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The Top 10 Inventions of the 20th Century



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The Top 10 inventions of the 20th century is a pretty subjective concept.  It would be easy to simply name ten inventions that are most used in our modern world.  It would also be simple to simply name the 10 “biggest” inventions.  All of these choices would be very subjective.  In this list of the top 10 inventions of the 20th century it is broken down by decades.  Each decade having the major invention from it that changed the world.  Of course this list is subjective too, but hopefully to a lesser degree.

♦  1900-1910:  Airplane  ♦

December 17th 1903, Orville Wright took off on the first powered aircraft flight.  The flight lasted a grand total of 12 seconds.  A hair less than 1 year later his brother Wilbur had the first powered aircraft flight that lasted more than five minutes.  The age of the airplane was born.  Welcome to the 20th Century!

♦  1910-1920:  Radio:    ♦

Guglielmo Marconi had first radio transmission of any sort at the very end of the 19th century.  He was often thought to be the inventor of the modern radio.  The actual invention of what we consider to be modern radio was created during this time by Nikolai Tesla.

♦  1920-1930:  Penicillin  ♦

Penicillin has saved many lives over the years.  This one was a tough choice because this was also the decade that TV was invented.  But penicillin and the millions of lives it has saved since 1928 has to trump television as the top invention for this decade.

♦  1930-1940:  Canned Beer  ♦

Thinking of this time period it would be easy to go with the lightweights.  Radar, The pall point pen, The Colt revolver, Polaroid pictures, the Jet engine or even frozen food.  But let’s be serious, those all pale in comparison to true genius.  Canned Beer.  1935 the first modern “beer” was created.  Kruger Brewing company sold its first “Beer in a can”.  It wasn’t the “invention” of beer, which had been around for many years, but it was the first really modern interpretation of this beverage.

♦ 1940-1950:  Atomic Bomb  ♦

No invention has had such a power to change the course of history as this one did.  There is no doubt this could be the only choice for the decade that was dominated by World War II.

♦  1950-1960:  Fiber Optics  ♦

It was tempting to go with Mr. Potato Head for this decade.  In 1955, though, the first true Fiber Optics were invented.  Though it would take many years before the principals of fiber optics were really widely utilized, this 1950 invention has had a great effect on our modern day life.

♦  1960-1970:  Internet  ♦

As a red blooded guy both Astroturf and Silicone Breast Implants are tempting choices.  But of course I have to go with the invention of the Interent.  In 1969 ARPANET was established.  Designed to protect the “flow of information between military installations by creating a network of geographically separated computers that could exchange information via a newly developed protocol.”  It was young, but the Internet was born.

♦  1970-1980 Microprocessor  ♦

What can be said about the microprocessor?  It is used in so many things these days.  If it weren’t for the microprocessor there would be no personal computers.  There would not be anywhere near the level of miniaturization that is able today.  The microprocessor may not only be the invention of the decade but the invention of the century and in the top 3 for all time.  All hail the microprocessor.  Bonus “props” to the microprocessor because it was invented the year I was born, 1971.

♦  1980-1990 Windows  ♦

A tough decade to call the first IBM PC was created and so was the Apple Lisa.  The age of personal computing that was begun with the microprocessor really took off.  Though both of those are tempting choices, there is a reason that Bill Gates made his Billions upon Billions of dollars from Microsoft.  That reason is that, love it or hate it, Windows was very important to the growth of the computer industry.

♦  1990-2000 WWW/HTML/URL/HTTP:   Birth of Modern Internet?  ♦

Yes the past 40 years has had technological leaps and bounds in relation to computing and internet development.  There may not have every been an invention in history that has undergone such a rapid expansion of technology.  Right at the beginning of this decade Tim Berner-Lee lead a team at Cern that created the ideas of the World Wide Web(WWW), Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and URLs(Universal Resource Locators).  These creations all took place in 1990-1991.

 ♦  2000-2010  Like Spinal Tap, this list of 10 is so good it goes all the way up to 11!   ♦

The “Bonus Decade.”  This is the decade of the IPOD, Youtube, Twitter and much more.  It is hard to get perspective on what the best inventions are so close to the “action” so to speak.  But the best invention may be Toyota’s Hybrid car.  For decades car manufacturers have been working on ways to reduce our reliance on un-renewable energy sources.  There is still a long way to go, but the Hybrid car is a major step in that development.

This is quite a long list.  It gets me excited thinking about the future.  Man/machine intergration.  Nanotechnology.  Advances in science and medicine.  There are many exciting things coming.  I can’t wait.

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