1. Abacus, AD190

Abacus, AD190
Abacus, AD190

The first documented use of the Abacus dates back to the Han Dynasty. Babylonians used such devices in the very beginning which are similar to even the present day Abacus. It was the quickest way to calculate and can still beat electronic devices.

2. Archimedes Screw, c.700BC

Archimedes Screw, c.700BC
Archimedes Screw, c.700BC

The Archimedes screw was supposedly devised by the ancient Greek physicist of the same name but similar technology was the innovation of Babylonians which were used to draw water uphill in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

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4. Aspirin, 1899

Aspirin, 1899
Aspirin, 1899

Little tablets of acetylsalicylic acid were a great innovation and has helped cure probably more minor ills than all other medicines put together. Hippocrates, in all probability was the first to use it in the form of a tea made from willow bark.

 

5. Atari 2600, 1977

Atari 2600, 1977
Atari 2600, 1977

The gaming industry is a billion dollar industry today {$30bn (£15bn)}. It started with the console that would only take one cartridge and the games were crude. Cut to the console which would take any number of cartridges and followed by the age of the Wii, the PS3 and the Xbox 360.

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7. Barbed wire, 1873

Barbed wire, 1873
Barbed wire, 1873

What does barbed wire symbolize? Oppression? Farming? It is evidently the world’s most conflict-ridden invention. It was actually meant only for cattle and not to contain people but cows. Joseph Gidden, a 60-year-old New Hampshire rancher was the first to invent a method for mass manufacturing of barbed wire.

8. Barcode, 1973

Barcode ,1973
Barcode ,1973

Barcodes were nothing more than a sort of visual Morse Code made by a Philadelphia student Norman Woodland, in 1952. He was later employed by IBM and in the 70s he devised the Universal Product Code. Barcodes are so cost effective that they’re on every product that you buy. (A tenth of a penny!)

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10. Battery, 1800

Battery, 1800
Battery, 1800

In the 1780s, the Italian physicist Luigi Galvani discovered that a dead frog’s leg would twitch when he touched it with two pieces of metal. And then (famously!) his friend, the aristocratic Professor Alessandro Volta, took up the idea and impressed Napoleon with what was the first prototype of present day batteries.

11. Bicycle, 1861

Bicycle, 1861
Bicycle, 1861

The bicycle was in the initial years of its invention a plaything for gentlemen in the 1820s. Quickly enough though it became everyone’s everything everywhere in the world. The French vélocipède, invented in 1861 by Pierre Marchaux, is widely considered to be the first true bicycle.

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13. Biro, 1938

Biro, 1938
Biro, 1938

The Hungarian journalist Laszlo José Biró sold the patent for the ball point pen to one Baron Bich of France in 1950. He passed in 1985 and today his estate could’ve been in billions of dollars. Around 14 million Bich “Biros” are sold every day today, perhaps making the pen the world’s most successful gadget.

14. Blackberry, 1999

Blackberry, 1999
Blackberry, 1999

The average office worker will call their blackberry a boon and a curse too! It connects people to their inboxes, behaving nothing short of a life line and enables countless bosses to keep their employees in check. The addictiveness of the device led it to be dubbed the “Crackberry”.

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16. Bow and arrow, 30,000BC

Bow and arrow,30,000BC
Bow and arrow,30,000BC

Early man killed any and every moving creature he could. Kill and eat. Dependent only on what they could throw, or beat their prey with sticks, prehistoric man’s potential was really very limited. That changed somewhere in Africa, sometime more than 30,000 years ago, when the earliest archers emerged with bows and arrows.

17. Bra, 1913

Bra, 1913
Bra, 1913

The New York socialite Mary Phelps Jacob patented her creation, the modern bra. She later sold her business for $1,500 to Warner Brothers Corset Company, who made $15m from her uplifting invention. Today, UK women spend £1.2bn on bras and pants each year.

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19. Button, 1235

Button, 1235
Button, 1235

The earliest evidence of buttons having been used is from 13th-century German sculptures, which show tunics featuring six buttons running from neck to waist. Today, 60 per cent of the world’s buttons are made in one Chinese town, Qiaotou, which churns out 15bn buttons a year.

20. Camcorder, 1983

Camcorder, 1983
Camcorder, 1983

It seems as if only a very short while ago making a movie meant having a truckload of people fumbling with miles and miles of magnetic tape. Nowadays, anyone is as much of a film-maker as the next person. Sony was the first to produce a consumer camcorder with the release of its Betamovie in 1983.

