Technology That Changed The World

The Transistor Is the Daddy of All Technology.

shutterstock_275792237Without the transistor, pretty much all the technology we take for granted today wouldn’t exist – or if it did, our home computers would be the size of Belgium. The basic building block of everything electronic, the transistor is widely credited to Bell Labs’ William Shockley, who based his own research on findings by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain in 1947.

The IBM PC Gave Birth to the Home Computer.

The first IBM PC was powered by an Intel 8088 microprocessor, was the size of a portable typewriter and packed 16K of RAM. It cost nearly $2,000. It’s dated now, but if it weren’t for this first PC, we might not have computers at all. At the time, it would have been impossible to imagine that one day we would have computers small enough to fit inside our phones—but it all comes from the 8088 microprocessor.

The PC brought computing to the desktop, and its influence lives on. When IBM stopped fighting clone manufacturers and licensed technology to them instead, it led directly to today’s modular, upgradeable and customizable machines. When you’re upgrading your aging graphics card to play Crysis or swapping out your old DVD drive for a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo unit, you’ve got IBM to thank. Or curse.

TCP/IP Holds the Internet Together.

Developed by Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the early 1970s, Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol is the glue that holds the Internet together. Without it, we’d just have a bunch of networks that couldn’t talk to one another.

The Apple iMac Made Technology Stylish.

The original iMac is one of the most influential designs of the last decade. In a world where computers were ugly, blocky and beige, Apple showed machine-makers a better way of doing things. And the iMac has influenced not just computers, but irons, vacuum cleaners and even baby bottle sterilizers. With the iMac, Apple rediscovered its groove, giving it the platform to design other icons of our time like iPods and iPhones. You may have heard of them, but without the Apple iMac we would never have had them.

The World Wide Web Makes It All Possible.

The World Wide Web isn’t the Internet. Created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and released in 1992, the web took off in 1993 with the introduction of the Mosaic Web browser. Without the World Wide Web, modern Internet as you know it wouldn’t exist. Berners-Lee could probably have made enormous stacks of money from patenting and licensing his invention, but he gave it away instead.

shutterstock_119624326The Mouse.

Invented by Douglas Engelbart at the Stanford Research Institute in 1963, the mouse changed the way we interact with machines – but Engelbart didn’t receive a penny in royalties for his invention, because his patents ran out before the mouse turned up in PCs. The mouse ball came along in 1972, making tracking easier, and while the nuts and bolts have changed – today we have wireless mice and laser mice, not to mention mice with more buttons than a tailor’s shop – the mouse is still an essential part of our computing kit.

SMS Changes the World.

It may well have ruined the English language, but SMS (Short Message Service) has also transformed the way we communicate – and it was done so entirely by accident. While the idea was kicking around during the mid-1980s, nobody thought of it as a way for people to send messages to one another; instead, it was envisaged as a way to let people know they had new voicemails. The first mobile phone SMS was sent by a Nokia student engineer in 1993, and by 2000, the average user was sending 35 SMSes per month. We now know people who send that many messages every few minutes.


Brief Introduction to Nanotechnology

In modern times, the use and control of tiny matter (nanotechnology) has become increasingly important. It has many uses from developing sports equipment to medical applications, to uses within the textile industry and even helping with energy. There are, however, some concerns about its use. The tiny matter is referred to as nanoparticles. These particles are measured in nanometers (nm). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter (0.000,000,001m). Nanotechnology is concerned with the use and control of structures that are 1-100 nanometers in size.

Some of these nanoparticles occur naturally, for example in volcanic ash. Some occur by accident, for example during the combustion of fuels. Many occur by design. However, nanotechnology has a number of interesting potential applications in areas.


Things behave differently at the nanoscale. An excellent example is the fact that gold actually reflects red light at the nanoscale. This has resulted in the design of experimental systems that kill cancerous cells with normal visible light, but leave normal cells unharmed. Also, body tissue can be reproduced or repaired using nanotechnology, which could eventually develop into treatments to replace or repair organs.


Nanotechnology could be harnessed to consume extremely low amounts of energy, making it a vital alternative to current methods of supplying power.


Nanotech is already at use in consumer products ranging from stain-resistant and anti-wrinkle textiles in clothing, to cosmetics. If keeping clothes clean isn’t enough, ‘smart clothing’ could monitor your heart rate and other vital signs.


The relationship between the volume and surface area of some particles can change at nanoscales in such a manner that they can end up with more ‘outside’ than ‘inside.’ (If you’re a “Dr. Who” fan, think of it as the opposite of a TARDIS.) The advantage is that the more surface you have, the more reactions you can have on that surface. This can allow new kinds of filtering, such as water for drinking or light for solar energy.