, 1954. The Calder Hill nuclear plant in the UK became the first large-scale commercial station in 1956, while Shippingport, the first commercial nuclear reactor in the US, became active in December 1957. (A US Army plant supplied electricity to a grid in April 1957.)
The first electricity generated by a nuclear reactor illuminates four light bulbs in an Idaho experimental laboratory in December 1951.
ASSAULT RIFLE – 1942 – Hugo Schmeisser – Germany
An assault rifle can selectively fire as a semi-automatic, automatic and/or burst rifle and has an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Amerigo Cei-Rigotti (Italy) invented a precursor of the assault rifle between 1890-1900; it was issued in 1905 but never used in service. In 1891, Mexican Army General Manuel Mondragón began designing an early semi-automatic rifle – the Mondragón rifle – which he patented in 1907 and manufactured in 1908. The Russian Fedorov Avtomat, another precursor, was introduced in 1915. France introduced a light machine gun, the Chauchat, in 1915. John Browning (US) designed the M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle in 1917, based on the Chauchat. Introduced in 1918, the French Ribeyrolles 1918 was probably the first real assault rifle, but it was rejected in 1921 for inaccuracy. Early submachine guns such as the Villar Perosa (Italy, 1914), the Beretta Model 1918 (Italy, 1918), the MP18 (Germany, 1918) and the Thompson submachine gun (John J. Thompson, US, 1919), were important steps in the development of the assault rifle. In further developments, Denmark created the Weibel M/1932 in 1932; Germany developed the Vollmer M35 in 1934-1938; Italy made the MAB 38 in 1938; and Greece made the EPK light machine gun in 1939. The US introduced the M1 carbine in 1942, which was not selective fire, although the later M2 and M3 versions were. In 1942, German arms maker Walther introduced the MKb42(W) automatic carbine, while Haenel produced the MKb42(H), designed by Hugo Schmeisser, and Rheinmetall-Borsig created the FG 42. Of the four, Schmeisser’s design, eventually termed the StG 44, was selected for mass production. The StG 44 is considered the first modern assault rifle. Wilhelm Stähle (Germany) designed the StG 45(M) assault rifle in 1944; it was modified between 1946-1949. In 1947, Mikhail Kalashnikov (USSR) developed the AK-47. Dieudonné Saive and Ernest Vervier (Belgium) designed the FN FAL in 1947-1953; it was put in service in 1954. Stefan Kenneth Janson (UK) designed the EM-2 rifle in 1948-1950; it was deployed in 1951. Rudolf Amsler (Switzerland) designed the SIG SG 510 in the 1950s; it was put in service in 1957. Eugene Stoner (US) designed the AR-10 and it was produced beginning in 1956. The US produced the M14 rifle in 1959. Stoner and L. James Sullivan designed the M16 assault rifle in 1956; it began in service in 1962. The most recent version of the M16 is the M4 carbine, which was put in service in 1994.
A German soldier at the Russian front carrying an SG-44 assault rifle during World War II.
MICROWAVE OVEN – 1945 – Percy L. Spencer – US
A microwave oven heats food by bombarding it with electromagnetic radiation in the microwave spectrum, which causes polarized molecules in the food to rotate and build up heat energy. The cavity magnetron, invented by John Randall and Harry Boot (UK) in 1937-1940, produced small-wavelength electromagnetic waves called microwaves. Shortly thereafter, the UK gave a magnetron to Raytheon (US). In 1945, Raytheon scientist Percy Spencer (US) was working on a radar set with a magnetron when a candy bar in his pocket melted. He realized that the microwaves had heating power. Based on this discovery, Spencer developed the first microwave oven in 1945. His large energy-consuming Radarange went on the market in 1947; a less draining version came out in 1954. Tappan obtained a license from Spencer and built an oven designed for home use in 1955, but it was too large and expensive to succeed. Amana (a subsidiary of Raytheon) introduced the first true countertop microwave oven in 1967. In the late 1960s, Litton developed a microwave with the short, wide shape that is now common.
Raytheon’s first commercial microwave oven, introduced in 1947, stood six feet tall.
DISPOSABLE DIAPERS – 1946 – Marion Donovan – US
The term diaper first referred to the type of cloth, not its use; the first modern use of the term is found in 1590s England, even though the term ‘diaper’ is now common in the U.S., while the term ‘nappy’ is used in the UK and Commonwealth countries. In the 19th Century, diapers were made of cotton, with a fastening (eventually a safety pin). Maria Allen (US) was the first to mass-produce cloth diapers in 1887. Sometimes caregivers would put wool pants or rubber pants (after rubber was available) over the diaper to prevent leakage. Diaper rash and infection were a constant problem. Disposable diapers arose in the mid-20th Century. Robinsons of Chesterfield (UK) sold “Destroyable Babies Napkins” in the 1930s. In 1942, Hugo Drangel, of Pauliström (Sweden), placed paper tissue between the cloth and the rubber, but consumers found the result impractical. In 1946, Marion Donovan (US) cut up a shower curtain to create a waterproof plastic cover for a cloth diaper. The first was sold in 1949 as “the Boater”; and patents were issued in 1951. Later versions were fully disposable. In 1947, Valerie Hunter Gordon (UK) created Paddi, which consisted of two parts: an inner disposable cellulose/cotton pad and an outer plastic, adjustable cover with snaps. She applied for a UK patent in 1948 and received it in 1949, at the same signing a contract with Robinsons of Chesterfield to produce them. In 1949, Stanley Mason (US) created baby-shaped disposable diapers that did not need pins. In 1950, Ms. Hellerman (US) invented the pre-folded diaper. At the same time, Sybil Geeslin (US) invented a no-fold, no-pin, adjustable diaper. In 1956, Lil Karhola Wettergren (Sweden), Hugo Drangel’s daughter, improved on her father’s design, creating a Paddi-like two-part garment. In 1959, Victor Mills (US), at Procter & Gamble, invented Pampers, although they were not available to the public until 1961. Kimberly Clark introduced Huggies soon afterwards. In 1973, Procter & Gamble patented double gussets, which led to a snugger fit. In 1984, sodium polyacrylate was added to make the material more absorbent. In recent years, cloth diapers have become more popular due to environmental concerns about disposables.
Marion Donovan in 1949 with one of her disposable diapers.
TRANSISTOR – 1947 – John Bardeen, Walter Brattain & William Shockley/Bell Labs – US
A transistor is a device made of semiconductor material that amplifies and switches electronic signals and electrical power. The precursor to the transistor was the vacuum-tube triode, or thermionic valve, first created in 1907 by Lee De Forest (US). Julius Edgar Lilienfeld (Austria/Hungary) patented a field-effect transistor in 1925, but his work was ignored at the time. (Years later, William Shockley and Gerald Pearson (US) at Bell Labs made a functional device using Lilienfeld’s design.) German physicist Oskar Heil patented a field-effect transistor in 1934. In the mid-1940s, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain (US) built a semiconducting triode for use in military radar equipment. After the end of World War II, Schockley, Bardeen and Brattain went to work on using semiconductors to replace vacuum tubes in electrical systems. In December 1947, they created a germanium point-contact transistor – the first solid-state electronic transistor. In June 1948, Shockley designed a grown-junction transistor; a prototype was built in 1949. German physicists Herbert F. Mataré and Heinrich Welker invented a transistor they called the transistron in August 1948. In 1950, Shockley developed a bipolar junction transistor. Morgan Sparks (US), at Bell Labs, made the new transistor into a useful device. General Electric and RCA produced an alloy-junction transistor – a type of bipolar junction transistor – in 1951. By 1953, transistors were being used in products such as hearing aids and telephone exchanges. Dick Grimsdale (UK) built the first transistor computer in 1953. Also in 1953, Philco (US) invented the first surface-barrier transistor. In the early 1950s, Bell Labs also produced the first tetrode and pentode transistors. Around the same time, the spacistor was created, but it was soon obsolete. In 1954, two teams working independently invented the first silicon transistor: Morris Tanenbaum (US) at Bell Labs and Gordon Teal (US) at Texas Instruments. Also in 1954, Bell Labs produced the first diffusion transistor, while in 1955, Bell made the first diffused silicon mesa transistor, which was developed commercially by Fairchild Semiconductor (US) in 1958. Also in 1955, Tanenbaum and Calvin Fuller invented a much improved silicon transistor. The first gallium-arsenide Schottky-gate field-effect transistor was invented by Carver Mead (US) in 1966.
A replica of the point-contact transistor invented by Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain in 1947. It is now located in the Smithsonian Institution.
INSTANT PHOTOGRAPHY – 1947 – Edwin Land – US
The first instant camera was invented in 1923 by Samuel Shlafrock (US) and consisted of a camera and a portable darkroom in a single compartment. In 1947, Edwin Land (US) demonstrated the Polaroid Land Camera, which exposed a negative and made a positive print almost immediately. The system went on sale in 1948. Subsequently Keystone, Konica, Minolta and Kodak came out with instant cameras, although Polaroid sued Kodak in 1976 for copyright infringement and won in 1985. In 1960, Polaroid came out with the Automatic 100 Land Camera, designed by Henry Dreyfuss, and then the Polaroid Swinger in 1965. Polaroid switched from roll film to pack film in 1963; at the same time, it began offering color film. At first, Polaroid’s development process used wet chemicals and required the photographer to pull the negative and positive print apart by hand, but in 1972, Land introduced the SX-70, which was a dry process that developed the photo when exposed to light. Fujifilm (Japan) introduced an instant camera in the early 1980s called Fotorama and another in the late 1990s using Instax instant film. In 2001, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy. It stopped making instant cameras in 2007 and stopped making film in 2008. Austrian photographer Florian Kaps purchased the remaining film packs and sought to open a new production facility with André Bosman, calling it The Impossible Project. They released black and white film in 2010 and color in 2011. Although Polaroid announced production of a new instant camera, it was due by the end of 2010 and has not appeared. Vintage Polaroid instant cameras are highly sought after and Fuji continues to make instant cameras.
Edwin Land’s original instant camera, which went on sale in 1948.
