8 World-Changing Innovators That Molded Today’s Technology

Posted in Inspiration3 years ago • Written by 17 Comments

The talk about great innovators and visionaries has been hot these past few weeks, with images and articles about Steve Jobs appearing in every corner of the internet world. The focus was on Steve Jobs, and his passing, but should that stop us from honoring earlier innovators, who not only innovated things during their time, but also helped create what we have now?

Below you will meet some of the world’s best inventors when it comes to disseminating information and improving technology as we know it. I must warn you, all but one have left this world. Still, with new technology booming every month, it surely won’t hurt learning about them!

As Plato once said, “study the past if you would divine the future,” so we must!

Printing Press –  Johannes Gutenberg

Printingpress

Image from Wikipedia

One cannot deny the importance of mass production and being able to disseminate information. Prior to the invention of the printing press, lower class people could only dream of reading a book and being educated. This was in the 13th and 14th centuries, a time when books were almost the price of gold and a time when scribes wrote each word by hand of every copy of every book. You can imagine how hard it was to acquire a book!

The invention of mechanized printing led to the Printing Revolution, a period where information became widely available and much more affordable. This opened a new world for people to learn new things that in the past were only a dream of having, it also gave birth to many scholars and curious intellectuals.

Looking back, without the propagation of cheap information we wouldn’t be here today savoring technology and sweet information!

Computer –  Charles Babbage
(Dec. 26, 1791 –  Oct. 18, 1871)

Charles_babbage_part_of_computer

Image from Wikipedia

Ah, so Charles Babbage invented the computer. What’s so shocking about it? Well, several years before it was possible to make a model, he had already designed one using ink and paper. He had already laid out plans that years to come would blow mathematicians’ minds away.

It is also interesting to note that Charles Babbage worked closely with Ada Lovelace (born Augusta Ada Byron, daughter of Lord Byron). Together they developed the Analytical Engine, which gave Ada Lovelace the title of First Programmer.

Electricity –  Nikola Tesla
(July 10, 1856 –  Jan. 7, 1943)

Nikola Tesla chilling in his laboratory like a boss.

Image from Wikipedia.

Perhaps Nikola Tesla is one of the greatest minds of our time to be forgotten, not because of his weird conjectures, but because of a conspiracy against him during his time by envious people. Today we are enjoying the flow of electricity to our homes making our appliances and gadgets come to life. Without the ability to harnessed electricity, we couldn’t possibly hope to have advanced technologically as it is a prerequisite.

If you have played one of those strategic games, like Red Alert, you will learn that you need to upgrade or research a certain technology before advancing to the next. That’s how it is in real life, and harnessed electricity is the timeless breakthrough that will always be useful to every human living on this planet.

In honor of Nikola Tesla’s achievements, the Tesla unit was named after him. In the game Red Alert, they honored Tesla by naming several characters and buildings there after him, such as the Tesla Tank, Tesla Tower, and Tesla Trooper.

There is more to Tesla then just being named in computer games and as the inventor of harnessed electricity. He dreamt of inventing a wireless means of transporting electricity from a single point to just about anywhere. Unfortunately he was not able to do it because his life was cut short. On the other hand, he may have not successfully invented wireless transfer of electricity, but he managed to do it, although not perfectly and quite impractical. What it was lacking was long distance transfer.

Walkman –  Nobutoshi Kihara
(Oct. 14, 1926 –  Feb. 13, 2011)

Walkman_series

Image from Wikipedia

The Walkman is truly one of the first revolutions in the entertainment industry, the first one to break the thinking that BIG is always better.

It’s a sad thing that children born today (2000s) will have no idea what a Walkman is. I’m 22 and yet I enjoyed one when I was young. I was even brought by my cousin to recording stores to purchase his “tapes”.

If Wikipedia is to be trusted, Masaru Ibuka (a Sony co-founder) allegedly said that Mr. Kihara is “godlike” because after a few moments of discussing concepts, he will develop a prototype of it within a day.

C Programming Language –  Dennis Ritchie
(Sept. 9, 1941 –  Oct. 2011)

Dennis_ritchie

This is the photo of the man you should all be thankful of, whose passing unfortunately didn't create a worldwide mourning.

Image from Wikipedia

Dennis Ritchie is the person responsible for the creation of the C language and is a key developer of the UNIX operating system. UNIX systems are widely used on different platforms and devices, and today’s technology wouldn’t be possible without the help of these two inventions.

The development of C and UNIX led to various advances in both software and hardware. Due to his work, he received the Turning Award and IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal.

Touch Screen –  E.A. Johnson

Contrary to popular belief, Steve Jobs didn’t invent touch screens. Although there is very little information online about E. A. Johnson, the inventor of the first touch screen, there are published resources that prove it. See “Touch Displays: A Programmed Man-Machine Interface,” published in the year 1967.

Everywhere you go today you’ll find devices with touch screens. Kiosks at your favorite shopping mall, the ATM, the devices you use, and even vending machines.

Telephone –  Alexander Graham Bell
(Mar. 3, 1847 –  Aug. 2, 1922)

First_telephone_keanu

An actor that looks like Keanu Reeves portraying Alexander Graham Bell for an AT&T film.

Image from Wikipedia

Imagine life without your mobile phone or even the internet. Sucks, right? And that’s the reason why you need to know the humble beginnings of these light-speed communication!

Prior to the invention of the telephone, many people did not imagine that it was even possible. It’s like witchcraft! And since the snowball effect applies to everything, like when a thing gets started it won’t stop no matter what, the birth of the telephone opened a new world for fast communication. Which leads us to the World Wide Web.

Update: This is probably the most controversial item on our list, and to avoid further rants I’ll share commenter AlexanderDaslink to The Guardian that says it was actually Antonio Meucci who invented the first telephone that can transmit voice. If you will do a quick search and look at the history of its making, the first voice transmission was made during Bell and Meucci’s timeline. Several years prior to theirs, only vibrations and clanking were made.

World Wide Web –  Tim Berners-Lee

The World Wide Web is one of the most important inventions of mankind. The thought of it was impossible, nearly witchcraft if you could hear people from back then speak about it, but I wasn’t capable of thinking things like that yet when I was born (1989). But I had my piece of WWW-less until my junior year in high school. Yes, that’s when I first accessed the internet for more than an hour (first time was during freshman year, just a look at Yahoo and nothing more).

The bad things aside, the Internet is now creating a new world-wide culture transcending race, distance, and even time. Somehow, a global consciousness is emerging. From the fast spread of free information that is accessible to many, down to communicating with close friends and family, you just can’t ignore the glaring contribution of Tim Berners-Lee and the team responsible for the WWW we now enjoy!

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Rean was the editor of 1stwebdesigner. He regularly writes about freelancing, technology, web design, and web development. Rean also writes at Moneyarty.com, a blog dedicated to teaching people how to make money online.

17 Comments Best Comments First
  • BeauCarigan

    Saturday, November 26th, 2011 12:13

    1

    If you use Wikipedia as a source for the images, why not as a source for information as well?
    Babbage invented the first ‘computer’?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer#First_general-purpose_computers

    And Bell? Honestly?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_of_the_telephone

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:43

      5

      Hmm, have you actually tried reading the article and the links you posted? I did, and found no problem at all. :D

      0
  • Paul

    Saturday, November 26th, 2011 14:17

    2

    Oh how the world has changed

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:51

      6

      This changes everything, very interesting read! I’ve updated that section to include your link. Thanks!

      0
      • Francesco

        Monday, November 28th, 2011 19:01

        15

        Bell did not invent telephone, he just patented it because Meucci hadn’t been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874. :)

        0
        • Rean John Uehara

          Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 05:21

          16

          Yep, unfortunately that seems to be the case.

          0
  • Dainis Graveris

    Saturday, November 26th, 2011 19:46

    4

    Beautiful article Rean, I didn’t know a lot about these early inventors, I bet this list could be expanded and expanded, so many big names there!

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:53

      8

      Thanks Dainis! There are still a lot of names to be added, both from history and today. :)

      0
  • Ely Franklin

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 03:40

    10

    Great article, we really don’t know how they changed our world, I think Edgar Frank Codd has also given us a great contribuition.

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:52

      7

      Thanks! I’ll be collecting still and come up with a more comprehensive list, and probably an infographic on how their invention stemmed out.

      0
  • Morgan

    Friday, December 2nd, 2011 09:14

    17

    Loved these reads…anymore to come?

    0
  • Mike

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 15:45

    14

    All these things are part of our daily lives but at the time they were created no one expected that they will make revolution. Probably those scientist hoped that it will happen but they couldn’t imagine that it will affect the whole society

    0
  • Pete

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 07:22

    12

    You should probably have included the transistor, which I believe was invented around 1953-55 by 3 scientists. This made it possible to go into space as well as shrink the size of the computers – without it we would still need a floor or two :-)

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 07:31

      9

      Will definitely come up with a follow-up with more items, transistors included. Thanks!

      0
  • Salman Siddiqui

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 08:59

    13

    wowww..

    You got brains buddy! Who could come up with an article where the content looks sooo usual that one would never think that we can compile everything into a brilliant write-up. Good job!

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 12:56

      11

      Wow, thanks! More to come soon! ;)

      0
  • Morgan

    Friday, December 2nd, 2011 09:14

    17

    Loved these reads…anymore to come?

    0
  • Mike

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 15:45

    14

    All these things are part of our daily lives but at the time they were created no one expected that they will make revolution. Probably those scientist hoped that it will happen but they couldn’t imagine that it will affect the whole society

    0
  • Salman Siddiqui

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 08:59

    13

    wowww..

    You got brains buddy! Who could come up with an article where the content looks sooo usual that one would never think that we can compile everything into a brilliant write-up. Good job!

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 12:56

      11

      Wow, thanks! More to come soon! ;)

      0
  • Pete

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 07:22

    12

    You should probably have included the transistor, which I believe was invented around 1953-55 by 3 scientists. This made it possible to go into space as well as shrink the size of the computers – without it we would still need a floor or two :-)

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 07:31

      9

      Will definitely come up with a follow-up with more items, transistors included. Thanks!

      0
  • Ely Franklin

    Sunday, November 27th, 2011 03:40

    10

    Great article, we really don’t know how they changed our world, I think Edgar Frank Codd has also given us a great contribuition.

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:52

      7

      Thanks! I’ll be collecting still and come up with a more comprehensive list, and probably an infographic on how their invention stemmed out.

      0
  • Dainis Graveris

    Saturday, November 26th, 2011 19:46

    4

    Beautiful article Rean, I didn’t know a lot about these early inventors, I bet this list could be expanded and expanded, so many big names there!

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:53

      8

      Thanks Dainis! There are still a lot of names to be added, both from history and today. :)

      0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:51

      6

      This changes everything, very interesting read! I’ve updated that section to include your link. Thanks!

      0
      • Francesco

        Monday, November 28th, 2011 19:01

        15

        Bell did not invent telephone, he just patented it because Meucci hadn’t been able to pay the $10 fee to maintain the caveat after 1874. :)

        0
        • Rean John Uehara

          Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 05:21

          16

          Yep, unfortunately that seems to be the case.

          0
  • Paul

    Saturday, November 26th, 2011 14:17

    2

    Oh how the world has changed

    0
  • BeauCarigan

    Saturday, November 26th, 2011 12:13

    1

    If you use Wikipedia as a source for the images, why not as a source for information as well?
    Babbage invented the first ‘computer’?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer#First_general-purpose_computers

    And Bell? Honestly?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invention_of_the_telephone

    0
    • Rean John Uehara

      Sunday, November 27th, 2011 06:43

      5

      Hmm, have you actually tried reading the article and the links you posted? I did, and found no problem at all. :D

      0

Comments are closed.

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