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22. Camera, 1826

Camera, 1826
Camera, 1826

The British polymath William Talbot invented one of the earliest cameras. He is known to have said that he really couldn’t draw so he wanted to do something that would be even better than a sheer sketch on paper. In 1888 came George Eastman’s Kodak, the first camera to take film.

23. Cardiac pacemaker, 1958

Cardiac Pacemaker ,1958
Cardiac Pacemaker ,1958

Before this invention, heart patients used to get hooked to a large machine. This breakthrough in medicine was pioneered by US engineer Wilson Greatbatch who built it in his garden shed. He tested a prototype on a dog in 1958 and, in 1960, Henry Hannafield, 77, became the first human recipient.

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25. CD, 1965

CD ,1965
CD ,1965

The US inventor James Russell hated the sound of vinyl ruined music with the needle doing the reading. He went ahead and successfully patented the CD where the laser read the music. Philips and Sony picked up the trail in the early 1970s, when they perfected the Compact Audio Disc or CAD or CD.

26. Clockwork radio, 1991

Clockwork radio, 1991
Clockwork radio, 1991

The clockwork or wind-up radio doesn’t need any batteries to operate. You only need to sort of churn a handle thingy for a few seconds and there you are! Trevor Bayliss, a former professional swimmer, stuntman and pool salesman, devised the contraption after being horrified by reports from Africa that safe-sex education wasn’t getting through.

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28. Compass, 1190

Compass 1190
Compass 1190

Early mariners had it really bad. Crude maps and the heavens to depend upon for the most basic navigation! Sailors in China and Europe independently discovered in the 12th century: Lodestone, a magnetic mineral that aligned with the North Pole. When Italian navigators were able to use Lodestone to magnetize needles floating in bowls of water, this makeshift device set humanity on the course to chart the globe.

29. Condom, 1640

Condom , 1640
Condom , 1640

Egyptians donned them 3,000 years ago. The first person in documented history to advocate the use of condoms to prevent the spread of disease was the 16th-century Italian gynaecologist Gabriele Falloppio (he of the tubes). The oldest condom found dates back to 1640 and it was discovered in Dudley. Until the 1960s, condoms were made with animal gut!

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31. Credit card,1950

Credit card, 1950
Credit card, 1950

Consumers had to queue up at high street banks (or at bureaux de change for that matter) before there ever was “plastic money”. We have the American Ralph Schneider, founder of the Diners’ Club card, to thank for this dangerous convenience. There are 66 million credit cards in circulation today which is approximately 6 million more than the population. So just swipe the card and get what you need, whether you can afford it or not! Outstanding credit stands at about £60bn.

32. Digital camera, 1975

Digital camera, 1975
Digital camera, 1975

Kodak engineer Steven Sasson built the first digital camera which looked like a toaster. The first digital picture was of a female lab assistant that was horribly blurry, boasted just 0.01 megapixels and took almost a minute to record and display. Have you looked at a latest digital camera though?

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34. Digital TV recorder, 1999

Digital TV recorder, 1999
Digital TV recorder, 1999

The digital recorder is a marvel of an invention. It almost single handedly got all the clutter out of homes, video tapes et al. It (almost) silently lays down programmes on a computer hard disk. The first consumer systems were from TiVo and ReplayTV and in the UK there’s also Sky+, as well as cable and Freeview hard-disk recorders.

35. Digital watch, 1972

Digital watch,,1972
Digital watch,,1972

Watches made the short journey from bosom to wrist during the 19th century, due in part to the craze among middle-class women for cycling. Rolex made the first waterproof watch in 1926 and a year later the ultra-accurate quartz-crystal controlled clock arrived. Watches did not go digital till the 1970s when the Hamilton Company developed the Pulsar, which sported lights in place of hands; the liquid crystal display (LCD) followed in 1977.

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37. Drum, 12,000BC

Drum,12,000BC
Drum,12,000BC

It isn’t obviously known about the one who first knocked a stick on a gourd and made some music but thank heavens someone did! It would be an empty soulless world without music! Evidence of music-making dates back tens of thousands of years, but it is thought the drum was the first instrument to be built, possibly as early as 12,000BC. The stringed harp is the earliest tunable instrument to be plucked (in modern-day Iraq in around 4,500BC).

38. Dynamite, 1867

Dynamite ,1867
Dynamite ,1867

Ever since the invention of Dynamite, nothing has rocked the world more except the atomic bomb. Nitroglycerine tops the list of manmade things that killed so many people. Alfred Nobel’s youngest sibling perished when an early experiment to stabilise nitroglycerine by adding a chalky material called Kieselguhr, went horribly wrong. That made him the first victim. In 1896, Nobel used his Dynamite fortune to endow the Nobel Prizes.