VELCRO – 1948 – George de Mestral – Switzerland
Velcro is a hook and loop fastener that was invented by Swiss engineer George de Mestral in 1948. He was inspired by the burrs of the burdock plant. The first Velcro strips were made of cotton, but de Mestral soon switched to nylon. It took until 1951 to develop a mechanized process for making Velcro and de Mestral obtained patents for the product in 1955. Sylvia Porter announced the invention in her syndicated column on August 25, 1958 as a ‘zipperless zipper.’ In the 1960s, NASA used Velcro in space suits for astronauts and as an all-purpose fastener to keep objects from floating away in zero gravity. When de Mestral’s patent expired in 1978, numerous imitators entered the market. Velcro and other hook and loop fasteners are now common in homes, businesses, medicine, sports and recreation, government and the military as well as shoes, jackets and other clothing. (Puma made the first Velcro-fastened sneaker in 1968.) In 1984, David Letterman introduced a Velcro jumping wall for humans wearing Velcro suits. The U.S. Military added Velcro to the standard combat uniform in 2004, but the decision was reversed after numerous complaints about noise and sand. In 2013, Velcro USA introduced a silent Velcro called Quiet Closure.
A microscopic view of Velcro: hooks on the left, loops on the right.
CREDIT CARD – 1950 – Frank McNamara & Ralph Schneider – US
The idea of using a card to make purchases first occurred to Edward Bellamy (US) in his novel Looking Backward. The Charga-Plate, introduced in 1928 and used until the 1950s, was given to regular customers by some large merchants to make bookkeeping easier. In 1934, American Airlines and the Air Transport Association began giving out Air Travel Cards, which allowed travelers to buy airline tickets on credit and get a 15% discount. By 1941, half of all ticket sales were through the cards. By 1948, the card became the first internationally valid charge card – but only for International Air Transport Association members. Building on this concept, Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara (US) founded Diners Club in 1950. Their card originally could be used at 14 New York City restaurants. By 1952, the Diners’ Club card was accepted at 400 restaurants, 30 hotels and over 200 other businesses in six cities and became the first general purpose charge card. Unlike modern credit cards, the Diners’ Club required that the entire bill be paid with each statement. Soon afterward, Carte Blanche became the second all-purpose charge card. American Express arrived in 1958. In the same year, Bank of America introduced the BankAmericard, which was the first working revolving credit financial instrument issued by a third-party bank that was generally accepted by a large number of merchants. The BankAmericard evolved into the Visa card. In 1966, several banks formed Master Charge to compete with the BankAmericard, and that evolved into MasterCard. In 1967, Citibank created the Everything Card, but merged it into Master Charge in 1969. In the 1960s, the banks sent 100 million credit cards to consumers regardless of credit risk, leading to financial chaos. In 1970, a law restricted such mailings to credit card applications. In 1966, Barclay’s Bank in the UK launched the Barclaycard – the first credit card outside the US.
The Diners’ Club card of Alfred Bloomingdale, owner of Bloomingdale’s, from 1952.
CORRECTION FLUID – 1951 – Bette Nesmith – US
Bette Nesmith (US), mother of Mike Nesmith, of The Monkees, invented correction fluid in 1951 while working as a secretary. She began marketing it in 1956 as “Mistake Out”, but later changed the name to “Liquid Paper.” She sold her business to Gillette Corp. in 1979. The other major correction fluid in the US is Wite-Out, which was invented by George Kloosterhouse and Edwin Johanknecht (US) in 1966. They began selling the product in 1971. In 1981, Archibald Douglas (US) bought the company and changed the formula of Wite-Out from water-based to solvent-based, which solved some problems and created others. A reformulated product was announced in 1990. A Wite-Out pen was introduced in 1996. The most common correction fluid in Europe is made by the Germany company Tipp-Ex. Tipp-Ex’s first product was correction paper for typewriters, which was introduced in 1959. Tipp-Ex introduced its correction fluid in 1965. A correction pen followed in 1998.
Early examples of Bette Naismith’s correction fluid. It was called Mistake Out until the early 1960s, when she changed the name to Liquid Paper.
ORAL CONTRACEPTIVES – 1952-1956 – Gregory Pincus; Carl Djerassi; Frank Colton; John Rock – US
Also known as the birth control pill, or just “The Pill”, the combined oral contraceptive pill includes a combination of estrogen (estradiol) and progestogen (progestin). Margaret Sanger (US) began advocating for access to birth control in 1914. In 1916, she opened the first US birth control clinic, which led to her arrest. In 1921, Sanger formed the American Birth Control League, which later became Planned Parenthood. In the following decades, Sanger fought to overturn laws banning birth control methods and sought to educate the public about birth control. By the 1930s, scientists knew that high doses of certain steroid hormones inhibited ovulation in rabbits. European scientists had synthesized hormones but they were too expensive to import elsewhere. In 1939, Russell Marker (US) at Penn. State University, learned to synthesize progesterone from sarsaparilla, and then Mexican yams. In 1944, he and two partners started Syntex in Mexico and began producing synthetic steroid hormones. In 1951, Gregory Pincus (US) , a hormone specialist, attended a dinner with Sanger and Planned Parenthood medical director Abraham Stone. They urged Pincus to research the birth control possibilities of hormones. In 1951, Pincus’s colleague Min Chueh Chang (China/US) repeated a 1937 experiment showing that progesterone suppressed ovulation in rabbits. Also in 1951, Carl Djerassi (Austria/US), Luis Miramontes (Mexico) and George Rosenkranz (Hungary/Mexico) at Syntex synthesized the first orally highly active progestin, norethindrone. Further research was stalled by lack of funding support for this controversial area. Then, Sanger found a donor – Katherine Dexter McCormick – who contributed large sums beginning in 1953. Pincus brought in Harvard gynecologist John Rock (US) to do clinical research with women. Rock had been using progesterone and estrogen with infertility patients since 1952. Meanwhile, Frank B. Colton (US) at Searle had synthesized two orally highly active progestins in 1952 and 1953. John Rock started a clinical trial of three different oral progestins in 1954 and concluded that Colton’s norethynodrel worked best. After more experimentation, Pincus and Rock decided they should add a small amount of estrogen, to prevent bleeding. They named the resulting pill Enovid. Trials were conducted by Edris Rice-Wray and Edward T. Tyler (US) in 1956. The results indicated that they could reduce the estrogen content by a third. The FDA approved Enovid in 1957, but only for menstrual disorders. The FDA approved a 10 mg dose of Enovid for contraception in 1960 and a 5 mg dose in 1961. Legal barriers still existed, however, until Supreme Court decisions in 1965 (married women) and 1972 (unmarried women). In 1969-1970, concerns were raised that The Pill was unsafe and increased the risk of certain health conditions. In the 1980s, the modern low dose, two- and three-phase birth control pills became available. The first birth control pill outside the US, Anovlar, was released by Schering (Germany) in 1961, first in Australia and then in West Germany. The UK tested both Enovid and Anovlar in 1960 and approved them for contraception in 1961-1962. The Pill became legal in France in 1967. The Pill was not approved in Japan until 1999. Japanese doctors lobbied against The Pill, fearing reduced condom use and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. In 2003, the first continuous birth control pill, which suppress periods and provides birth control, was approved.
The first birth control pill was Enovid, by Searle. It was approved by the FDA for contraception in 1960.
BARCODE – 1952 – Norman Joseph Woodland & Bernard Silver – US
A barcode is an optical, machine-readable symbol containing data about the object to which it is attached. In 1948, Drexel Institute of Technology graduate students Bernard Silver and Norman Joseph Woodland (US) learned that the local supermarket wanted a system that would automatically read product information during checkout. Woodland and Silver came up with two different methods (straight lines and a bullseye pattern) and described them in a 1949 patent application, which was issued in 1952. Woodland began working at IBM but was unable to interest his employer in the idea. Eventually, Philco bought the patent in 1962 and later sold it to RCA. Meanwhile, in 1959, David Collins (US), an employee at GTE Sylvania, developed KarTrak, which used colored reflective stripes to identify railroad cars. The system was tested in 1961 and adopted by the railroads in 1967, but accuracy problems led to KarTrak’s demise in the late 1970s. Sylvania produced similar systems for scanning monthly passes on a toll bridge and tracking U.S. Post Office trucks. Collins left Sylvania in 1967 and started Computer Identics Corp. He made a black and white barcode that was read by a laser beam. The first customer was General Motors in 1969, which used it to identify transmission types as they moved on an overhead conveyor. While Collins was moving forward, the supermarkets were looking into developing Woodland’s original patent. They developed a standard 11-digit code for all products (the Universal Product Code, or UPC) and solicited barcode systems from several companies. RCA used Woodland’s bullseye barcode in a test at Kroger’s in 1972, but it was a failure. Woodland, still at IBM, produced a linear code that worked much better. The first actual scan of a barcode with Woodland’s system occurred on June 26, 1974 using a 10-pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum. By 1975, 75% of grocery store items had barcodes, but as of 1977, fewer than 200 grocery stores had scanners. By 1980, however, 8,000 stores were converting to barcode scanning every year. Barcodes are now used to identify patients in hospitals and medications and to identify luggage and mail. They are placed on membership cards, event tickets and rental vehicles. Some barcodes include hyperlinks to web pages.
This pack of chewing gum was the first barcoded supermarket item ever scanned.
TRANSISTOR RADIO – 1954 – Texas Instruments & Regency – US
RCA (US) and Texas Instruments (US) both produced prototype all-transistor AM radios in 1952, but neither put them into commercial production. In 1953, Intermetall (Germany) demonstrated a solid state radio receiver using transistrons, but also did not develop it commercially. The first transistor radio produced commercially was the TR-1, made by Texas Instruments and Regency (US) in 1954. Raytheon introduced a larger radio with better sound, the 8-TP-1, in 1955. Other manufacturers then entered the market, including Sony (Japan), which introduced a five-transistor radio, the TR-55, in 1955. Sony’s 1957 version, the TR-63, was much improved over the TR-55, and much smaller. Chrysler and Philco announced the first transistor car radio in 1955, the Mopar model 914HR.
The TR-1 transistor radio, first sold in 1954 and made by Texas Instruments and Regency.
