11 Interesting Inventions from the 1950s That Still Affect Our Lives Today
We have already made it to the 1950s. Post World War II, the world was very different. Like we have already said before, war can inspire a lot of new technology and innovation. In this case, the remnants of WWII ushered in a host of new inventions, as well as new ideas technology should be used; centering the idea of improving one’s quality of life.
If you were around in the 1950s you probably saw a tremendous boom in electrical devices, gadgets in and around the house, i.e. why people around this time saw a huge influx in advertising (think Mad Men). Many people have looked back at the 50s as a golden era, a time period in which the quality of life drastically improved.
1. Optical Fiber
The optical fiber would change the way we transmit information and communicate with each other over the years. Invented in 1956 by Harold Hopkins and Narinder Singh Kapany, of Imperial College, London, optical fiber is used in fiber optic communication. Much more superior than other forms of communication, optical fiber transmitters are capable of sending up to 10 billion bits of information per second.
2. The UNIVAC I
Invented in 1951, the UNIVersal Automatic Computer I was the first commercial computer. The first general-purpose electronic digital computer designed for business, the computer gained a lot of attention in the 1950s. The computer caught the public’s attention when it was used in 1952 to predict the United States Presidential Election. UNIVAC was massive, standing 8 feet high, 7-1/2 feet wide and 14-1/2 feet long.
3. Video Cassette Recorder
Remember the golden era of the VCR the 1990s? You can thank the 1950s for that. The video cassette recorder was invented in 1956 trials and used for BBC. Obviously, the technology was unavailable for the everyday person as it was way too expensive, and television networks simply used it for recording and replaying video and audio signals. Nevertheless, the VCR would eventually make it into our homes, changing the way we consume media.
4. The Barcode
The barcode may be one of those inventions that you probably do not think about that much and even during the time of its creation, it took a while for it to be used commercially. Found on almost all items you use today, the barcode was invented in 1952, originally used to identify railroad cars. Created by Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver, it was not until the 60’s that the technology caught on.
5. The Hovercraft or Air-Cushion Vehicle
Created by Christopher Cockerell, the Hovercraft was very unique for the decade. This Air-Cushion Vehicle was able to move over a surface of the water while floating on a layer of thin air, reducing the friction between the vehicle and water. The “hovering” vehicle has been used across the world in the military. There are still some parts of England that use them.
6. The Passenger Jet
Tourism really took off in 1952. These first jetliners introduced in the 1950s used simple turbojet engines to get themselves off the ground. Of course, these planes quickly evolved into the quieter and more fuel-efficient turbofan. The passenger jet very literally made the world a much smaller place, allowing people to take long haul flights.
7. Fortran: The Computer Programming Language
How much do you know about Fortran? The general-purpose language compiled imperative programming language came into existence in the 1950s. The language was created by IBM for scientific and engineering applications. The programing language would go on to help people with computationally intensive tasks like numerical weather prediction, finite element analysis, computational physics, and computational fluid dynamics.
8. Solar Cell
In 1954, Gerald Pearson of Bell Labs proudly announced the invention of the first practical and commercially viable silicon solar cells. Nothing compared to the solar panel that you might find today, Pearson’s solar panel was 6% efficient compared to today’s typical solar panel that is 20% efficient.
9. The Microchip
A far cry from its later descendant, the first microchip was still a momentous moment. Created by Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce, Kilby technically created the microchip first with Noyce making the necessary improvements and changes, with the first working chip to appear in 1958. It consisted of just one transistor, three resistors, and one capacitor.
10. The Modem
The original modem came into existence due to the demands of the air defense in the United States. The first modems were in fact used to connect terminals across various radar sites, air bases, and command control centers. They were the first to be mass-produced. Remember those days of the dreaded dial-up modem? Thank goodness, they do not exist anymore.
11. The Credit Card
Hate them or love them, credit cards for sure changed the way we purchase big-ticket items at home. It makes in an era where true western consumerism was born. The first credit card to enter the market was the Diners Club Cart. However, it was American Express who truly brought the idea home offering you to pay your debt over time and free-range shopping.
IE attends New Scientist Live and speaks with the UK Atomic Energy Authority, to learn more about the ambitious STEP program.