New ideas often spark additional ideas that improve upon the first. Without the original, the innovations that follow may cease to exist. Innovations, both original and iterative, are essential. Here are five innovations that changed the world not only in their time, but continue to evolve as new technology becomes available.
Food is obviously one of the most key needs in human life, and as a result, it has been the focus of a lot of innovation.
The development of agriculture was a world-changing innovation. Where tribes once had to be nomadic in order to follow the herds of animals they hunted, they were now able to settle in an area and have food regularly. In addition, the work of agriculture was significantly different than the work of hunting, allowing more of the population to be involved.
The next set of innovations involved bringing crops from one part of the world into other parts. Oranges, corn, sugar, and other crops became available in entirely new areas of the world. Crop rotation, irrigation, and fertilizers allowed people to produce more from their land. Then, biotechnology emerged and allowed crops to produce more than ever and grow in areas they would normally struggle in. Larger fruits, drought tolerance, and resistance to pests are innovations that allow food to grow and feed more people across the globe. Agricultural innovations continue to change the landscape around the world.
Shelter from the elements is another basic need whether you’re dealing with sun, heat, rain, or snow. Innovations in housing have been rapid and consistent. Where humans once lived in caves, we quickly learned to use mud bricks, animal hides, and lumber to create housing. Longhouses were used to house multiple generations of a family, and huts housed smaller groups.
Over time, innovations in construction allowed for more durable housing, as well as better insulation against cold and heat. Innovations allowed for running water and electricity to be safely incorporated into the building process. Each one of these innovations seems mundane to us now, but they were truly revolutionary at the time.
Today, housing continues to be a source of many innovations. Tiny houses help people live in less space and reduce their environmental impact. Fire and mold-resistant materials help houses last longer and be a safer place to live. There are even 3-D printed homes, for a truly high-tech custom build that can withstand natural disasters.
From the very invention of the wheel, humans have looked for ways to move around more quickly and safely. The innovations surrounding cars have been incredible, and they aren’t stopping anytime soon.
The first cars were steam-powered and built in the 18th century. However, they couldn’t hold steam pressure well and required a large water supply. By the late 19th century, Karl Benz had created the internal combustion engine, which would revolutionize transportation forever.
In 1893, the first gasoline powered car appeared in the United States. The invention of mass production with a moving assembly line by Henry Ford revolutionized the automobile industry. More recently, car innovations have focused on technology, safety, and comfort. Everything from navigation systems to satellite radio to crush zones have made cars safer and more enjoyable to drive. The biggest new innovation is the focus on driverless cars, which has the possibility to revolutionize transportation once again.
Computer technology is arguably one of greatest world-changing innovations in history. In the early 19th century, Charles Babbage originated the idea of a programmable computer, which was based on mechanical principles rather than electrical. Over time, computers were refined and began to use vacuum tubes, transistors, and semiconductors. Semiconductors were developed based on experiments on the electrical properties of various materials. These experiments resulted in a theory of solid-state physics and drove the development of conductive materials.
As technology advanced, computers became smaller, more portable, and more affordable. Today, innovations have us wearing computers on our wrists, and using mobile telephones to access everything from the latest football score to a picture of the grand kids.
No discussion of revolutionary innovations would be complete without discussing the telephone. In the Ice Age, humans marked on bones to communicate. As time progressed, communication was handled by hand-written letters which had to be delivered by courier. Then, telegraphs allowed for the sending of messages over long distances with much greater speed. However, both of these techniques were limited.
Alexander Graham Bell is well known for developing the first device that clearly produced a replication of the human voice over electrical lines in 1876. Telephones rapidly became indispensable to businesses, governments, and households. The first telephones were directly connected to each other, but was quickly replaced by switchboards, another incredible innovation. Then, radio signals were used to transmit the human voice in the mid-20th century. Cellular phones were introduced in 1973.
The speed with which telephone technology has grown is a true testament to innovation that builds on existing ideas. We now carry phones that allow us to call anywhere we’d like over digital networks. These phones have computer-like capabilities, making them an all-in-one device that Mr. Bell would never have imagined.
Innovation isn’t a one and done event. As you can see from all of these examples, iteration and continuous improvement are key. But ideas don’t always come quickly. Gain additional inspiration by downloading our How to Get Creative infographic.