TELEVISION REMOTE CONTROL – 1956 – Robert Adler/Zenith Electronics – US
Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US) created a wireless remote-controlled boat in 1898. In 1903, Leonardo Torres Quevedo (Spain) demonstrated the Telekino, a remote-controlled robot. He showed a remote-controlled boat in 1906. A remote-controlled model airplane first flew in 1932. Germany used remote-control technology for the Wasserfall missile in World War II. Some late 1930s radios had remote controls with wires, while the Philco Mystery Control, issued in 1939, became the first wireless remote control for radio. Remote control garage door openers appeared in the 1940s. Zenith Radio Corporation created the first television remote control, the “Lazy Bones”, in 1950. It was connected by a wire. In 1955, Eugene Polley (US) invented the first wireless TV remote, the Flashmatic, which used a light beam. Unfortunately, sometimes beams of sunlight would change the channels. In 1956, Robert Adler (Austria/US) invented the Zenith Space Command, a wireless remote using ultrasound. After the invention of the transistor, the price and size of remote controls came down. The ease of remote control changed TV broadcasting. Because viewers often changed channels during the credits at the end of a show, split-screen credits were invented, where the credits would run simultaneously with other material. Also, advertisements were moved from the ends of shows to the middle. Infrared remote control systems were first attempted in 1977, and Paul Hrivnak (Canada) developed an infrared remote control for consumer use in 1980. The multiplicity of devices (and remotes) in a modern home theater led to the universal remote, first introduced by Philips/Magnavox in 1985. In 1987, Steve Wozniak at Apple invented CORE (Controller of Remote Equipment), a computer-operated universal remote. In 2006, Hillcrest Labs introduced the Loop pointer, which used radio waves to communicate with a computer antenna and did not require the viewer to point the remote at the TV. Bluetooth equipment now included with some televisions allows the same flexibility.
Euguene Polley’s light-beam based Flashmatic, from 1955 – the first wireless remote.
PERSONAL COMPUTER – 1957 – John Lentz/IBM – US
Between 1948 and 1957, John Lentz (US) developed the Personal Automatic Computer at Columbia University; it later became the IBM 610, which sold for $55,000. Only 180 were made. (Minicomputers such as the LINC (1962) and PDP-8 (1965) and similar models from DEC, Data General and Prime could also be classified as personal computers, although they were refrigerator-sized and very costly.) In 1965, Olivetti (Italy) introduced the Programma 101 – the first commercially produced desktop computer. Olivetti sold 44,000 units at $3,200 each. Victor Glushov (USSR) produced the MIR from 1965-1969. John Blankenbaker (US) of Kenbak Corp. invented the Kenbak-1 in 1970, but only 40 were made. Also in 1970, CTC (now Datapoint) created the Datapoint 2200 – the first machine to resemble modern p.c.’s. Polish scientist Jacek Karpiński and his team developed the K-202 in 1971-1973, the first 16-bit non-kit desktop, but only 30 were sold. R2E (France) made the Micral N in 1973. Also introduced in 1973 was the Xerox Alto, which had a mouse and a graphical user interface. The Mark-8 was a 1974 microcomputer build-it-yourself kit. IBM brought out the IBM 5100 in 1975. The Altair 8800, created by MITS (US) in 1975, was a very popular and inexpensive kit that spawned many imitators. In 1976, Gary Ingram and Bob Marsh (US) at Processor Technology Corporation, designed the Sol-20 Personal Computer, the first all-in-one p.c., which sold well from 1976-1979. Three important personal computers were released in 1977: (1) the Commodore PET, created by Chuck Peddle (US), sales less than one million units; (2) the Apple II, created by Steve Wozniak/Apple (US), 2.1 million sold by 1985; and (3) the TRS-80/Model I, created by Tandy/Radio Shack, sales of 1.5 million units by 1981. The IBM 5100 was announced in 1978 and withdrawn in 1982. Atari released its first home computers, the 400 and 800, in 1978-1979. The same year, Texas Instruments made the TI-99/4A home computer. In 1980, two UK companies released home computers: the Sinclair ZX80, by Science of Cambridge and the Acorn Atom by Acorn Computers. Also in 1980, Commodore released the VIC-20. In 1981, Xerox introduced the Xerox Star workstation, with many modern features. The IBM PC was also introduced in 1981, as was the BBC Micro. In 1982, the Commodore 64 was introduced – it would sell 17 million units. The most popular personal computer in Japan was NEC’s PC-9801, which was released in 1982. IBM followed up the PC with the XT in 1983 and the PC/AT in 1984. Many companies created clones of the IBM products. In 1983, Apple brought out the Lisa, a mass-marketed microcomputer with a graphical user interface but it was too slow and expensive to succeed. Apple’s 1984 design, the mouse-driven Macintosh, was much more successful.
The IBM 610, from 1957, was the first computer designed to be operated by one person, using a keyboard.
LASER – 1957-1959 – Gordon Gould, Charles Hard Townes & Arthur Schawlow/Bell Labs, US; Aleksandr Prokhorov, USSR.
A laser emits light through optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation. Albert Einstein (Germany) established the theoretical basis for lasers and masers in a 1917 paper. Other aspects of the science were developed by Rudolf Ladenburg (Germany) in 1928; Valentin Fabrikant (USSR) in 1939; Willis E. Lamb and R.C. Retherford (US) in 1947 (stimulated emission) and Alfred Kastler (France) in 1950 (optical pumping). Charles Hard Townes, with students James Gordon and Herbert Zeiger (US) created the first microwave amplifier, or maser, in 1953, although it was incapable of continuous output. In the USSR, Nikolay Basov and Aleksandr Prokhorov had solved the continuous output problem using a quantum oscillator in 1952, but results were not published until 1954-1955. In 1957, Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow (US), at Bell Labs, began working on an infrared laser, but soon changed to visible light, for which they sought a patent in 1958. Also in 1957, Columbia University grad student Gordon Gould, after meeting with Townes, began working on the idea for a “laser” using an open resonator. Prokhorov independently proposed the open resonator in 1958. In 1959, Gould published the first paper using the term LASER (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) and filed for a patent the same year. The U.S. Patent Office granted Townes’ and Schawlow’s patent and denied Gould’s in 1960. The first working laser was created by Theodore Maiman (US) in 1960, but it was only capable of pulsed operation. Also in 1960, Ali Javan (Iran/US), William Bennett and Donald Herriott (US) made the first gas laser. In 1962, Robert N. Hall (US) invented the first laser diode device. The same year, Nick Holonyak, Jr. (US) made the first semiconductor laser with a visible emission, although it could only be used in pulsed-beam operation. In 1970, Zhores Alferov (USSR), Izuo Hayashi (Japan) and Morton Panish (US) independently developed room-temperature, continual-operation diode lasers. In 1987, following years of patent litigation, a Federal judge ordered the U.S. Patent Office to issue patents to Gordon Gould for the optical pump and gas discharge lasers.
Theodore Maiman’s first working laser, from 1960.
INTEGRATED CIRCUIT (MICROCHIP) – 1958-1960 – Jack Kilby, Kurt Lehovec and Robert Noyce – US
German physicist Werner Jacobi at Siemens AG designed the first integrated transistor amplifier in 1949. In 1952, Geoffrey Dummer (UK) suggested that a variety of standard electronic components could be integrated in a monolithic semiconductor crystal. In 1956, Dummer built a prototype integrated circuit. In 1952, American Bernard Oliver invented a method of manufacturing three electrically connected planar transistors on one semiconductor crystal. Also in 1952, Jewell James Ebers (US) at Bell Labs created a four-layer transistor, or thyristor. William Shockley (US) simplified Ebers’s design to a two-terminal, four-layer diode, but it proved unreliable. Harwick Johnson (US) at RCA patented a prototype integrated circuit in 1953. In 1957, Jean Hoerni (Switzerland/US) at Fairchild Semiconductor proposed a planar technology of bipolar transistors. Three breakthroughs occurred in 1958: (1) Jack Kilby (US) at Texas Instruments patented the principle of integration and created the first prototype integrated circuits: (2) Kurt Lehovec (Czech Republic/US) of Sprague Electric Co. invented a method of isolating components on a semiconductor crystal electrically; and (3) Robert Noyce (US) of Fairchild Semiconductor invented aluminum metallization – a method of connecting integrated circuit components. Noyce also adapted Hoerni’s planar technology as the basis for an improved version of insulation. Hoerni made the first prototype of a planar transistor in 1959. Jay Last and others at Fairchild built the first operational semiconductor integrated circuit on September 27, 1960. Texas Instruments announced its first integrated circuit in April 1960, but it was not marketed until 1961. Texas Instruments sued Fairchild in 1962 based on Kilby’s patent and the parties settled in 1966 with a cross-licensing agreement. The first integrated circuits with transistor-transistor logic instead of resistor-transistor logic were invented by Tom Long (US) at Sylvania in 1962. In 1964, both Texas Instruments and Fairchild replaced the resistor-transistor logic of their integrated circuits with diode-transistor logic, which was not vulnerable to electromagnetic interference. In 1968, Italian physicist Federico Faggin developed the first silicon gate integrated circuit with self-aligned gates. The same year, Robert H. Dennard (US) invented dynamic random-access memory, a specialized type of integrated circuit. Also in the late 1960s, medium scale integration (MSI), in which each chip contained hundreds of transistors, was introduced. The specialized integrated circuit known as a microprocessor was introduced by Intel in 1971. Large-scale integration (LSI), which arrived in the mid-1970s, brought chips with tens of thousands of transistors each. Ferranti (Italy) introduced the first gate-array, the Uncommitted Logic Array (ULA) in 1980, which led to the creation of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). Very large-scale integration (VLSI) brought chips with hundreds of thousands of transistors in the 1980s and several billion transistors as of 2009.
Jack Kilby’s prototype integrated circuit, from 1959.
