- Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are handheld computers. They were supposed to be more convenient and simpler than carrying paper. Most significantly, and the reason they are a major invention, is their influence as a bridge to the smartphone. David Potter created the Psion Organizer in 1984 featuring 2K or RAM in a handheld (sort of … Continue reading "Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)"
- Mass Market Electricity
Edison created the first public electric company, powered by DC, in 1882 in lower Manhattan. His system included generators, junction boxes, fuses, sockets, and parallel wiring. Since DC current could not be transmitted far Edison’s initial electrical plant was limited in scope. Eventually, there would be many small, expensive electricity plants scattered around major cities … Continue reading "Mass Market Electricity"
- Blue Jeans
Blue jeans are fun. The once entirely functional pants evolved to represent a lifestyle. When sold as functional work pants, Levi’s did OK. When sold on emotion sales mushroomed. Background Levi Loeb immigrated from Germany to the US and changed his name to Strauss, which sounded more American. In Germany, Jews were forbidden from owning … Continue reading "Blue Jeans"
Railroads vastly lowered the cost of moving people and goods over land. Richard Trevithick invented the locomotive engine. However, he never quite created a fully functioning railroad: Trevithick’s locomotive was a literal circus act, pulling children around a track at a circus. His core innovation was the idea of a high-pressure steam engine. Prior steam … Continue reading "Railroad"
- Personal Computer, Xerox Alto (the “interim Dynabook”)
Dynabook was at the heart of Xerox PARC. Eventually realized as the Xerox Alto, it is essentially the first personal computer. Easy-to-use with a graphical interface, what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSISYG) programs, icons, the mouse, networking. Everything we take for granted today started as the Dynabook/Alto. Background The Dynabook dates to Kay’s doctoral thesis and the first interview … Continue reading "Personal Computer, Xerox Alto (the “interim Dynabook”)"
- Washing Machine
Before washing machines, wealthier families hired maids or brought their laundry to cleaners. Most people did laundry by hand, a time-consuming process usually tasked to women. Washing machines dramatically lowered the cost of washing clothes while increasing cleanliness. A patent issued to Fisher on Aug. 9, 1910, for an electric washing machine. Many people claim … Continue reading "Washing Machine"
- Nuclear Submarine
Nuclear submarines can stay underwater for an unlimited amount of time, or at least until the food runs out. Prior to nuclear subs, there were diesel-electric subs, that still exist today. However, these subs use diesel engines to recharge batteries. Therefore, diesel subs must surface to turn on the diesel engines and recharge their batteries, … Continue reading "Nuclear Submarine"
- Float Glass
Before float glass (also called flat glass), each piece of glass was individually poured and polished. This was a time consuming and expensive process that left the contours of glass uneven. Pilkington invented a method of floating the glass in a bath or iron tin, leaving both sides of glass perfectly smooth. Float glass took … Continue reading "Float Glass"
Chemotherapy refers to a group of drugs that fight cancer. Surgery and radiation were the two common anti-cancer therapies before the discovery of effective chemotherapy. Immunotherapy was also studied but showed little promise. Background In the 1800s, scientists thought drugs might be able to fight cancer. However, none of them worked well. In the 1910s, … Continue reading "Chemotherapy"
- Portable Computer
Portable computers are more convenient than stationary computers. They increase productivity for people who travel, allow office workers to bring work home, and enable telecommuting. Background Portable computers were developed at (where else), Xerox PARC. The Xerox NoteTaker, released in 1978, was the first portable computer. Staying true to Xerox tradition, only about ten were … Continue reading "Portable Computer"
- Surgical Disinfectant
Surgical disinfectant vastly reduces the risk of infection and subsequent disease and death. Lister, building on the work of Pasteur and Semmelweis, insisted that surgery and surgical equipment be cleaned with carbolic acid, an early attempt at sterilization. Before Lister, surgeons would not change their clothes: more blood showed more experience. Semmelweis advanced similar ideas, … Continue reading "Surgical Disinfectant"
In 1914, Goddard patented the first rocket and, in 1926, Goddard fired the first liquid-fueled rocket. Goddard predicted rockets would one day enable space flight, a prediction widely ridiculed as science fiction. Eventually, in 1929, Oberth fired his modern liquid-fueled rocket. Oberth eventually taught Wernher von Braun, who perfect modern rocketry. In time, both Oberth … Continue reading "Rockets"
- Birth Control Pill
“The church has ever opposed the progress of woman on the ground that her freedom would lead to immorality. We ask the church to have more confidence in women.” Margaret Sanger, Co-Inventor of the Birth Control Pill & Founder, Planned Parenthood Birth Control pills have an especially colorful history. Development of The Pill involved four … Continue reading "Birth Control Pill"
- Hard Disk Drive
Disk drives quickly store and retrieve information for computers. The primary inventor is Reynold “Rey” Johnson. Previously, he invented and sold the technology that reads pencil dots, usually for taking tests, to IBM. Subsequently, he then joined them as a staff engineer. While at IBM he developed the hard disk drive. The first hard drive, … Continue reading "Hard Disk Drive"
- Archie McCardell: Worst CEO Ever
Archie McCardell is the worst CEO in history. Sure, there are CEO’s who committed crimes, CEO’s who bankrupt their businesses, and CEO’s who looted their businesses. There are crooks, those who hire cronies, people who paid bribes, plenty who demanded sex or servitude, and countless sociopaths. In fairness to him, Archie did none of these … Continue reading "Archie McCardell: Worst CEO Ever"