Inventions are around us every minute of every day, and you really cannot get away from them unless you run naked out into the wilderness. Think about it, most of the things you lay eyes on during the course of a day are human inventions – some more useful than others. Many inventions such as medicine and medical equipment actually keep people alive. Other inventions, like the “pet rock” for example, are not very useful, except for the inventor and others that managed to make money with it. While there are far too many useful inventions to list in one place, here are some of the most important and useful inventions ever conceived of.
#1 The light bulb
Think about how this invention changed the world, and how many other inventions were inspired by it. While our ancestors were able to use fire to illuminate the darkness before the invention of the light bulb, the light bulb made lighting safer and more efficient. The fact that the light bulb profoundly changed the world is brought to our attention rather starkly every time we experience a power outage. How many times have you flipped on a light switch out of habit and expected a light to go on in the middle of a blackout?
Our modern society has been constructed around the automobile. Millions of people all over the world depend on automobiles on a daily basis. Beyond moving people, there are millions of trucks on the road each and every day moving vital supplies like food from manufacturers and growers to our supermarket shelves. While trucks may not technically be automobiles, it is safe to say they they came about as a result of the invention of the automobile.
It may be hard for many of us to imagine, but being a soldier in ancient times meant going to battle with swords and spears, which made warfare a much more personal experience. Although the thought of going into battle with modern weapons is certainly frightening, it may be even more frightening to imagine looking your enemy in the eye, and counting on your skills with a sword, or even a club, to defeat him, and ensure your own survival. The invention of the firearm changed all that, which may be viewed in a positive or negative light depending on your values. It did, however, make it easier for the weak to defend themselves against the strong who wish to take advantage of them.
No doubt one of the most important inventions in human history, Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1454 made the birth of the mass media possible. The ability to disseminate copies of the same printed material to the masses had an enormous impact on the development of humankind. It may not have been terribly popular with emperors and dictators, but it gave the common man a powerful weapon in the quest for freedom and equality.
There’s no way the invention of antibiotics can be diminished. Millions and millions of lives have been spared since their invention, and they continue to save lives to this day. A simple infection that would not be considered serious today might have been fatal in the past before the invention of these miracle drugs. Unfortunately, their usefulness is being slowly degraded due to overuse, which has led to the development of “super bugs” that are resistant to many antibiotics. Researchers are working to come up with new classes of antibiotics to combat the problem.
Sure, the Romans has aqueducts which were quite revolutionary at the time, and an achievement that is still admired today. Still, they were a far cry from what we have available today. Running water on demand in our homes would have been considered a miracle in ancient times, and one we are likely all quite happily spoiled by today. Just imagine what it would be like to have to go outside to a river or stream to fill a bucket with water every time you want to take a bath or cook a meal. Yes, plumbing is pretty awesome.
Yet another modern invention we take for granted every day that would have seemed like a dream-come-true just a lifetime ago. It may be hard for us to imagine now, but people once depended on an “ice box,” the predecessor to the modern refrigerator, that required a block of ice to be placed inside on a regular basis to keep food from spoiling. In areas where the winters were cold enough for lakes and ponds to freeze, much effort went into carving blocks out of the ice to store in ice houses, where they were covered with saw dust to insulate them so they could be sold to ice box owners throughout the year.
For those of us who remember life before the invention of GPS, it really does seem like magic. Reading maps or following written directions is a thing of the past for many people in the world today, since we can now be guided by voice commands from affordable GPS devices that use orbiting satellites to help us navigate almost anywhere we want to go. GPS has made stopping to ask for directions a thing of the past for millions of travelers.
TV might be considered a more modern version of Gutenberg’s printing press in many ways, but the television made it possible to bring news and information to millions of people simultaneously at the speed of light. Television opened up opportunities for millions of regular people to be informed, educated and entertained.
The internet had much in common with television in the sense that it can disseminate information instantaneously to millions of people. What makes the internet so amazing is that it gives us all the opportunity to talk back. The internet has allowed anyone with enough ingenuity to put their message in front of millions of people all around the world. It has also revolutionized the way we communicate, learn, shop, and keep up with the news. Just a few decades ago e-mail was unheard of, and now you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the industrialized world that does not have it.