ROBOTS – 1961 – George Devol – US
The idea of living creatures, inanimate objects or mechanical constructions completely under human control goes back to ancient times. A 3rd Century BCE text relates that Yan Shi (China) presented a king with a life-sized human-shaped mechanical figure in the 11th or 10th Century BCE. Archytas (Ancient Greece) proposed a mechanical bird propelled by steam in the 4th Century BCE. It is said that Ctesibius of Alexandria(Greece/Egypt) made a water clock connected to an automaton around 250 BCE. Hero of Alexandria (Greece/Egypt) is said to have built numerous automata in the 1st Century CE. The clock tower of Su Song (China), built in 1088, featured mechanical figures that performed various functions. In the late 12th and early 13th Centuries, Al-Jazari (Turkey) build automatic machines including kitchen appliances, musical automata powered by water and the first programmable humanoid robots. Villard de Honnecourt (France) designed automata in the 13th Century. Robert II, Count of Artois (France), had animal and humanoid robots in his castle garden at the end of the 13th Century. In 1495, Leonardo da Vinci (Italy) designed a humanoid robot of a knight in armor. In 1533, Johannes Müller von Königsberg (Germany) made an automaton eagle and fly made of iron; both could fly. John Dee (Wales) is also famous for creating a flying wooden beetle in the 16th Century. In 1737, Jacques de Vaucanson (France) made a flute player, a tambourine player, and The Digesting Duck, which ate and excreted. In the 19th Century, Hisashige Tanaka (Japan) created mechanical toys that could serve tea, shoot an arrow and paint a Japanese character. In the 1870s, remote-controlled torpedoes using different operating methods were invented by John Ericsson (Sweden/US), John Louis Lay (US), Victor von Scheliha (Germany) and Louis Brennan (Ireland/Australia). Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US) invented a radio-controlled torpedo in 1898. Archibald Low (UK) demonstrated a remote controlled aircraft in 1917. In 1926, Westinghouse built Televox, a cardboard cutout attached to various devices. In 1928, W.H. Richards built “Eric”, a humanoid robot, for the Model Engineers Society that could move its hands and head with remote or voice control. Makoto Nishimura (Japan) created Gakutensoku in 1929 – it could change its facial expression, write and move its head and hands. Westinghouse introduced Elektro at the 1939 World’s Fair – it could walk by voice command, speak, smoke, and inflate balloons. In 1948-1949, William Grey Walter (UK), at the Burden Neurological Institute, created Elmer and Elsie, the first electronic autonomous robots with complex behavior. George Devol (US) created Unimate in 1954 – the first digitally operated and programmable robot. The field of artificial intelligence arose in the mid-1950s, and led to the creation of the Logic Theory Machine in 1956 and the General Problem Solver in 1957 by Allen Newell, J.C. Shaw and Herbert A. Simon. Devol sold the first Unimate to General Motors in 1960 and in 1961 it began lifting hot pieces of metal from a die casting machine and stacking them in a plant in Trenton, New Jersey. The Rancho Arm was developed in 1962 to assist disabled patients at the Rancho Los Amigos Hospital in California. Marvin Minsky (US) created the Tentacle Arm in 1968. Victor Scheinman (US) created the Stanford Arm in 1969 – the first robotic arm controlled by an electronic computer. Stanford Research Institute built Shakey in 1970 – the first mobile robot able to reason about its environs. The USSR landed remote-controlled lunar vehicle Lunokhod 1 on the moon in 1970. Freddy was built at the University of Edinburgh (UK) in 1969-1971; Freddy II was built in 1973-1976; both could assemble wooden blocks. In 1973, KUKA (Germany) built FAMULUS, the first industrial robot with six electromechanically driven axes. David Silver (US) created the Silver Arm in 1974. A team led by Hiroshi Makino (Japan) created SCARA (Selective Compliance Assembly Robot Arm) in 1978. The Stanford Cart was introduced in 1979. Takeo Kanade (Japan) invented the first direct drive arm in 1981. In 1984, scientists in Japan created the Wabot-2, which could read music and play the organ. In 1989, MIT (US) created a hexapodal humanoid robot named Genghis. In 1994, Dr. John Adler (US) invented the Cyberknife, a robot that performed stereotactic radiosurgery. MIT student David Barrett (US) invented RoboTuna in 1996 to study how fish swim. Honda (Japan) introduced the P2 humanoid robot in 1996. The Sojourner remote-controlled vehicle, made by NASA, landed on Mars in 1997 and ran for 83 days. Honda announced its P3 robot in 1998. Sony (Japan) released a robotic dog, AIBO, in 1999. Honda introduced ASIMO, which can run, walk, communicate, recognize faces and places and interact with the environment, in 2000. Sony announced its Sony Dream Robots the same year. The Canadarm2 robot was attached to the International Space Station in 2001. The same year saw the launch of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Global Hawk, designed by Ryan Aeronautical. The Roomba, a robot vacuum cleaner, was released by iRobot (US) in 2002. Scientists at Cornell University produced self-replicating robots in 2004. Honda released its updated ASIMO robot in 2005. Cornell invented a Starfish robot in 2006, capable of self-modeling and learning to walk after being damaged. TOMY (Japan) created the i-sobot, a humanoid robot, in 2007. In 2010, Robonaut 2, from NASA, became the first humanoid robot in space.
The first industrial robot – the Unimate – at General Motors in 1961.
AUTOMATED TELLER MACHINE (ATM) – 1961 – Luther George Simjian – US
Born in Turkey to Armenian parents, Luther George Simjian came to the US in 1920. In 1960, he invented the Bankograph, the first of which was installed in New York City by the City Bank of New York in 1961. The machine could accept deposits of cash or checks but did not dispense cash. After six months, the bank removed the machine because the customers weren’t using it. In 1967, Barclay’s Bank (UK) opened a cash machine (the DACS) in London and hired a well-known actor to use it for the first time. John Shepherd Barron of De La Rue Co. is credited with the invention. Within months, independently developed ATMs were introduced in Sweden and several other UK banks (including the Bankomat and the Chubb MD2). In 1965, James Goodfellow and Anthony Davies (UK) invented a PIN stored on a card. Speytec and Midland Bank (UK) created another ATM that was marketed in 1969 and patented by John David Edwards, et al. Unlike the earlier machines, which required a single-use token, the Speytec used a reusable card with a magnetic strip. In 1968, Donald Wetzel (UK) at Docutel invented the ATM network, along with Fred Gentile and Jack Wu Chang. Chemical Bank installed the first US ATM, Wetzel’s Docuteller, in Rockville Center, NY in September 1969. The first modern ATM was the IBM 2984, first installed at the Lloyd Bank in Essex, UK in December 1972.
Comedic actor Reg Varney performs the first transaction on Barclay Bank’s ATM in 1967.
COMPUTER MOUSE – 1963 – Douglas Engelbart & Bill English/SRI – US
Before the mouse came the trackball, or roller ball, which was invented by Ralph Benjamin (UK) in 1946 as part of an analog radar tracking system. Tom Cranston, Fred Longstaff and Kenyon Taylor (Canada) in 1962 as part of a digital computer radar system; the team used a five-pin bowling ball in the device. In 1963, Douglas Engelbart and his lead engineer Bill English (US), at Stanford Research Institute, invented the first mouse, as part of a much larger project. It used two wheels, each perpendicular to the other, to communicate its position. Engelbart filed for a patent in 1967 and obtained it in 1970. In October 1968, Telefunken (Germany) introduced a mouse called Rollkugel (‘rolling ball’), which incorporated a tracking ball. In 1973, the Xerox Alto was the first personal computer that used a mouse. André Guignard (Switzerland) developed the first modern computer mouse with an optical encoder in 1977. The Lilith computer, invented by Niklaus Wirth (Switzerland) and released in 1980, also provided a mouse. In 1980, two inventors developed prototypes of the optical mouse: Steve Kirsch (US) at MIT and Richard Lyon (US), but the device was not released commercially for many years. Xerox provided a mouse with its 8010 Star Information System in 1981. Microsoft made MS-DOS mouse compatible in 1982 and began shipping its PC-compatible mouse in 1983. Apple included a mouse with its Lisa system in 1983, but it was in 1984, when Apple brought the mouse into the mainstream of personal computing with the introduction of the Macintosh. In 1999, Microsoft released the first commercially successful optical mice, which were developed by Hewlett-Packard.
Douglas Engelbart’s original computer mouse.
COMPACT DISC (CD) – 1965-1970 – James Russell – US
James T. Russell (US) was working at GE in the mid-1960s when he invented the first digital-to-optical recording and playback system – the first compact disc, which he patented in 1970. Commercial development of the idea occurred later, by Philips (The Netherlands) and Sony (Japan). In 1974, Philips, building on laser disc technology, began working on a digital/optical audio disc which they named the compact disc in 1977. Sony had a similar disc in development – an early model was introduced in 1976, with a more advanced version demonstrated in 1978 and announced to the world in March 1979. Also in March 1979, just days before Sony’s announcement, Philips demonstrated its optical audio disc to the press. Sony and Philips then joined forces and created a joint team to design a disc and standard specifications. They published their results in 1980 in the Red Book, which became the industry standard in 1987. The first public demonstration of a CD was on the BBC in 1981. The first commercial CD was produced in August 1982. The first album released on CD was 52nd Street, by Billy Joel, in October 1982. The first million-selling CD was 1985’s Brothers in Arms, by Dire Straits. CD-ROMs were introduced in 1985. Recordable CDs arrived in 1990. Due to digital downloading streaming of music, music CD sales began dropping in the 2000s.
James Russell invented the first compact disc in the late 1960s.
KEVLAR – 1965 – Stephanie Kwolek – US
American chemist Stephanie Kwolek was working at DuPont and looking for a new lightweight fiber to make light but strong tires that would improve gas mileage, when, in 1965, she produced a new substance with the chemical name of poly-paraphenylene terephthalamide. Kwolek had a technician test the substance – the fibers were found to be unusually strong. After further testing, DuPont began marketing the substance as Kevlar in 1971. First as a replacement for steel in the tires of race cars. Kevlar has been used in a myriad of applications, the most common of which is in making body armor for police and military personnel. A drawback of Kevlar is that it degrades when exposed to sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet light. In the 1970s, Akzo (The Netherlands) developed a very similar product, which it began marketing in 1986 as Twaron.
Kevlar inventor Stephanie Kwolek holds a model of the polymer she synthesized.
