The top five technologies that changed the world

5: Telegraph

An early model of the telegraph

Communication is the cornerstone of any developed society, however before the invention of the telegraph in 1832 by Baron Schilling von Cannstatt, the spread of information was slow. The growing world hungered for a faster way to transmit information and the telegraph allowed for the flow of messages at near instant speed. Prior to this, especially in a country as large as the United States, information had to be delivered physically. A feat that could take weeks, depending on how far the information had to travel.

The fact also that the telegraph ran on electricity meant that, following the expensive nature of implementing the necessary infrastructure, the spread of messages was much cheaper also. This allowed for ordinary people to gain from the new technology, sending urgent messages to those who were far away.

Another benefit of the telegraph was the revolutionary effect that the invention had upon Journalism at the time. One of its first great successes was in the Boer War, where the telegraph allowed for contemporary reporting from the front lines, a feat that had never been seen before. The shift to the instantaneous flow of information was revolutionary at the time; a tool that we much take for granted today.

4: Radio

Retro radio

The radio was one of the first portals that allowed technology into our lives. It is generally agreed that the inventor of the radio was Guglielmo Marconi, who developed it throughout the 1890s, however it would take a while for the technology to reach the masses.

But when it did reach homes, its impact was massive. Not only did it act as a source of entertainment at a reasonably affordable price, it was also the method of choice for governments and journalists alike to relay information to those who were wanting. Throughout the great wars it helped keep the public informed as well as entertained, although due to the licencing of the airwaves, the information at least at the beginning could be controlled.

But radio also had other influences that still impact society today, one of the chief things it did was to propel the music industry. Without the radio, music as we know it would be forever changed as it allowed stations to tailor their markets and push new and innovative music to the world, propelling what is now a £3.5 billion industry.

3: The Internet

Many of you will be surprised to see what is probably one of the most well-known technologies so far down this list, despite this however the impact that the internet has had on society nobody can deny.

Although it is still a fledgling technology by all accounts, it’s seamlessly integrated into every aspect of our lives. Developed by Tim Burgess Lee whilst working at CERN in 1989, the internet as a concept had been long around before that. It was in its early days a system used by the military and top universities to spread information and files to other computers remotely, but with the help of Lee, the internet became a worldwide phenomenon.

Although the first webpages look nothing special by todays standards, the ability to have information at just a click away was mind-blowing at the time. When sites like google and Yahoo developed their search engines, the internet went from being a geeky bit of tech to a technology accessible to everyone. It is this instant accessibility that helped the internet grow exponentially, and the extent on which industry relies upon it today is mindboggling. All aspects of industry including banking, news, shopping and entrainment to name, but a few rely upon it more than another technology.

Although it is fledgling, we now have access to al the information we could ever want at the touch of a button or hidden in our pockets, only time will tell how this technology will ultimately shape the world.

2: Computing

One of the earliest computing systems from the late 50s

Without computing, the entire civilised world as we know it would not be possible. Computing has not only improved the lives of millions around the world, it’s also the bedrock for nearly all societies across the world.

The first computer as we know it came about in 1954 with the IBM 650, a behemoth of a machine that took an entire room and team of engineers to run it. These early computers ran on tape, similar to that of a cassette, but their impact was massive. Not only could a computer do the work of hundreds of people in terms of computing and calculation, it could also store and call up information near instantaneously.

As we’ve learnt from this list, advancements in information technologies are untimely the advancements that push humanity forward. The computer itself was solely responsible for propelling humanity forward, with its ability to store and process information being invaluable to governments and businesses alike. Soon everyone realised the potential in the technology and quickly people scrambled to convert their old analogue systems into digital libraries.

The potential for computing was massive, even more than pioneers like Alan Turning could ever imagine. The way it’s integrated itself into modern life is unprecedented, and with advancements still going ahead, it’s hard to know where computing will be in 20 years’ time or how it will continue to impact our lives. One thing is clear though, there is no turning back   anymore, computing is here to stay.

1: The Printing Press

A recreation of the Gutenberg Press

Many of you will be surprised to see the printing press at the top of this list, and it has the title of the oldest technology on this list, but it’s hard to totally comprehend the affect that it has had on current society.

Information is key to moving society forward and in the early 1400s, information was only available to the elite. Any books or letters had to be hand scribes by learned men (mostly monks and members of the clergy) which not only limited information but made it expensive too.

However, in Germany a man named Johannes Guttenberg was working on a machine that would change the world. He invented a machine that, using individual letters and numbers, could arrange sentences and put them to paper using ink and a press. Now this by todays standards does not seem revolutionary but at the time it changed the game entirely.

It dramatically reduced both the cost and the effort involved in the printing of books and other works that before were out of the reach of ordinary people. Information now had a vesicle through which it could be replicated and shared, untimely causing a renascence in both academia and other industries. Although it was initially slow to get off the ground, the Guttenberg Press laid the foundation to culture and society as we know it today. It was the beginning of the information age and it’s effects can be seen to this day. It allowed for the exchange of ideas and information between people that had not had the means to do so before, propelling humanity into a new age.

Although most have heard of it. Few people attribute the necessary importance to the invention and in turn, the advancements and knowledge that it spawned that we rely upon today to heavily.

By Ryan Pointon

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