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40. Electric shaver, 1928

Electric shaver, 1928
Electric shaver, 1928

The electric razor is a godsend for not only sensitive-skinned men who daily face the choice between tearing their cheeks to shreds or growing a scraggly beard but also for at least men. While working in Alaskan mines before returning to service in the First World War, Lieutenant Colonel Jacob Schick struggled with foam and blades in the sub-zero temperatures. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention!

41. Eraser, 1770

Eraser, 1770
Eraser, 1770

The lead pencil was around for at least a couple of hundred years till somebody thought of the eraser. Draughts men did use bread till then but English engineer Edward Naine saw potential in natural rubber to do a better job. It was also perishable like bread though. The advent of more durable vulcanised rubber in 1839 (a method pioneered by the tyre tycoon Charles Goodyear) sealed the future of the eraser. Hymen Lipman conceived the all-in-one pencil eraser in 1858.

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43. Fax machine, 1843

Fax machine, 1843
Fax machine, 1843

How would anyone fathom that the fax machine is more than 160 years old. The device built by the Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain in 1843, didn’t have digital displays and printouts that say “OK”. It comprised a pen attached to a pendulum kept in motion by electromagnetic impulses, is remarkably similar in principle to the modern machine.

44. Fibre optic cable, 1966

Fibre Optic Cable, 1966
Fibre Optic Cable, 1966

The Irish scientist John Tyndall in 1870 observed that a flow of water could channel sunlight. There isn’t very much to Fibre optics. They’re tubes of glass or plastic capable of transmitting signals much more efficiently than traditional metal wire. They do operate under the same principles and were perfected by Charles Kao and George Hockham in 1966.

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46. Fire, 590,000BC

Fire 590,000 BC
Fire 590,000 BC

Scientific evidence suggests that early man used fire more than a million years ago. However, the earliest signs that we had learned to command it date from nearly eight million years ago. Archaeologists discovered clusters of burnt flint tools, evidence of hearths or campfires at a dig in Israel in 2004. Man had to wait a long time for the ability to start fire in a flash. It only came with the invention of the match in 1827.

47. Fish hook, 30,000BC

Fish hook 30,000BC
Fish hook 30,000BC

It would be hard to find a simpler thing than a fish hook. Its just a bit of bent wire with a sharpened end. The fish hook has for a better part of the mankind allowed men to catch themselves a good meal without risking their lives going after big beasts and the like. The earliest hooks, which probably date to around 30,000BC, were in fact carved in wood.

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49. Floppy disk, 1971

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Floppy disks were for over twenty years were the only effective means to carry data between computers. The first floppies, invented in 1971 by IBM geek Alan Shugart, held just 100 kilobytes whereas modern disks can store 1.44 megabytes.

50. Flushing toilet, 1597

Flushing toilet, 1597
Flushing toilet, 1597

Sir John Harrington, author, courtier and godson to Queen Elizabeth I and not Thomas Crapper is the true inventor of the flush toilet. But the miscredited Crapper did indeed have a hand in toilets. Harrington beat him to it, however, installing lavatories for the Queen at Richmond in the late 16th century.

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52. Fridge, 1834

Fridge, 1834
Fridge, 1834

The refrigerator is the one invention that was and always shall be the greatest kitchen convenience ever. Jacob Perkins was the first to describe how pipes filled with volatile chemicals whose molecules evaporated very easily could keep food cool, like wind chilling your skin after a dip in the sea. He neglected publishing his invention though and the evolution got slow, it took a hundred years for his masterpiece to become commonplace.

53. Gore-Tex, 1972

Gore-Tex, 1972
Gore-Tex, 1972

It seems incredible but Edmund Hillary set out to conquer Everest in 1924 wearing nothing but a tweed jacket and plus fours. He’d have kept himself real warm were he wearing Gore-Tex. Robert Gore started a career in innovation with insulated electrical wire but made his name by creating a breathable yet waterproof fabric (its key feature being an incredible 1.4bn pores per square inch, each 20,000 times smaller than a water droplet).

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55. GPS, 1978

GPS, 1978
GPS, 1978

It is virtually impossible to find out your exact location or impossibly cumbersome to say the very least. You’ll need a compass, map and a ruler(minimum). Things are different now, the press of a button will tell you your exact location. Developed by the US military in the 1970s, the Global Positioning System has been globally available since 1994.

56. Guillotine, 1792

Guillotine, 1792
Guillotine, 1792

A campaigner against the death penalty invented and introduced the guillotine. the French physician and penal reformer, Joseph Ignace Guillotin, proposed the device as a swift and relatively “humane” alternative to public quartering or beheading by blunt axe. The last beheading in France by guillotine was in 1977 and it remained the only legal way to do it till 1981.

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58. Gun, 14th century

Gun, 14th century
Gun, 14th century

Gunpowder was originally referred to as black powder and was used as a medication in 11th century China. Black powder led to the creation of the cannon in the 13th century. It transformed warfare, greatly boosting the force of mediaeval armies. One of the biggest steps (ever) on the road to the modern gun was Smith and Wesson’s metal-cased cartridge, first fired in 1857.

59. Internal combustion engine, 1859

Internal combustion engine,1859
Internal combustion engine,1859

It is virtually impossible to overstate the importance of the internal combustion engine. Well, it sure is a different world when it comes to all environment friendly things and what not but nothing undermines the engine. Without it, we could not drive, fly, travel by train, build factories, motor across oceans, trim our lawns … the list is endless. The Belgian inventor Étienne Lenoir converted a steam engine in 1859. (Just One Horsepower!)

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61. iPod, 2001

iPod ,2001
iPod ,2001

The iPod was as much of a totally revolutionary gadget it was from the first day as it is now (six years!). Conceived by Apple’s British design luminary, Jonathan Ive, the iPod, the largest of which can store more than 30,000 songs, has sold an astonishing 110m units in 14 incarnations (that’s an average 2,000 iPods an hour).

62. Kettle, 1891

Kettle, 1891
Kettle, 1891

Britain is obsessed with their tea. Hence the kettle. The kettle is the most common kitchen gadget in the world. The first electric kettle was developed in Chicago in 1891 but even that took 12 minutes to boil water. Things soon got quicker and today’s speediest kettles can boil two cups in little over a minute.

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64. Laptop, 1982

Laptop, 1982
Laptop, 1982

The Osborne 1, released in 1981, often stakes a claim as the first laptop. A sturdy lap was required to support the earliest portable computers. They weighed nothing short of an astounding ten kilograms. Brit Bill Moggridge introduced the GriD Compass 1100 a year later. He is a more likely contender.

65. Laser, 1960

Laser, 1960
Laser, 1960

The term laser is an abbreviation which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The great scientist Albert Einstein in 1917 said atoms could be stimulated to emit photons in a single direction. The physicist Theodore Maiman built the first working laser in 1960.

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67. Lawnmower, 1830

Lawnmower, 1830
Lawnmower, 1830

It was only possible for the upper class to have their lawns trimmed by labourers and gardeners. No one else could ever afford that. It changed in 1830, when, inspired by rotary machines used to trim velvet, he joined forces with the businessman John Ferrabee to build a self-powered cylinder mower almost identical to those still in use.

68. Lead pencil, 1564

Lead pencil, 1564
Lead pencil, 1564

A pure deposit of graphite was discovered in 1564 which lead to the arrival of the pencil. Nicolas Conté perfected the pencil more than a century later by mixing graphite with clay and gluing it between two strips of wood.

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70. Light bulb, 1848

Light bulb,1848
Light bulb,1848

So posh was the light bulb when it first came out that it had a warning attached that said “This room is equipped with Edison Electric Light. Do not attempt to light with match. Simply turn the key on the wall by the door. The use of electricity for lighting is in no way detrimental to health, nor does it effect the soundness of sleep.”

71. Locks, 2000BC

Locks, 2000BC
Locks, 2000BC

Life without locks is hard or rather impossible to imagine. The Egyptians were the first peoples to use locks in 2000BC. The wooden contraption included a key that lifted pins, allowing a latch bar to slide free. The device was similar in principle to the pin-tumbler lock invented in 1848 by Linus Yale, whose name still adorns billions of keys.

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73. Machine gun, 1884

Machine gun, 1884
Machine gun, 1884

Hiram Maxim was a London based American. He invented the machine gun. Once his American friend spoke to him about making money, “invent something that will enable these Europeans to cut each other’s throats with greater facility”. It worked: Maxim’s brutally efficient gun was adopted by several armies and its successors inflicted horrific casualties in the First World War.

74. Mechanical clock, 1092

Mechanical clock, 1092
Mechanical clock, 1092

Getting the time from the earliest clocks meant hearing the time as opposed to seeing it. The most elaborate early examples date to 11th-century China, when a monk described a water-powered time keeping device. Life would’ve been nothing without time keeping devices. (A True Marvel!)

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76. Microchip, 1958

Microchip, 1958
Microchip, 1958

Microchips feature in everything. You just need to look at an electric device to know that it’s got nothing but these little pieces of silicon and metal in them. They feature in everything from toys to tanks and motorbikes to microwaves but when, in 1952, the engineer Geoffrey Dummer proposed using a block of silicon, whose layers would provide the components of electronic systems, nobody took him seriously and he never built a working prototype. Microchips have changed the world.

77. Microscope, 1590

Microscope, 1958
Microscope, 1958

Zacharias Janssen, a Dutch spectacle maker invented the microscope in 1590. It is quite easy to imagine how the microscope revolutionized Science and hence the world at large. Although, it was then regarded as a novelty rather than a revolution in science.

78. Microwave oven, 1946

Microwave oven, 1946
Microwave oven, 1946

Dr Percy Spencer was working in range of the radio waves emitted by a magnetron, a key component in radar. In his pocket he carried a peanut bar which melted. By the end of the year, the first prototype had been built and commercial ovens (costing £30,000 in today’s money) soon followed, eventually producing dodgy dinners by the million.

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80. Mobile phone, 1947

Mobile phone, 1947
Mobile phone, 1947

There are more than two billion mobile phones in the world, and the EU is home to more cells than people. You can just about do without any other gadget but obviously not without your cell phone. Nobody can! Bell Laboratories invented the mobile phone and started providing service in 1947.

81. Mouse, 1964

Mouse, 1964
Mouse, 1964

The computers in their nascent stage were as big as entire buildings. They were all buttons and sliders. A simple way to manage it all was required. The first “X-Y position indicator” prototype was built by the US radar technician Douglas Engelbart of the Stanford Research Institute in 1964. Its tail-like cable lead to the mouse moniker, and their population is expected to top a billion by the end of next year.

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83. Nintendo Gameboy, 1989

Nintendo Gameboy, 1989
Nintendo Gameboy, 1989

The Gameboy was something that everyone had to have ever since it first became available. Many companies would try to better it but none could come close to toppling the Gameboy, and its stable of killer games, including Tetris and Super Mario Land, as the best-selling gaming system of all time (worldwide sales reached well over 100m).The product instantly became a world wide success.

84. Noise-cancelling headphones, 1988

Noise-cancelling headphones, 1988
Noise-cancelling headphones, 1988

The story goes that, on a flight to Europe, Amar Bose, the billionaire founder of the Bose audio equipment firm, was so unimpressed with the complementary pair of cans, he set about making a pair that could generate sound waves to neutralise incoming noise. Can you fathom music without headphones? They block out the ambient din and are a life-saver.

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86. Paper clip, c.1892

Paper clip, o, 1892
Paper clip, o, 1892

Inventions have always been a very big deal for civilized society. The paper clip has always been revered for its economy as well as its usefulness. An 1894 advert for the clips read, “Don’t mutilate your papers with pins or fasteners, but use the Gem Paper Clip.”

87. Paper, AD105

Paper, AD105
Paper, AD105

It was the trademark Chinese ingenuity at its best over 2,000 years when they made the first reams using bark, bamboo fibres, hemp and flax. It took centuries for paper to envelop the world, first taking in Japan, then Central Asia and Egypt.

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89. PC, 1977

PC, 1977
PC, 1977

IBM produced computers for businesses in the late 1950s and they cost $100,000 (almost £500,000 today). No one could ever imagine that one day computers in their many forms shall adorn everyplace imaginable. Steve Jobs’ Apple II, launched in 1977, was the first consumer PC to resemble the machines that went on to transform our lives.

90. Plough, AD100

Plough, AD100
Plough, AD100

The ways to actually turn over or plough soil have always been different in different times and cultures. The first farmers in the Middle East used tree branches or roots to grub up fields – but when farming spread to the heavier ground of northern Europe, a more sturdy solution was required. It was the simple plough that led ultimately to the agricultural revolution.

91. Pneumatic tyre, 1845

Pneumatic tyre, 1845
Pneumatic tyre, 1845

There were no inflatable tyres. The roads were bumpy and pot holed. Travelling was for everyone a tough proposition. Robert Thomson, a civil engineer who realised the potential of air to soften the way. In 1845, he patented the use of pneumatic leather tyres on bikes. In 1888, a Scottish vet called John Dunlop devised the more durable rubber inner-tube model that helped inflate the age of the automobile.

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93. Pocket calculator, 1971

Pocket calculator, 1971
Pocket calculator, 1971

Isaac Newton used to complain about the time and effort it took to do sums on paper! Had he been alive, would have been delighted by the introduction in 1948 of the Curta calculator, a hand-cranked, barrel-shaped calculator small enough to fit in the pocket and capable of basic calculations. At the time though, the average weekly wage was a third of the cost of the Sinclair Executive, The first slimline digital pocket calculator.

94. Polaroid camera, 1947

Polaroid camera, 1947
Polaroid camera, 1947

Edwin Land would’ve been dumbfounded if he knew how couples would get the freedom to click themselves without fear of exposure at the developer’s. His daughter Jennifer asked him about the kind of time it took them to get their pictures from the developer’s. That became his inspiration. He unveiled the Land Camera in 1947, and the first instant camera became popular with police officers and artists.

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96. Pop-up toaster, 1926

Pop-up toaster, 1926
Pop-up toaster, 1926

The concept of toast is as old as bread itself. The Romans held bread over flames to prolong its edible life. America came up with the wonderful gadget that has allowed millions to enjoy toast. The Toastmaster popped into general stores in 1926 and 18 years later came Morphy-Richards, everybody’s favourite wedding present.

97. Post-it note, 1973

Post-it note, 1973
Post-it note, 1973

US manufacturing giant, 3M, invented post-it notes nearly 35 years ago. It was a 3M designer called Art Fry who felt the need for such a thing. He applied a weak glue to yellow paper and the Post-It, now sold in more than 100 countries and in 62 colours, was born.

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99. Printing press, 1454

Printing press, 1454
Printing press, 1454

 

The written word has been the primary source of communication for the better part of modern civilization. The Chinese practised block printing as early as 500 AD. Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith was the first to construct a press which had a moveable metal type, which, when laid over ink, could print repeatedly on to paper. In 1454 he used the revolutionary system to print 300 bibles, of which 48 copies survive, each worth millions of pounds. A great invention that truly changed the course of History!

100. Qwerty keyboard, 1868

Qwerty keyboard,1868
Qwerty keyboard,1868

The letters from left to right on the top row of a Qwerty keyboard are QWERTY. Hence the name. The journalist Christopher Latham Sholes of the Milwaukee News devised the first typewriter, but its alphabetical layout meant common letters in close proximity frequently jammed at high typing speeds which is why Sholes conceived the Qwerty layout.

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102. Radio, 1895

Radio 1895
Radio 1895

 

Heinrich Hertz really was mistaken when he while demonstrating electromagnetic waves in 1888, told his students, “I don’t see any useful purpose for this mysterious, invisible electromagnetic energy.” Fortunately, Alexander Popov, a Russian, and the Italian-Irish inventor Guglielmo Marconi, did see the purpose that had evaded Mr. Hertz and separately sent and received the first radio waves. Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio message (three dots for the letter “S”) in 1901.

103. Robot, 1921

Robot 1921
Robot 1921

Etymology of the term “Robot” is quite interesting. The term robot dates to 1921, when the Czech playwright Karel Capek referred to put-upon serfs as “robots” in his play R.U.R (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Robots have since covered a lot of ground. They roll out of robotics labs around the world, able to do anything from building cars to performing brain surgery.

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105. Rubber band, 1845

Rubbe band, 1845
Rubbe band, 1845

The likeliest candidate for the conception (of the rubber band) is thought to be one Stephen Perry of the London-based rubber manufacturing company Messers Perry and Co. His invention was patented the in 1845 to hold papers or envelopes together. Today, Royal Mail gets through 342 million red rubber bands a year.

106. Saddle, AD200

Saddle, AD200
Saddle, AD200

Had man not domesticated horses around six thousand years ago, they’d have been extinct! In no time at all, the horse became man’s most useful (if not best) friend. Chinese nomads invented the saddle in 200AD when riders got a better option than riding on blankets which were hardly conducive to riding or hunting for that matter.

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108. Safety razor, 1895

Safety razor, 1895
Safety razor, 1895

King Camp Gillette of America, possessor of the greatest name in the history of innovation, invented the safety razor in the 1890s. His invention made him a millionaire. By 1903 he had sold 12 million blades. In 2005, Procter & Gamble bought Gillette for $57bn.

109. Sellotape, 1937

Sellotape, 1937
Sellotape, 1937

The innovators of Sello tape coated Cellophane film with a natural rubber resin. Colin Kininmonth and George Gray were inspired by a French patent and here we are today.

110. Sewing machine, 1830

Sewing machine, 1830
Sewing machine, 1830

Bone and horn were used by humans to sew for tens of thousands of years. In 1790 was submitted the first patent for a sewing machine. The first functioning machine was invented by Frenchman Barthélemy Thimonnier in 1830, but all of them met their fate in riots. The standard first prototype which even Isaac Merit’s machine was based upon was built by Elias Howe in 1845.

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112. SMS, 1992

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SMS or short messaging service or texting as we know it is something that modern life can just not be imagined without. The British engineer Neil Papworth sent the first text around 15 years ago. It read: “MERRY CHRISTMAS”. Their popularity exploded in the late 1990s. So much so that now in the UK alone we send millions of texts every day (a record 214 million last New Year’s Eve).

113. Spectacles, 1451

Spectacles, 1451
Spectacles, 1451

Stones have correcting qualities has been known for at least several centuries now. The famous Emperor Nero used green tinted emerald to watch gladiatorial games. The very first place where you could find spectacles was in a 1352 portrait of Hugh de Provence, and the first evidence of their sale dates to 1450s Florence. Useable contacts were invented in 1887. An astonishing fact is that 75% of adult Britishers use spectacles.

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115. Stethoscope, 1819

Stethoscope, 1849
Stethoscope, 1849

Everyone is familiar with the stethoscope. Little can one imagine at the sight of it that such a simple, common instrument cold have revolutionized medical science forever! The flamboyantly monikered Frenchman, René Théophile Hyacinthe Laënnec, invented the first device that amplified the sounds of the human body.

116. Swiss Army Knife, 1897

Swiss Army Knife, 1897
Swiss Army Knife, 1897

Campers cannot imagine life without a Swiss Army knife. It was originally called the Offiziersmesser (officer’s knife). American soldiers who popularised it called it the Swiss Army Knife. The company, Victorinox, still supplies Swiss soldiers and makes 5.5 million knives a year.

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118. Syringe, 1844

Syringe, 1844
Syringe, 1844

Ever since the IXth century AD, syringes have been in use in one way or the other. However, the first hypodermic syringes with needles which were fine enough to pierce skin did not appear until the 1840s. As a matter of fact, the Irish physician Francis Rynd used the first syringe to inject a sedative to treat neuralgia.

119. Telephone, 1876

Telephone, 1876
Telephone, 1876

Charles Bourseul, a Frenchman, first proposed transmitting speech electronically in 1854. Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell sort of raced to make the first working phone in the 1870s. It was a close call with Bell winning in a photo-finish. Today there are 1.3 billion phone lines in use around the world.

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121. Telescope, 1608

Telescope, 1608
Telescope, 1608

What Galileo did invent was the word “telescope” but not the instrument. The credit actually goes to two Dutchmen namely Hans Lipperhey and Zacharias Jansen. They’re also credited with being the ones to combine convex and concave lenses at either end of a wooden tube. Early telescopes could magnify up to only 20 times; today even the amateur astronomer can pick up a telescope with 500x magnification for as little as £40.

122. Television, 1925

Television, 1925
Television, 1925

Hardly anything has reshaped family life as we know it than TV. It has helped connect people around the world, entertained billions, and kept generations of children occupied on lazy Sunday mornings. Scotsman John Logie Baird first demonstrated TV to the public in 1925.

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124. The internet, 1969

The internet, 1969
The internet, 1969

Explaining the revolution that Internet is quite easy. Numbers do the talking. From just four in 1969 to 50,000 in 1988; a million by 1991 and 500 million by 2001. And today – 1.2 billion, or 19 per cent of the world’s population. The net as we know it as well as the World Wide Web were invented in 1989 by Brit techie, Tim Berners-Lee, has shrunk the world like no other invention.

125. Match, 1826

The match, 1826
The match, 1826

The match was a revolution in itself in the way that it changed the world. A simple discovery is behind the matches. The Stockholm-based chemist John Walker discovered that a stick coated in Potassium Chlorate and Antimony Sulphide was brushed across stone, it created a flame. In the 1850s, a Swedish scientist split the chemicals between the match and the striking surface, creating the safety match.

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The Pill, 1951

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the Pill was the first drug used by “healthy” people to prevent something rather than by the sick to treat an ailment. Carl Djerassi , a chemist and his team developed the contraceptive pill in 1951 but it didn’t find its way to stores in UK uptil 1962. The pill later emerged as a champion of Women’s Lib.

127. Thermometer, 1592

Thermometer, 1592
Thermometer, 1592

The Thermometer is attributed to the very famous scientist Galileo Gallei. His awkward air thermometer, in which a column of air trapped in water expanded when warmed, was the culmination of more than 100 years of improvement. In the 1720s Daniel Fahrenheit conceived the classic mercury-in-glass thermometer.

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129. Tools, 2,600,000BC

Tools,2,600,000BC.
Tools,2,600,000BC.

More than two million years ago, Homo habilis made earliest tool fragments that came from East Africa. Early man used tools since before that time. Axes emerged as early as 10,000BC and by 3000BC the Egyptians were creating finely worked flints.

130. Toothbrush, 1498

Toothbrush, 1498
Toothbrush, 1498

 

Frayed twigs, chewing sticks, birds’ feathers and porcupine quills have something in common. They’ve all been used by man to clean their teeth. An unknown Chinese was the first to mount bristles at right angles to a handle. Hence the toothbrush.

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132. Transistor radio, 1953

Transistor Radio ,1953
Transistor Radio ,1953

The transistor radio made all simple pleasures possible like pottering around the garden to the sounds of the Ashes; lying back in the bath with The Archers on; blocking out the office din with a chart hit. Initially though, radios were bulky affairs hooked up to the mains. That didn’t change till the early 1950s.

133. Transistor, 1947

Transistor, 1947
Transistor, 1947

Which is possibly the most unsung gadget in the history of invention? The answer is the transistor, an unsung hero that very few, if any, know about. They were invented at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1947.

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135. TV remote control, 1950

remote control, 1950
remote control, 1950

The US company Zenith Electronics is attributed with manufacturing the first remote control. A fun fact is that it was quickly renamed “Lazybones”. The initial models were linked to the television by an unsightly wire, enabled generations of channel hopping couch potatoes to sit back and zap.

136. Umbrella, 2400BC

Umbrella, 2400BC
Umbrella, 2400BC

The umbrella started life in Mesopotamia as a sunshade. (It’s actually named after the Latin umbra, meaning shade). Rain-proof brolleys made of treated paper had become a French fashion accessory by the 17th century. The Sheffield manufacturer Samuel Fox invented the modern steel-ribbed umbrella in 1852.

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138. Vacuum cleaner, 1901

Vacuum cleaner, 1901
Vacuum cleaner, 1901

Its hard to believe that clumsy mechanical devices were very much in Vogue as far back as the 1860s. The American cleaner James Spangler refined the vacuum in 1908 with the introduction of a pillow case to collect dust. He sold the rights to a saddle and leather company by the name of Hoover. The rest is history.

139. Velcro, 1948

Velcro, 1948
Velcro, 1948

Removing cocklebur seeds from his dog and jacket took its toll on the Swiss inventor George de Mestral so he put one under a microscope to discover the secret of its stickiness. He created Velcro, used today in everything from ski jackets to “human Velcro walls”.

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141. VHS recorder, 1976

VHS recorder, 1976
VHS recorder, 1976

It was in 1927 that video recording came into being for the first time ever. John Logie Baird used wax discs. Later, leaving Sony behind, JVC’s VHS format became the standard, bringing the power to record into every home.

142. Vibrator, 1902

Vibrator, 1902
Vibrator, 1902

It’ll be safe to assume that as a matter of fact, powered dildos have caused the earth to move. In a 2005 global survey, 26 per cent of women admitted to using a vibrator (47 per cent in Taiwan; 3 per cent in India; but presumably none in Alabama, where vibrators are banned).

143. Walkman, 1979

Walkman, 1979
Walkman, 1979

Music has always meant the world to people. It always did. Any innovation has always been more than welcome. Sony came up with the first popular personal stereo cassette player, although the German-Brazilian Andreas Pavel had patented a similar device called the Stereobelt in 1978. The Walkman was commissioned by the firm’s opera-loving chief, Akio Morita.

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145. Weighing scales, 5000BC

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weighing scales are commonly considered as one of modern civilisation’s most important achievements. They were first conceived in the form of a crude equal-arm balance, in Egypt in around 5000BC. A surprising fact is that the first unit of weight was a kite (or the kite rather) and the the first balances were used to weigh gold dust.

146. Wheel, 3500BC

Wheel, 3500BC
Wheel, 3500BC

The wheel is certainly up there in any greatest inventions by and for mankind list. Scientists for many years tried to find out exactly when the wheel was invented, the earliest evidence of a wheel – a pictograph from Sumeria (modern day Iraq) – dates from 3500BC; the device rolled West soon after that.

147. Zip, 1913

zip, 1913
zip, 1913

A little dusty town in China produces 80% of the world’s zips, (Qiaotou, Zhejiang Province, China). Gideon Sundback invented the zips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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