ELECTRONIC HAND-HELD CALCULATOR – 1967 – Jack S. Kilby/Texas Instruments – US
The first mechanical calculator was invented by Blaise Pascal (France) in 1642. In the late 17th Century, Gottfried Leibniz (Germany) tried but failed to improve upon it. Several machines were made in the 18th Century, including that of Poleni (Italy). The first commercial mechanical calculator was the Arithmometer of Thomas de Colmar (France), which was invented in 1820 but not marketed until 1851. Other machines included William Seward Burroughs’ from 1886, Felt and Tarrant’s (US) comptometer from 1887, and Otto Steiger’s “Millionaire” in 1894. James Dalton (US) introduced the Dalton Adding Machine in 1902, which brought push buttons. The Curta calculator, invented by Curt Herzstark (Austria) in 1948, was the last popular mechanical calculator. Casio (Japan) introduced the first all-electric calculator, the Model 14-A, in 1957, although it was built into a desk. British Bell announced its all-electronic desktop calculators – the ANITA Mk VII and Mk VIII – in 1961. The ANITAs were among the last to use bulky tube technology. The Friden EC-130 (US), which arrived in 1963, used more compact transistors. In 1964, Sharp (US) produced the CS-10A and Industria Macchine Elettroniche (Italy) announced the IME 84. Similar models followed from these and other companies, including Canon, Olivetti, SCM, Sony, Toshiba and Wang. Olivetti Programma 101, introduced in 1965, was technically both a personal computer and an electronic calculator. The ELKA 6521, built by Central Institute for Calculation Technologies in 1965, was the first calculator with a square root function. Further models in 1965 and 1974 (the ELKA 101) contained improvements. The Monroe Epic, which was programmable, arrived in 1967. The same year, Jack Kilby, Jerry Merryman and James Van Tassel (US) at Texas Instruments made a prototype of the Cal Tech – the first handheld pocket calculator. (Years later, they eventually received credit for inventing the pocket calculator.) In the 1970s, manufacturers sought to reduce size by switching from transistors to integrate circuits. The first pocket calculators using this technology were the Sanyo Mini Calculator, the Canon Pocketronic (based on Kilby’s Cal Tech) and the Sharp micro Compet, all in 1970. Sharp brought out the EL-8 in 1971. Mostek (US) made the MK6010 the same year. Also in 1971, Pico Electronics and General Instrument collaborated on the Monroe Digital III, a single chip calculator. It was Busicom (Japan) with its 1971 LE-120A “Handy” calculator, that was truly pocket sized, at 4.9 X 2.8 X 0.9 inches. The first US pocket-sized device was the Bowmar Brain, from late 1971. Hewlett Packard released a pocket calculator with scientific functions – the HP-35 – in 1972. The first slimline calculator was Clive Sinclair’s (UK) Sinclair Executive, from 1972. Sinclair launched a low-cost calculator in 1973 – the Sinclair Cambridge. Texas Instruments introduced a scientific calculator with algebraic entry in 1973. The USSR entered the market with the Elektronika B3-04 in 1974. A USSR scientific calculator, the B3-18, followed in 1975. Beginning in 1972, manufacturers began designing calculator displays that used LCD (liquid crystal display) instead of older technology, but the industry conversion to LCD did not occur until the mid-1970s. Texas Instruments introduced the TI-30 in 1977 – it is still being produced today. Throughout the 1970s, calculators were built that used less energy and cost less. In 1978, solar-powered calculators become available. Calculated Industries (US) developed calculators for niche markets, such as real estate (the Loan Arranger in 1978) and construction (Construction Master in 1985). Also in 1985, Casio produced the first graphing calculator, the fx-7000G.
The Arithometer, a best-selling 19th Century mechanical calculator.
VIDEO GAME CONSOLE – 1968 – Ralph Baer/Magnavox – US
A video game console allows users to play video games on a television. Ralph Baer (Germany/US) invented the first such console, the Brown Box, in 1968, while at Sanders Associates. (Baer was assisted by Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch.) The console was digital but had analog game controllers to match the circuitry of the televisions. It included several games, including ping-pong. Magnavox (US) licensed Baer’s invention in 1969 and introduced the Magnavox Odyssey to the public in 1972. In 1971, Noah Bushnell (US) of Atari, saw the Odyssey and he hired Allan Alcom to create Pong – first as an arcade game in 1972, and then for home video in time for Christmas 1975, creating a best seller. Coleco brought out a clone video console in 1976 called Telstar that became the first console to use a microchip, the AY-3-8500. The next to enter the market was Nintendo (Japan) with its Color TV Game (great name, Nintendo!) in 1977. These first generation machines had the game and the console combined into one unit. In 1976, the second generation of video games began with the Fairchild Channel F and Radofin Electronics’ 1292 Advanced Programmable Video System, CPU-based devices that allowed multiple game cartridges to be inserted into the console. RCA introduced a console (Studio II) in 1977, as did Atari (Atari 2600). Bally’s attempts to introduce a CPU-type console about the same time were not successful, although it was re-released and sold from 1980-1984. A glut caused a crash in 1977. Magnavox released the CPU-based Odyssey 2 in 1978. In 1979, Activision became the first company to make video games, but not the consoles. In 1980, Mattel introduced Intellivision. In 1982 four new consoles were released: Emerson’s Arcadia 2001; the Vectrex; ColecoVision (with DonkeyKong); and the Atari 5200 (with Space Invaders). Another glut caused a crash in 1983. Nintendo revived the industry with 1983’s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), including Super Mario Brothers, a third generation, eight-bit device. Sega’s (Japan) Master System, from 1985, was not as successful. Atari released new models in 1986 (7800) and 1987 (XEGS). NEC (Japan) brought in the fourth generation of consoles in 1987 with its TurboGrafx-16, a 16-bit device. Sega’s Mega Drive/Genesis was also 16-bit, as was SNK’s NeoGeo AES. In 1990, Ninetendo released their Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The fifth generation arrived with the Atari Jaguar and 3DO in 1993. Sega followed in 1994 with the Saturn, but the most popular new item was Sony’s Playstation, introduced the same year, which used discs instead of cartridges. In 1996, Nintendo debuted the Nintendo 64, but its cartridge model was outdated. The sixth generation began with Sega’s poorly performing Dreamcast. In contrast, Sony’s PlayStation 2, released in 2000, became the best-selling console ever and the first to use DVDs. Nintendo issued the GameCube in 2001, which used non-standard sized optical discs. Microsoft got into the gaming business in 2001, when it released the Xbox. The seventh generation arrived in 2005, when Microsoft issued Xbox 360. A year later, Sony put out its PlayStation 3, which had a hard drive and could use Blu-ray Discs and Bluetooth. Also in 2006, Nintendo released the motion-sensitive Wii. The most recent consoles include the 3DS, the OUYA, GamePop and GameStick. The big hits of 2013 were Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One.
The 1972 Magnavox Odyssey was the first video game console.
VIDEOCASSETTE – 1969 – Sony Corp. – Japan
In 1969, Sony invented a 3/4-inch cartridge for videotape, using a U-matic composite system. After conferring with other manufacturers to ensure consistent industry standards, Sony released the videocassette to the public in 1971. The Betacam videocassette was introduced in 1982. Smaller cassettes (VHS-C, Video 8, Hi8 and Micro MV) were made to fit later model camcorders. By 2004, few consumers used videocassette technology, although professional news crews continued to use tape.
A VHS videocassette, showing the magnetic tape inside.
INTERNET – 1969 – Lawrence Roberts, Robert Kahn, Leonard Kleinrock, J.C.R. Licklider – US
Leonard Kleinrock’s (US) July 1961 paper on packet switching theory at MIT was an early precursor to the Internet, as was a series of “Galactic Network” memos by J.C.R. Licklider (US), also at MIT, in August 1962. In October 1962, Licklider became the first computer research program head at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), where he convinced Ivan Sutherland, Robert Taylor and MIT’s Lawrence G. Roberts (US) of the importance of networking. Kleinrock convinced Roberts of using packets rather than circuits. The first wide-area computer network was built in 1965 when Roberts and Thomas Merrill (US) connected the TX-2 computer in Massachusetts to the Q-32 in California. In 1966, Roberts went to DARPA, where he developed the computer network concept and put together a plan for the ARPANET, which he published in 1967. Parallel research on networks had been going on at RAND (1962-1965) (esp. Paul Baran (US)) and National Physical Laboratory (NPL) (1964-1967) (esp. Donald Davies and Roger Scantlebury (UK)). After Roberts and DARPA refined the ARPANET’s specifications, in 1968, they chose Frank Heart’s (US) team at Bolt Beranek and Newman to built the packet switches, called Interface Message Processors (IMPs). Robert Kahn (US) at BBN; Howard Frank (US) at Network Analysis Corp.; and Kleinrock, played significant roles. In September 1969, BBN installed the first IMP at UCLA, which became the first node. Doug Engelbart’s Stanford Research Institute (SRI) provided the second node. The first message was sent between UCLA and SRI in October 1969. Four computers were linked by the end of 1969 and many more joined in the next few years. In December 1970, S. Crocker (US) and his Network Working Group finished the ARPANET’s initial host-to-host protocol, the Network Control Protocol (NCP). Also in 1970, NPL started the Mark I network. In 1971, the Merit Network and Tymnet networks became operational. Kahn successfully demonstrated the ARPANET at a conference in October 1972. Also in 1972, Louis Pouzin in France began an Internet-like project called Cyclades, that was based on the notion that the host computer, not the network, should be responsible for data transmission. Cyclades was eventually shut down, but the Internet eventually adopted its basic principle. The first trans-Atlantic transmission occurred in 1973, to University College of London. In 1974, a proposal was made to link ARPA-like networks into a larger inter-network that would have no central control. Also in 1974, the International Telecommunication Union developed X.25 packet switching network standards. The PC modem was invented by Dennis Hayes and Dale Heatherington in 1977. The first bulletin board system was invented in 1978. Usenet was invented in 1979 by Tom Truscott and Jim Ellis (US) and CompuServe was launched the same year. In 1981, the National Science Foundation created CSNET, the Computer Science Network, which linked to ARPANET. In 1982, the TCP/IP protocol suite, invented by Vinton Cerf (US), was formalized. ARPANET computers were required to switch from the NCP protocol to the TCP/IP protocols by January 1, 1983. In 1984, the system of domain names was adopted – the first .COM domain name was registered in 1985. In 1986, NSF created NSFNET, which was linked with ARPANET. In 1988, Internet Relay Chat was first introduced. America Online (AOL) was launched in 1989. In 1990, ARPANET was decommissioned in favor of NSFNET. NSFNET was decommissioned in 1995 when it was replaced by networks operated by several commercial Internet Service Providers.
A visualization of routing paths through a portion of the Internet.
FIBER OPTIC CABLE – 1970 – Robert Maurer, Donald Keck & Peter Schultz – US
Guiding light by refraction was first demonstrated by Daniel Colladon and Jacques Babinet (France) in the 1840s. John Tyndall (UK) demonstrated the effect in the 1850s. Alexander Graham Bell and Sumner Tainter (US) created the Photophone, a device that could transmit voice signals over an optical beam in 1880. The same year, William Wheeler invented a house lighting system using highly reflective pipes. In 1888, Roth and Reuss (Austria) used bent glass rods to illuminate body cavities. In 1895, Henry Saint-Rene (France) used bent glass rods to guide light images. Clarence Hansell (US) and John Logie Baird (UK) independently demonstrated image transmission through tubes in the 1920s. Heinrick Lamm (Germany) used the principle to create a bundle of fibers for medical exams in 1930. The first modern optical fiber appeared in the late 1930s. The first bundle of unclad optical fibers was created by Harold Hopkins (UK) and Narinder Singh Kapany (India/UK/US) in 1954. The same year, Abraham Van Heel (The Netherlands) reported his results using bundles of clad fibers. University of Michigan researchers Basil Hirschowitz, C. Wilbur Peters and Lawrence Curtiss created the first fiber optic semi-flexible gastroscope (using the first glass-clad fibers) in 1956. In 1961, Elias Snitzer (US) of American Optical published a description of a fiber with a core so small it could carry light with only one wave-guide mode. Jun-ichi Nishizawa (Japan) invented a graded-index optical fiber in the 1960s. In 1964-1965, Charles Kao (China/US/UK) and George Hockham (UK) made fibers a practical communication medium by reducing attenuation to 20 decibels/km and using highly pure silica glass. Manfred Börner (Germany) demonstrated the first working fiber-optical data transmission system in 1965. Using fused silica, a team at Corning Glass Works (Robert Maurer, Donald Keck, Peter Schultz and Frank Zimar) achieved attenuation of 17 dB/km in 1970, and 4 dB/km a few years later. Gerhard Bernsee (Germany) invented optical fibers that use glass for sheath and core in 1973. In 1975, the U.S. Government linked NORAD computers using fiber optics. In 1977, the first optical telephone systems were installed underneath Long Beach, California and downtown Chicago. In 1981, GE created fused quartz ingots in strands 25 miles long. In 1986, David N. Payne (UK) and Emmanuel Desurvire (US) co-developed the erbium-doped fiber amplifier. In 1991, the photonic-crystal fiber, which uses diffraction instead of reflection, was invented.
Scientist George Kao researching fiber optics at Standard Telecommunications Laboratory (UK) in the 1960s.
DIGITAL WRISTWATCH – 1970 – John M. Bergey and George Thiess – US
Mechanical pocket watches showing the time as a digital display were first introduced in the 1890s, and mechanical digital wristwatches appeared in the 1920s. The first electronic watch with a digital display was co-invented in 1970 by John Burgey (US) at Hamilton Watch Company and George Thiess (US) at Electro-Data and released to the public in 1972. The watch was a Pulsar, made of 18-carat gold, with a light-emitting diode (LED) display, and sold for $2,100. Because LED used a lot of power, these first digital watches usually required the wearer to press a button to see the time displayed for a few seconds. The liquid crystal display (LCD) was visible in daylight, but required a button to illuminate the display at night. The first LCD watches were produced in 1972: the Gruen Teletime LCD Watch and the Cox Electronics Systems Quarza. In 1973, Seiko made the 06LC – an LCD watch with a six-digit display, and Ebauches Electronic SA created a prototype eight-digit display watch. Casio produced the Casiotron Watch in 1974. Texas Instruments began making plastic LED digital watches in 1975 for $20. In 1982, Seiko made a digital watch with a small TV screen and Casio made watches with thermometers and translators. Casio make a scientific calculator watch in 1985. In 1987, Casio made a watch that could dial your phone number. The same year, Citizen introduced a watch that reacted to vocal commands. In 1995, Timex released a watch that could download and store computer data. The Timex Datalink USB, featured dot matrix displays. Since the 1990s, however, digital watches have become less complex.
The Hamilton Pulsar P1 limited edition, which went on sale in 1972, was the first electronic digital watch.
ELECTRONIC MAIL (E-MAIL) – 1971 – Ray Tomlinson – US
In 1961, MIT introduced an internal computer network called the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS). CTSS included a program written by T. Van Vleck that allowed users to send “mail” messages to each other. In the 1960s and 1970s, many organizations with mainframes or networks had their own internal e-mail systems. In 1971, in response to a memo by Dick Watson of SRI Int’l, Ray Tomlinson of BBN wrote an e-mail program (based on SNDMSG and CPYNET) and sent the first e-mail on the ARPANET network. He was the first to use the @ symbol to separate the name of the user and the user’s computer. In 1971-1972, Abhay Bhushan developed FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and then MLFL (mail file). Also in 1972, Bob Clements, Ken Pogran and Mike Padlipsky made additional improvements. In 1972, Lawrence Roberts wrote an e-mail management program that improved on Tomlinson’s e-mail, called RD. Barry Wessler then improved on RD, creating NRD. In 1973, Martin Yonke took SNDMSG and NRD and recoded them into the improved WRD (later BANANARD). In 1975, John Vittal created the first all-inclusive e-mail program, MSG, which included the commands Move, Answer (now Reply), and Forward. Also in 1975, Dave Farber, Dave Crocker, Steve Tepper and Bill Crosby created MH, an e-mail program for the Unix operating system. In 1977, Crocker, Vittal, Kenneth Pongran and D. Austin Henderson attempted to standardize various e-mail formats over the ARPANET. In 1978, Crocker and Farber began work on MMDF (Multi-purpose Memo Distribution Facility) to allow dial-up relay of e-mail. Ed Szurkowski, Doug Kingston, Craig Partridge and Steve Kille followed up on the project. Kevin MacKenzie suggested emoticons for the first time in 1979. In 1982, Crocker revised the standard to include the syntax for domain names. Also in 1982, EUnet was created to provide e-mail in Europe. In the early 1980s, Eric Allman created the delivermail and sendmail programs. In 1988, Vinton Cerf arranged for MCI to become the first commercial e-mail carrier to connect to the Internet. CompuServe followed in 1989. America Online and Delphi began connecting their e-mail systems to the Internet in 1993.
Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first true e-mail in 1971.
FOOD PROCESSOR – 1971 – Pierre Verdun – France
A food processor differs from a blender by having multiple blades and other attachments, a lower, wider bowl, and the ability to process dry, solid foods. Precursors to the food processor included the electric food mixer, invented by Herbert Johnson at Hobart Manufacturing in 1908, which evolved into KitchenAid(R). Another version of the mixer was made by Chester Beach, L.H. Hamilton and Fred Osius (US) in 1910. and the blender, invented by Stephen Poplawski (US) in 1922 and improved on by Fred Waring and Fred Osius (US) in 1935. In 1946, German company Electrostar introduced the Starmix, the first electric food processor. Ken Wood (UK) created a multi-purpose food processor in 1950. In the 1960s, Albrecht von Goertz (Germany) designed the Starmix MX3. Pierre Verdun (France) invented a large scale industrial food processor in the late 1950s, which was first sold in 1960 under the name Robot-Coupe. In 1971, Verdun created a home version of the Robot-Coupe: the Magimix 1800. The Magimix came to the attention of American Carl Sontheimer, then living in France, who created the company Cuisinart to market the product in the US, after he substantially redesigned it. The Cuisinart debuted in Chicago in 1973. The Magimix made its way into the UK in 1974. Other companies (e.g., Farberware, Hamilton Beach, GE, Moulinex) developed their own food processors in the 1970s, including Kenwood (UK), which introduced its first food processor in 1979. By 1980, Cuisinart began selling food processors manufactured in Japan instead of Robot-Coupe. In 1985, Sunbeam put out the Oskar, which was smaller and cheaper than the Cuisinart.
A 1970s Cuisinart, manufactured by French company Robot-Coupe.
VIDEOCASSETTE RECORDER (VCR) – 1971 – Sony Corp. – Japan
The earliest videotape recorders used reel-to-reel tape. In 1956, Ampex introduced the Ampex VRX-1000, which used two-inch wide Quadruplex videotape and cost $50,000. Philips introduced the EL3400 one-inch helical scan recorder in 1963. The same year, Sony brought out the two-inch PV-100 reel-to-reel videotape recorder. The first home video recorder was the Telcan, produced by Nottingham Electronic Valve Co. in 1963, which could record a maximum of 20 minutes in black & white only. Sony’s CV-2000, from 1965, was a one-half inch tape machine for home use. Ampex and RCA both revealed reel-to-reel black & white videotape recorders in 1965. Sony created the first prototype videocassette and VCR in 1969. In 1970, Sony worked with seven other manufacturers on standards for the new format. In 1971, Sony announced its U-matic system, including 3/4 inch tape cassettes with a playing time of 60 minutes and two new VCRs to record and play the cassettes: the VP-1100 and the VO-1700. Philips created its VCR – the N1500 – in 1970, using square cassettes and one-half inch tape, but it was not released to the public until 1972. Philips released a long-play version – the N1700 or VCR-LP – in 1977. Also in 1972, Avco issued its Cartrivision, with square cassettes of half-inch tape and 114 minutes of recording time. For the first time, pre-recorded movies were available for the format, but the project was abandoned after 13 months. Throughout the 1970s, several manufacturers – especially Matsushita, JVC and Sony – built ever-improving VCRs. By 1979, there was a format war between Sony’s Betamax, issued in 1975, and JVC’s VHS, begun in 1976 (the Victor HR-3300). VHS eventually won out due to longer recording and playing times. A third format, V2000 from Philips, was dominant in Europe between 1978 and 1985. VCRs were standard home entertainment devices through the 1980s and 1990s. In the 2000s, they began to be eclipsed by DVDs and DVD players for playback purposes. Some continue to use VCRs for recording, although this technology is also being supplanted by DVD and Blu-Ray recorders, Roku, TiVo and similar devices.
The Philips N1500 VCR – first made in 1970 and released to the public in 1972 – was one of the first home videocassette recording devices.
X-RAY COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY (CAT SCAN; CT SCAN) – 1971 – Godfrey Hounsfield – UK
Alessandro Vallebona (Italy) first proposed a method for using x-rays to capture a single slice of the body in the early 1900s. The method, now known as conventional tomography, was improved throughout the 20th Century, but was never able to produce sharp images of soft tissues. Johann Radon (Austria) developed the mathematical theory behind tomographical reconstructution in 1917. Polish mathematician Stefan Kaczmarz further developed the math in 1937. In 1956 Ronald N. Bracewell (Australia/UK/US) used a similar method to make a map of solar radiation. In 1959, William Oldenforf (US) conceived the idea of a mechanical x-ray scanner; he built a prototype in 1961 and received a patent for the device in 1963. In 1963 and 1964, Allan McLeod Cormack (South Africa/US) published two papers that set out the theoretical underpinning of CT scanning; he also built a prototype in 1963. Godfrey Hounsfield (UK) built a prototype head scanner in 1968. On October 1, 1971, an improved version of Hounsfield’s scanner was used on a cerebral cyst patient in a London hospital. In 1975, Hounsfield built a full-body scanner. Over time, scanners were built that were able to achieve shorter scan times and larger matrix sizes. The first fan-beam CT scanner was introduced in 1976. The first spiral CT scanner was made in 1989.
Godfrey Hounsfield with one of his early CT scanners in the 1970s.
PERSONAL STEREO – 1972 – Andreas Pavel – Brazil
German-born Brazilian Andreas Pavel invented the Stereobelt in 1972 but could not find someone to manufacture it. He filed patents beginning in 1977 and later won some settlements from Sony. The first commercially-successful portable audio player was the Sony Walkman, created by Akio Morita, Masaru Ibuka and Kozo Ohsone (Japan) and released in 1979. The Walkman allowed a person to listen privately to a cassette tape using headphones. Sony’s Discman, which used a CD instead of a cassette, arrived in 1984. A video Walkman using videocassettes was introduced in 1989. Sony brought out the MiniDisc Walkman in 1992. In 2007, Sony introduced an all-digital video Walkman. There are also MP3 Walkmen. Manufacturers such as Aiwa, Panasonic and Toshiba also brought out personal stereos.
Andreas Pavel’s Stereobelt, from 1972 – the first personal stereo.
GENETIC ENGINEERING – 1972 – Stanley Cohen & Herbert Boyer – US
Domestication of plants and animals through selective breeding and hybridization has been occurring since 12,000 BCE. Charles Darwin explained in 1859 that the principles underlying selective breeding also occur through natural selection. Gregor Mendel (Silesia) discovered the principles of genetics in 1865. In 1910, T.H. Morgan showed that genes are carried on chromosomes in the cell’s nucleus. In 1927, H.J. Muller first used x-rays to create genetic mutations in plants. Frederick Griffith (UK) made early discoveries of the chemistry of genetics in 1928. Barbara McClintock and Harriet Creighton showed direct physical recombination in DNA in 1931. In 1941, Edward Tatum and George Beadle (US) determined that the genetic substance coded for proteins. Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod and Maclyn McCarty (US) identified the genetic substance as DNA in 1944. In 1953, James Watson (US) and Francis Crick (UK) identified the double helix structure of DNA. In 1967, scientists discovered DNA ligases, which could join pieces of DNA together. In the late 1960s, Stewart Linn and Werner Arber discovered restriction enzymes. In 1970, Hamilton Smith (US) used restriction enzymes to DNA at a specific location and separate the pieces. Also in 1970, Morton Mandel and Akiko Higo (US) inserted a bacteriophage virus into the DNA of the E. coli bacteria. In 1972, Paul Berg (US) created the first recombinant DNA molecules. Also in 1972, Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen (US) inserted recombinent DNA into bacterial cells using a technique called DNA cloning. They then created the first genetically modified organism by inserting a gene for resistance to an antibiotic into bacteria that had no such gene, making the bacteria resistant. Later, they placed a frog gene into a bacterial cell. In 1973, Rudolf Jaenisch (Germany/US) inserted foreign DNA into a mouse. In 1974, Stanley Cohen, Annie Chang and Herbert Boyer created a genetically modified DNA organism. Beginning in 1976, recombinant DNA research has been subject to regulation in the US. Frederick Sanger (UK) developed a way to sequence DNA in 1977. In 1979, scientists were able to modify bacteria to produce human insulin. In 1981, Frank Ruddle (US), Frank Constantini and Elizabeth Lacy (UK) were able to pass new genes into subsequent generations by inserting foreign DNA into a mouse embryo. In 1983, Michael Bevan, Richard Flavell (UK) and Mary-Dell Chilton (US) inserted new genetic material into a tobacco plant – the first genetically modified plant. In 1983, Kary Mullis (US) identified the polymerase chain reaction, which amplified small sections of DNA. In 1984, mice were genetically modified to predispose them to cancer. In the late 1980s, electroporation – the use of electricity to make a cell membrane more porous – increased scientists’ ability to insert foreign DNA into cells. In 1989, Mario Capecchi (US), Martin Evans (UK) and Oliver Smithies (UK/US) were the first to manipulate a mouse’s DNA to turn off a gene. After the discovery of microRNA in 1993, Craig Mello and Andrew Fire (US) were able to silence genes in mammalian cells in 2002 and in an entire mouse in 2005. The first of many commercial enterprises featuring genetic engineering was Genentech, founded by Herbert Boyer and Robert Swanson (US) in 1976. The release of GMOs into the environment has been a focus of protests around the world.
Genetic manipulation of a cell.
MOBILE PHONE – 1973 – John Mitchell & Martin Cooper/Motorola – US
Albert Jahnke claimed to have designed a wireless telephone in 1908, but it was never actually produced. Germany tested wireless telephones on military trains in 1918 and began public trials on trains from Berlin to Hamburg in 1924. Telephone service was offered to 1st class travelers on German trains in 1926. During World War II, hand-held radio transceivers, or walkie-talkies, were first developed. In 1946, Bell Labs introduced the first mobile telephone service for automobiles. It was only cellular technology, which used low powered transmitters that allowed frequencies to be reused many times in small adjacent areas, that permitted economically feasible mobile telephone systems. Leonid Kupriyanovich (USSR) developed a number of experimental mobile phones between 1957 and 1961. In 1965, Bulgarian company Radioelektronika introduced a mobile phone with a base station. With the support of John Mitchell (US), Martin Cooper (US) at Motorola, created a handheld mobile phone in 1973, after being inspired by the communicators on Star Trek. The prototype weighed 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg), was 9 by 5 by 1.75 inches, allowed 30 minutes of talk time and took 10 hours to recharge. The first automatic analog cellular systems (1G) were NTT in Japan in 1979 and NMT in the Nordic countries in 1981. The Advanced Mobile Phone System came to North and South America in 1983, Israel in 1986 and Australia in 1987. Digital systems (2G) arrived in 1991 with Radiolinja in Finland. The first text message was sent in the UK in 1992. In 1993, IBM introduced Simon, the first smartphone. In 1998, Finland’s Radiolinja sold the first downloadable ring tone. The first Internet service on a mobile phone was introduced by NTT DoCoMo (Japan) in 1999. In 2000, Radiolinja hosted the first advertisement on a mobile phone. NTT launched the first 3G network in 2001. The first 4G networks, in 2009, were Sprint’s WiMAX in the US and LTE, from TeliaSonera in Scandanavia.
Martin Cooper places a call in 1973 using the mobile phone he and John Mitchell developed at Motorola.
POST-IT NOTES – 1974 – Arthur Fry/3M – US
Arthur Fry (US) at 3M invented post-in notes in 1974, using a low-tack, reusable pressure-sensitive adhesive developed by colleague Spencer Silver in 1968. Fry first used Silver’s glue to keep bookmarks from falling out of his hymnal in the church choir. First introduced in stores in 1977 as “Press ‘n Peel”, the new invention was not a success. Then in 1978, 3M gave out free samples in Boise, Idaho. The product was reintroduced in 1980 as “Post-It Notes” and became a best seller. The patent expired in the 1990s, allowing other manufacturers to produce similar products, but most Post-it Brand notes are made in a plant in Cynthiana, Kentucky. The term “Post-it” and the yellow color of the original notes are registered trademark. Société Bic (France, formerly Bic) has a trademark on “Sticky Note.” In 2003, 3M introduced Post-it Brand Super Sticky notes, which works better on vertical and non-smooth surfaces. There are now over 600 products based on the Post-It concept.
Artists decorated the Melissa Gallery in Portugal with this design using 350,000 Post-it notes.
DIGITAL CAMERA – 1975 – Steven Sasson – US
In 1968, Edward Stupp, Pieter Cath and Zsolt Szilagyi at Philips (The Netherlands) invented a flat-screen target to receive and store a visual image using an array of photodiodes connected to a capacitor. In 1969, George Smith and Willard Boye (US) invented the charge-coupled device (CCD). In 1972, Willis Adcock (US) at Texas Instruments designed a filmless camera, although it was not digital. In 1975, Steven Sasson (US) at Eastman Kodak built the first digital camera, using a solid state CCD developed by Fairchild Semiconductor in 1973. The camera weighed eight pounds, had a resolution of .01 megapixels and took 23 seconds to produce its first black and white image. In 1976, the KH-11 electronic imaging satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office (US) – it had a CCD with resolution of .64 megapixels. In 1981, Sony introduced the Mavica, an electronic camera, which captured images on two CCDs and recorded them on a floppy disk. The first commercially available digital camera may have been the Fuji DS-1P, from 1988, although there is little evidence it was ever sold. The first marketed digital camera was the Fuji DS-X (Japan), from 1989. The first digital camera marketed in the US was the Dycam Model 1, from Logitech in 1990. Kodak produced a digital SLR camera, the DCS-100, in 1991. Digital computers that worked with a home computer included the Apple Quick Take 100 (1994), the Kodak DC40 (1995), the Casio QV-11 (1995) and Sony’s Cyber-Shot Digital Still Camera (1996). The first consumer camera with an LCD display was the Casio QV-10, designed by Hiroyuki Suetaka, from 1995. The first camera to use CompactFlash was the Kodak DC-25 in 1996. Minolta’s RD-175 from 1995 had 1.75M pixels and the Nikon D1, from 1999, had 2.74 megapixels.
The 1975 prototype digital camera from Steve Sasson at Kodak.
GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM (GPS) – 1978 – Ivan Getting, Roger Easton, Bradford Parkinson – US
The origin of GPS and its predecessors was the need for military powers to locate ships and submarines. During World War II, the British developed a radio navigation system called GEE, which had a 400-mile range. The British Navy also used the Decca Navigator System, a hyberbolic radio navigation system. The Americans then built LORAN, which had a range of 1200 miles. After the USSR launched Sputnik, William Guier and George Weiffenbach (US), at Johns Hopkins, learned first how to identify the satellite’s location, and then began to investigate pinpointing the user’s location. This led to the Transit system, which was first tested in 1960. Transit used five satellites and could provide a location once every hour. While at Raytheon in the 1950s, Ivan A. Getting (US) developed the first three-dimensional, time-difference-of-arrival position-finding system. In 1958, Roger Easton at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) began the U.S. Navy Space Surveillance System, which became operational in 1966. The idea for GPS was born in the Air Force’s 1960 proposal for Mosaic and the follow-up study, Project 57 (later Project 621B), in 1963. In 1964, the U.S. Army began the SECOR project for geodetic surveys. SECOR used a satellite, three ground-based transmitters and a ground-based station. In 1967, the U.S. launched the first satellite with an accurate clock inside, Timation, which was developed by Roger Easton at NRL. Operated by the U.S. with six other nations, Omega, which became operational in 1971, was the first global radio navigation system. At a 1973 meeting at the Pentagon, U.S. military officers met to discuss a Defense Navigation Satellite System, called Navstar (later Navstar-GPS, and finally just GPS), that would combine elements of 621B, Transit, Timation and SECOR. Key workers on the project included Bradford Parkinson (US) (1973-1978). In 1974, a satellite with an atomic clock inside was launched. After the USSR shot down a Korean Air Lines flight in 1983, the U.S. declared that GPS would be available to civilians. The first 24 original GPS satellites was put in orbit between 1989 and 1994. The system became partially operational in 1993 and fully operational in 1995. At first, the civilian GPS signal was intentionally degraded, but the signal was returned to full strength in 2000. In 2004, Qualcomm first tested GPS on mobile phones. Beginning in 2005, a set of modernized GPS satellites was launched.
A Block II-A Global Positioning System satellite, from the 1990s.
LAPTOP COMPUTER – 1982 – Bill Moggridge – UK
Alan Kay (US) imagined a laptop computer in 1968 and published a description of the Dynabook in 1972. The IBM 5100, the first commercially available portable computer, appeared in 1975. The Dynabook was never built, but its design influenced Adele Goldberg, Douglas Fairbairn and Larry Tesler (US) at Xerox PARC, who built the first portable computer – the Xerox NoteTaker – in 1978. However, only 10 prototypes were built. The first mass-produced portable computer was the Osborne 1, from 1981, which used the CP/M operating system. Other CP/M laptops were the Epson PX-4 and PX-8 and the NEC PC-8401A and NEC PC-8500. Epson announced its innovative HX-20 in 1981, but it wasn’t widely sold until 1983. Bill Moggridge (UK) designed the GRiD Compass 1101 in 1979-1980 but it wasn’t released until 1982. It was the first laptop with the familiar clamshell design with display folded over keyboard. Barry Wilkinson and Terry Crews (Australia) designed the Dulmont Magnum in 1982 and released it in Australia in 1983 and internationally in 1984. Compaq released the Compaq Portable in 1983, based on MS-DOS. Also released in 1983 was the Ampere, designed by Ryu Oosake (Japan) and the Tandy TRS-80 Model 100, one of the first notebook-style computers. A big seller in 1983 was the Kyocera Kyotronic 85, which was licensed and sold under various names by Tandy, Olivetti and NEC. The Sharp PC-5000, the Gavilan SC and the Commodore SX-64 (the first full-color model) were announced in 1983 and sold in 1984. The Gavilan was the first to be marketed as a ‘laptop’ and was the first to use a touchpad. IBM released its own Portable Computer in 1984. The Bondwell 2, using CP/M, was released in 1985. Also released in 1985 were the Kaypro 2000, probably the first truly IBM-compatible laptop, and the Toshiba T1100. IBM issued its own compatible laptop in 1986 – the IBM PC Convertible. In 1987-1988, Zenith Data Systems (US) and Tottori Sanyo (Japan) built the SupersPort laptops for the U.S. Air Force. The Cambridge Z88, from 1988, was a forerunner of the personal digital assistant. Other early laptops included the Compaq SLT/286, from 1988 (with the first VGA resolution screen), and the NEC UltraLite, from 1989. Apple made the Macintosh Portable in 1989 and the PowerBook in 1991. In 1992, IBM introduced its ThinkPad 700C, which used a pointing stick. The first 17″ screens appeared in 2003.
The Xerox Note-Taker, from 1978, one of the first portable computers.
CD PLAYER – 1982 – Sony – Japan.
While James Russell, inventor of the compact disc in 1969, used a machine to play it, the first commercially available CD player, the CDP-101, was introduced by Sony (Japan) in 1982, The CDP-101 used a slide-out tray. A vertical loading design was adopted by Alpine/Luxman, Technics, Kenwood and Toshiba/Aurex. Philips/Magnavox brought in a top loading model, the CD100, in 1983. The Philips CD303, from 1983-1984, was the first CD player with tray loading and a sliding play mechanism.
The Sony CDP-101, released in 1982, was the first commercially available CD player.
CAMCORDER – 1982 – Sony – Japan
The first video cameras were large and heavy, with a separate recording device and were for commercial use only. Eventually, videocassette recorders were added by JVC (VHS) and Sony (Betamax). In 1982, Sony introduced the Betacam system, which had a combined camera/recorder. Sony brought out the first consumer camcorder in 1983 – the Betamovie BMC-100P. JVC released the first VHS-C camcorder the same year. In 1985, Sony introduced the compact Video8 camera. The same year, Panasonic, RCA and Hitachi began producing shoulder-mount camcorders with a full-sized VHS cassette. JVC introduced the full-size Super VHS (S-VHS) in 1987, and Sony brought out the Hi8 the same year. Sony announced the first digital camcorder, the D1, in 1986. Ampex created an improved data compression digital video camcorder in 1992. In 1995, Sony, JVC, Panasonic and others announced a standard digital storage format known as DV. The same year, Ikegami introduced Editcam, the first tapeless video recording system. Panasonic launched DVCPRO HD, a professional HD camcorder. In 2003, Sony, JVC, Canon and Sharp announced HDV, the first affordable HD video format. Also in 2003, Sony introduced the XDCAM tapeless video format. Panasonic followed in 2004 with P2 solid state memory cards and in 2006, Panasonic and Sony introduced the AVCHD video format. In 2007, Sony brought out XDCAM EX. In 2009, the first HD 3-D camcorders entered the market, starting with the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D.
The Sony Betamovie BMC-100P, the first consumer camcorder, went on the market in 1983.
DNA FINGERPRINTING – 1984 – Alec Jeffreys – UK
In 1984, Alec Jeffreys (UK) at the University of Leicester developed a technique for identifying individuals by their DNA, by focus ingon certain genetic sequences that differ from individual to individual. Jeffreys published his results in 1985. From early on, DNA fingerprints were used in determining paternity, familial relationships and criminal justice. In 1986, DNA testing was used to exonerate a man of two murders and, in 1987, it was used to identify the real killer. By 1987, Jeffreys had developed a less complicated procedure known as DNA profiling. In 1987, Imperial Chemical Industries (UK) made the process commercially available. The UK established a National Criminal Intelligence DNA Database in 1995. Between 1996 and 1998 Kevin Miller and John Dawson (UK) at the University of Cambridge developed a DNA databases. The largest DNA database is the Combined DNA Index System, run by the U.S. government, with five million records as of 2007.
Alec Jeffreys with a copy of the first DNA fingerprint profile. Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA.
CD-ROM – 1984 – Sony, Japan – Philips, The Netherlands
The CD-ROM (Compact Disc – Read Only Memory) is a disc containing large amounts of data that computers can read. In 1983, the Yellow Book was published, setting out the standards for CD-ROMs. The first public release of CD-ROMs and CD-ROM drives by Sony (Japan) and Philips (The Netherlands) occurred in 1984. By 2010, CD-ROM was being replaced by DVD-ROM, which can hold much more data and has faster read times.
A CD-ROM can hold the words and images from this encyclopedia, plus audio and video clips.
WORLD WIDE WEB – 1989 – Tim Berners-Lee – UK
In 1980, Tim Berners-Lee, working at CERN in Switzerland, built a personal database of people and software models called ENQUIRE, that used hypertext. In March 1989, Berners-Lee proposed a large hypertext database with typed links. He began implementing his proposal on a NeXT workstation, calling it the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee’s collaborator Robert Cailliau rewrote the proposal in 1990. By Christmas 1990, Berners-Le had created the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP), the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the first Web browser, the first HTTP server software, the first Web server and the first Web pages. Nicola Pellow (UK) created Line Mode Browser, that allowed the system to run on any computer. In January 1991, the first non-CERN servers came online. The Web became publicly available after August 23, 1991. The first American Web server was established at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center by Paul Kunz and Louise Addis in September 1991. In 1993, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, under the lead of Marc Andreessen, introduced the Mosaic graphical web browser, which evolved into Netscape Navigator in 1994. Also in 1993, Microsoft also released Cello, written by Thomas R. Bruce at Cornell, a browser for Microsoft Windows. As of 2008, there were one trillion public web pages on the World Wide Web.
Tim Berners-Lee set up this web page – perhaps the first – in 1991.
CLOCKWORK RADIO – 1991 – Trevor Baylis – UK
The use of human power to charge electrical devices has a long history. Early telephone systems used a hand crank to generate electricity, which then rang a bell. After the sinking of the Titanic, lifeboats were equipped with hand-cranked radios such as the Marconi Type 241, from 1920. In 1929, Alfred Traeger (Australia) invented a radio transmitter/receiver powered by a pedal-driven generator. Germany invented the Gibson Girl hand-cranked radio in World War II. The UK captured a unit in 1941 and made a copy; the UK captured a second unit and gave it to the US, which made its own copy. A later version, the AN/CRT-3, was used on ships and civilian aircraft until the 1970s. Also developed in World War II was the dyno torch – a flashlight that was charged by repeatedly squeezing a handle. In 1991, Trevor Baylis (UK) invented a clockwork radio using a hand crank for use in developing countries by poor people without access to batteries or electrical power. Baylis sold his invention to Chris Staines (UK) and Rory Stear (South Africa) who produced the first model as Baygen Power Industries (later Freeplay Energy). Human-powered flashlights that are charged by shaking were first marketed in 2002.
The original Baygen clockwork radio.
DIGITAL VIDEODISC (DVD) – 1995 – Philips, The Netherlands; Sony, Japan; Toshiba, Japan; Panasonic, US
GOOGLE – 1997 – Larry Page & Sergey Brin – US
IPOD – 2001 – Tony Fadell, Michael Dhuey, Jonathan Ive/Apple – US/UK
FACEBOOK – 2004 – Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes – US