35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world

From ancient tools to the latest digital advances, these human inventions changed the world and transformed life on Earth.
Christopher McFadden
An old steam train
An old steam train


  • Humans are a very creative species.
  • We stood on two feet from the very first day; we've been building things.
  • But. some are more important in the grander scheme of history than others.

Human inventions and technologies have shaped civilizations and transformed life on Earth. As expectations and capabilities evolve, each generation cultivates its innovative thinkers.

From the invention of the wheel to the development of the Mars rover, many of these inventions have been genuinely revolutionary, even if that wasn't always apparent then.

Most significant inventions don't have just one inventor. Instead, they have been developed separately by many people, or many people have had a hand in their evolution from basic concepts to valuable inventions.

Here is a list of our top picks of revolutionary inventions that changed the world:

1. The invention of the wheel was a big deal

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The wheel was a major innovation.

The wheel is an original engineering marvel and one of the most famous inventions. This basic technology not only made it easier to travel but also served as the foundation for a vast number of other innovative technologies.

However, interestingly, the wheel is not that old. The oldest known wheel is from Mesopotamia, around 3500 B.C. By then, people had made metal alloys, built canals and sailboats, and made complicated instruments like harps.

This delay is because the primary intention here was not the wheel itself, which was likely invented the first time someone saw a rock rolling along, but the combination of a wheel and a fixed axle that allows the wheel to be connected to a stable platform. Without the fixed axle, the wheel has minimal utility. 

2. The compass ranks up there with the most important inventions

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The compass has helped us immensely over the years.

Some believe this relatively modern invention was first created for fortune-telling and "geomancy." It was only later that it was adapted for navigational purposes. The Chinese most likely invented the earliest compasses similar to those we use today around 200 BC.

Earlier forms of the compass were made of lodestone, a naturally-occurring form of the mineral magnetite. Evidence suggests civilizations may have also used lodestones for similar purposes as early as the sixth century BCE. At some point, possibly around 1050 AD, people began suspending the lodestones so they could move freely and use them for navigation.

A description of a magnetized needle and its use among sailors occurs in a European book written in 1190 AD, so by that time, it is likely that using a needle as a compass was commonplace.

3. The modern world wouldn't exist without the automobile

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The automobile has proved incredibly useful over the years.

Some people credit the birth of the modern car to the German inventor Karl Benz, who patented his Benz Patent-Motorwagen in 1886. However, automobiles had been in the works since 1769, when Nicolas-Joseph Cugno developed the first steam-powered automobile capable of human transportation.

Over the years, many people contributed to the development of the automobile and its constituent parts. At the beginning of the 20th century, Henry Ford devised ways to make cars cheap enough for most people to buy. These techniques then became standard, with General Motors and Chrysler following suit. 

The history of the automobile reflects a worldwide evolution. Many people had to work together to make the internal combustion engine and the other parts that make automobiles. Dozens of spin-off industries were also involved, including oil and steel.

4. The steam engine was a true revolution in technology

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The steam engine changed everything when it was invented.

A Spanish mining administrator named Jerónimo de Ayanz is thought to have been the first to develop a steam engine. He patented a device that used steam power to pump water from mines. 

However, Englishman Thomas Savery, an engineer and inventor, is usually credited with developing the first practical steam engine in 1698 AD. His device was used to draw water from flooded mines using steam pressure. In developing his engine, Savery used principles set forth by Denis Papin, a French-born British physicist who invented the pressure cooker. 

In 1711, another Englishman, Thomas Newcomen, developed an improvement in the engine. Later, in 1781 AD, James Watt, a Scottish instrument maker employed by Glasgow University, added a separate condenser to Newcomen's engine, which allowed the steam cylinder to be maintained at a constant temperature — dramatically improving its functionality.+ He later developed a double-rotating steam engine that, by the 1800s, would power trains, mills, factories, and numerous other manufacturing operations.

The world would never be the same again.

5. Concrete is another great invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Concrete has a long and interesting history.

Concrete is one of the most widely used building materials today. It's a composite material made from a mixture of broken stone or gravel, sand, Portland cement, and water, which can be spread or poured into molds and forms a mass resembling stone on hardening.

One of concrete's key ingredients is cement, which is thought to have been devised in 1300 BC. Later, cement would be combined with other materials to make a substance more akin to what we know as concrete today. The Romans, for example, are famed for their concrete; many structures built using it still stand today. But it could be older than that.

Middle eastern builders coated the outside of their clay fortresses with a thin, moist layer of burned limestone, which chemically reacted with gasses in the air to form a hard, protective surface.

Around or before the third millennium BC, Nabataean traders or Bedouins built the first concrete-like structures in the southern Syria and northern Jordan regions. By 700 BC, the significance of hydraulic lime was known, which led to the development of mortar supply kilns for the construction of rubble-wall houses, concrete floors, and underground waterproof cisterns.

Around 3000 BC, the Egyptians used early concrete forms as mortar in their building. In 1824, Portland cement was invented by Joseph Aspdin of England. George Bartholomew laid down the first concrete-paved street in the US in 1893, which still exists.

By the end of the 19th century, steel-reinforced concrete was developed. In 1902, August Perret designed and built an apartment building in Paris using steel-reinforced concrete. This building had wide admiration and popularity for concrete and influenced the development of reinforced concrete. n 1921, Eugène Freyssinet pioneered reinforced-concrete construction by building two colossal parabolic-arched airship hangars at Orly Airport in Paris.

6. Crude oil distillates fuel the modern world

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Gasoline fuels the world.

Without gasoline, there would be no transportation industry as we know it today.

Gasoline is a fuel derivative of crude oil, and it is called “gas” in the United States and “petrol” in many other English-speaking places worldwide.

More specifically, petrol is a transparent, crude oil-derived liquid used as a fuel in internal combustion engines. Interestingly gas was initially discarded as an unwanted byproduct.

Before the discovery and commercialization of gasoline, the fuel of choice was a blend of alcohol, usually methanol and turpentine, called camphene. Later, this would be primarily replaced by kerosene. The first oil well dug in the US, in 1859, in Pennsylvania, refined the oil to produce kerosene. Although the distillation process also produced gasoline, this was discarded as a byproduct. The method of distillation refining only produced about 20 percent of gasoline from a given amount of crude petroleum.

However, once it was discovered that the internal combustion engine ran best on light fuels like gasoline, the refining process was refined. In 1913, a new process began to be used to produce gasoline more easily using chemical catalysts and pressure. The new thermal cracking process doubled the efficiency of refining and made refining gasoline more practical.

7. Locomotives have proved to be powerful tools

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Locomotives were a very important invention indeed.

Locomotives can carry a large number of passengers with comfort while also being able to haul heavy loads over long distances. While tracks, or rails, have been used for carrying wagons since the sixteenth century, the history of modern train travel is just over 200 years old.

Richard Trevithick, a British engineer, built the first full-scale working railway steam locomotive in the United Kingdom in 1804. It used high-pressure steam to drive the engine. On February 21, 18044, the world's first steam-powered railway journey occurred when Trevithick's unnamed steam locomotive hauled a train along the tramway in Wales. 

However, Trevithick's locomotives were too heavy for the cast-iron plateway track than in use. The commercial appearance of train networks came in the 1820s. In 1821, George Stephenson was appointed as an engineer for the construction of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in the northeast of England, which was opened as the first public steam-powered railway in 1825. In 1829, he built his famous steam engine, Rocket, and the age of railways began. 

8. The invention of the airplane was a quantum leap in tech

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Replica of the Wright Brothers' famous glider.

On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the first powered, sustained, and controlled flight. This was a day that would be remembered for all time.

Flying machines had been dreamt up since Leonardo da Vinci's time and likely long before. But thanks to the work of countless inventors over several centuries, the Wright Brothers became the first to achieve controlled powered flight.

Beginning with their work on gliders, the duo's success laid the foundation for modern aeronautical engineering by demonstrating what was possible.

9. Fire might be the most crucial invention of all

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Fire was an incredible discovery.

Though fire is a natural phenomenon, its discovery as a useful tool marks a revolution in the pages of history. The controlled use of fire likely predates the emergence of Homo sapiens sapiens.

There is evidence of cooked food from around 1.9 million years ago — long before the evolution of Homo sapiens. There is also evidence of the controlled use of fire by our ancestors, Homo erectus, beginning around 1,000,000 years ago. 

Flint blades burned in fires have been dated to roughly 300,000 years ago. There is also evidence that fire was used systematically by early modern humans to heat treat stone to increase its ability to flake for use in toolmaking around 164,000 years ago.

According to a heavily debated hypothesis, using fire for cooking allowed the larger brain of our species to develop in the first place by allowing hominids to eat a wider variety of foods.

From the past to the present, fire has been used in rituals, agriculture, cooking, generating heat and light, signaling, industrial processes, agriculture, and as a means of destruction. It can easily be considered one of the greatest inventions that changed the world. 

10. The nail is an underrated invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The nail is another important invention.

The nail is one of the most important and arguably underrated inventions. Before the invention of nails, wood structures were often built using rope to interlock adjacent boards. Some cultures developed sophisticated woodworking techniques to interlock wooden structures together.

We can't be entirely sure when the first metal nails were developed, but bronze nails dating from around 3400 BC have been found in Egypt. These were later replaced by iron and steel over time, with most made by hand.

Hand-wrought nails were the norm until the 1790s and early 1800s. Today, nails are readily mass-produced and are so common most people take them for granted.

11. Humans have been using tools for as long as we know

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
We've been using tools forever.

As with fire, using tools likely predated the evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens and may stretch back 2.6 million years or more. Today, several animal species are also known to use tools. 

Anthropologists believe using tools was an essential step in the evolution of humans. Some of the earliest tools may have been sticks, stones, and fire. However, almost anything can be a tool, depending on its use.

12. The lightbulb is another crucial invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The lightbulb was a revolutionary invention.

The light we use today in our homes and offices comes from a bright idea from over 150 years ago. Electric lights were pioneered in the early 19th century by Humphry Davy, who experimented with electricity and invented an electric battery. When he connected wires between his battery and a piece of carbon, the carbon glowed, producing light.

His invention was known as the electric arc lamp. Over the next seven decades, other inventors also created “lightbulbs,” but these were incapable of commercial application. 

In 1850 an English physicist named Joseph Wilson Swan created a “light bulb” by enclosing carbonized paper filaments in an evacuated glass bulb. But without a good vacuum, his bulb had too short a lifetime for commercial use. However, in the 1870s, better vacuum pumps became available, and Swan developed a longer-lasting lightbulb.

Thomas A. Edison improved on Swan's design by using metal filaments, and in 1878 and 1879, he filed patents for electric lights using different materials for the filament. Electric Light Company began marketing its new product.

13. The mastery of electricity was a tremendous feat

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Electricity helped build the modern world.

Electricity has become a basic need for daily life and is another essential invention. Of course, electricity has been around all along, but the practical applications to effectively use it first needed to be invented.

Alessandro Volta is generally credited with discovering the first practical 'battery.' He invented his voltaic pile in 1799. It consisted of discs of two different metals, such as copper and zinc, separated by cardboard soaked in brine. 

In 1831, British scientist Michael Faraday discovered the basic principles of electricity generation. The electromagnetic induction discovery revolutionized energy usage. The rise in electricity usability is now the backbone of modern industrial society.

14. The battery is another great invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The inventions of the battery as groundbreaking.

The earliest device based on the principles of what would become the battery may date back to the Parthian empire, around 2,000 years old. The old battery consisted of a clay jar filled with a vinegar solution, into which an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder was inserted.

This device might have been used to electroplate silver. But, as mentioned in the previous entry, the inventor of the first electric battery was Alessandro Volta, who developed the pile battery.

After that, in 1800 AD, William Cruickshank designed the trough battery, an improvement on Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile.

Batteries had a breakthrough in 1859 AD with the invention of the first rechargeable battery based on lead acid by the French physician Gaston Planté. The Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd) battery was introduced in 1899 by Waldemar Jungner. 

15. The printing press democratized information

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The printing press changed the world, literally.

Before the Internet's ability to spread information, the printing press helped information travel around the globe. 

German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg is often credited with inventing the printing press around 1436 AD, although he was far from the first to automate the book-printing process. Woodblock printing in China dates back to the 9th century, and Korean bookmakers were printing with moveable metal type a century before Gutenberg.

Johannes Gutenberg’s machine, however, improved on the already existing presses and introduced them to the West. By 1500 AD, Gutenberg presses were operating throughout Western Europe, producing vast quantities of written materials, from individual pages to pamphlets and books.

16. Morse Code and the telegraph machine greatly sped up communication

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The telegraph laid the foundations for modern telecoms.

The telegraph was developed between the 1830s and 1840s by Samuel Morse and other inventors, and it revolutionized long-distance communication.

The system works by sending electrical signals that are transmitted by a wire laid between stations. In addition, Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail developed a code, eventually called Morse code, for the simple transmission of messages across telegraph lines. Based on the frequency of usage, the code assigned a set of dots (short marks) and dashes (long marks) to the English alphabet and numbers.

According to some scholars, the telegraph was instrumental in laying the foundations for modern conveniences like telephones and computer code.

17. The advent of steel was of great importance

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Steel has changed how we build many things.

Bronze was the first metal forged for use by humans. However, bronze is relatively weak. Iron was probably smelted throughout the Bronze Age, although it was seen as an inferior metal that was not as hard or durable as bronze. The use of iron became more widespread after people learned how to make steel, a much harder metal made by heating iron with carbon. Around 1,800 BC, a people along the Black Sea called the Chalybes began using iron ore to create sturdy wrought iron weapons with around 0.8 percent carbon.

Cast iron, with about 2-4 percent carbon, was first made in ancient China around 500 BC. The Chinese metalworkers built large furnaces to smelt iron ore into a liquid and poured this into carved molds. Around 400 BC, Indian metalworkers invented a smelting method that used a clay receptacle called a crucible to hold the molten metal. The workers put bars of wrought iron and pieces of charcoal into the crucibles, then sealed the containers and inserted them into a furnace.

This wrought iron melted and absorbed the carbon in the charcoal. When the crucibles cooled, they contained ingots of pure steel - a much stronger, less brittle metal than iron. The later development of the blast furnace led to even stronger steel. British engineer Henry Bessemer developed a process that blasted air through molten pig iron to create carbon-free, pure iron in 1856 AD.

The famous invention of the Bessemer Process paved the way for the mass production of steel, making it one of the world's biggest industries. Now steel is used in the creation of everything from bridges to skyscrapers.

18. Transistors are vital for modern electronics

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Transistors are key to all modern electronics.

The transistor is an essential component in nearly every modern electronic gadget. In 1926 AD, Julius Lilienfeld patented a field-effect transistor, but the working device was not feasible as it was.

In 1947 AD, John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley developed the first practical transistor device at Bell Laboratories. The trio was awarded the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics for this invention.

Transistors have since become a fundamental piece of the circuitry in countless electronic devices, including televisions, cellphones, and computers, making a remarkable impact on technology.

19. Antibiotics have saved countless lives

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Antibiotics have saved many lives.

Antibiotics have saved millions of lives by killing and inhibiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch first described the use of antibiotic drugs in 1877 AD.

In 1928, Alexander Fleming identified penicillin, derived from a mold species.

Throughout the 20th century, antibiotics spread rapidly and proved a significant living improvement, fighting nearly every known infection and protecting people's health. But, their overprescription and use could soon render them ineffective.

20. Contraceptives changed women's lives forever but are arguably controversial

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Contraceptives have had a huge impact on society.

The prevention of pregnancy has a surprisingly long history.

The history of contraceptives dates back to around 1500 B.C., where records indicate that ancient Egyptian women would mix honey, sodium carbonate, and crocodile dung into a thick, solid paste called pessary and insert it into their vaginas before intercourse. However, many researchers believe old-world birth control methods are ineffective and possibly life-threatening.

The first known form of condom (from a goat bladder) was used in Egypt around 3000 B.C. In 1844 AD, Charles Goodyear patented the vulcanization of rubber, which led to the mass production of rubber condoms.

In 1914 AD, with a monthly newsletter called “The Woman Rebel,” Margaret Sanger, a nurse and sex educator from New York state, first coined the term “Birth control.” Later, Carl Djerassi successfully created a progesterone pill that could block ovulation.

"The Pill" was approved for sale in 1960 and launched an international revolution that allowed women to determine when they would have children and freed them from unplanned pregnancies, which could derail their lives. 

21. The harnessing of x-rays was a major medical advancement

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
X-ray machines have revolutionized medicine.

Since x-rays are a natural phenomenon, nobody can claim to have "invented" them. But, the development of the X-ray machine is undoubtedly one of the epoch-making advancements in medicine.

And they were discovered by accident by physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen. While testing whether cathode rays could pass through some glass, he noticed a glow from a nearby chemically coated screen.

Because of the unknown nature of the rays, he named them x-rays. Through his observation, he learned that x-rays could be photographed when they penetrate human flesh.

In 1897 AD, x-rays were used during the Balkan war to find bullets and broken bones inside patients. In 1901 AD, he received the Nobel prize in physics for his work.

22. The refrigerator is another hugely important invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Refrigeration was a huge technological step.

Over the last 150 years, refrigeration has offered us ways to preserve food, medicines, and other perishable substances. Before its conception, people often cooled their food with ice and snow or purchased only what they could use immediately.

James Harrison built the first practical vapor compression refrigeration system. However, the first widespread commercial refrigerator was the General Electric “Monitor-Top” refrigerator, which became available in 1927. The introduction of Freon revved up the refrigerator market in the 1930s by providing a safer, low-toxicity alternative to previously used refrigerants.

23. Television has changed many aspects of our lives

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Television has been a force for good, and bad.

The invention of the television was the work of many individuals. Although TV plays an integral part in our everyday lives, it rapidly developed during the 19th and 20th centuries as a result of the work of several people.

In 1884, a 23-year-old German university student, Paul Julius Gottlieb Nipkow, patented the image rasterizer, a spinning disk with a spiral pattern of holes, so each hole scanned a line of an image. 

The first demonstration of the instantaneous transmission of images was by Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier in Paris in 1909 AD. In 1911 AD, Boris Rosing and his student Vladimir Zworykin created a system that used a mechanical mirror-drum scanner to transmit crude images over wires to a cathode ray tube or in a receiver. But the system was not sensitive enough to allow moving images.

In the 1920s, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird used the Nipkow disk to create a prototype video system. In 1925 AD, Baird gave the first public demonstration of televised images in motion. Later, in 1927 AD, he demonstrated the transmission of an image of a face in motion using telephone lines. This is widely regarded as being the world's first public television demonstration. 

24. The camera was another significant technological development

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The camera has been a great little tool.

This modern invention has witnessed many phases of evolution — camera obscura, daguerreotypes, dry plates, calotypes, SLRs, and DSLRs. In 1826 AD, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce used a sliding wooden box camera made by Charles and Vincent Chevalier to click what is credited as the first permanent photograph.

With technological advancements, Digital cameras were introduced, which saved images on memory cards rather than using film. The history of the digital camera began with Eugene F. Lally's idea to take pictures of the planets and stars.

Later, Kodak engineer Steven Sasson invented and built the first digital camera in 1975 AD. It was built using parts of kits lying around the Kodak factory. The camera was about the size of a breadbox, taking 23 seconds to capture a single image. 

Today, every smartphone has at least one built-in camera that can take videos.

25. The computer is, possibly, the greatest invention of the last Millenium

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The computer has changed the world.

In the early 19th century, the "father of the computer," Charles Babbage, conceptualized and invented the first mechanical computer. From those first tentative steps, the journey to the modern computer began.

Although there's no single inventor of the modern computer, the principles of modern computer science were set out by Alan Turing in his seminal 1936 paper, “On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem.” Today, computers stand as the symbolic representation of the modern world.

26. Email is an often overlooked significant invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Email, like it or lump it, has been very important.

Most developers of early mainframes and minicomputers developed similar but often incompatible mail applications. Over time, these became linked by a web of gateways and routing systems.

Many US universities were part of the ARPANET, which increased software portability between its systems. That portability helped make the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) increasingly influential. The first ARPANET email was sent in 1971 AD.

Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing one common feature of the email system that we know today. In 1972 AD, while working as an ARPANET contractor, Tomlinson used the @ symbol to denote sending messages from one computer to another.

By the mid-1970s, email had taken on the form we recognize today. In the present day, most official business communication depends on email.

27. The Internet has changed the world

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The internet has proved revolutionary.

Like other inventions, the Internet has no single “inventor." Instead, it has evolved. It originated around the 1950s, along with the development of computers.   

The first workable prototype of the Internet came in the late 1960s, with the creation of ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. ARPANET adopted the TCP/IP protocols in 1983, and from there, researchers began to assemble the “network of networks” that became the modern Internet.

28. The World Wide Web is the modern-day equivalent of the printing press

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The World Wide Web was a great invention.

The Internet is a networking infrastructure, whereas the World Wide Web is a way to access information over the Internet medium.

The father of the World Wide Web is the British computer scientist and legend Tim Berners-Lee. The Web was initially conceived and developed to meet the demand for automated information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes worldwide.

Tim Berners-Lee wrote the first proposal for the World Wide Web in March 1989 and a second proposal in May 1990. Berners-Lee worked with Belgian systems engineer Robert Cailliau to formalize the proposal, including describing a "WorldWideWeb" in which "hypertext documents" could be viewed by “browsers.”

By the end of 1990, Berners-Lee had the first Web server and browser up and running at CERN. Only a few users had access to the computer platform that ran the browser, so development soon started on a more spartan browser, which could run on any system. 

29. Currency was an important invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Banknotes have been an important invention too.

From materials like livestock to shells, precious metals, and coins, the currency has taken various forms throughout history. Due to frequent shortages of coins, and portability issues, banks issued paper notes as a promise against payment of precious metals in the future.

The use of a lightweight substance, like paper, as a currency may have originated in China during the Han Dynasty in 118 BC. 

The switch to paper money, rather than money based on precious metals, relieved governments during crisis times. Thus, it changed the face of the global economy with a vital step in a new monetary system.

30. Credit cards are arguably another important invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Credit cards, when used sensibly, are great tools.

At the dawn of the 20th century, most people paid for everything with cash.

The idea of the credit card was introduced around 1950 by Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara, founders of Diners Club, which allowed diners to sign for their meal and then pay later. While technology advances, paying for daily purchases with credit has become the norm.

While a bane to many people's lives today, their sensible use can be very beneficial.

31. The ATM lets you get your cash on demand

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
ATMs are pretty useful pieces of kit.

The invention of the ATM (Automated Teller Machine) is significant to modern banking. According to the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA), there are millions of ATMs installed worldwide.

Customers can make various transactions using an ATM, such as cash withdrawals, check balances, or credit mobile phones. Many experts believe that the first ATM was the creation of Luther Simjian, called Bankograph.

In 1967, John Shepherd-Barron led the team that came up with a bright idea of a money vending machine implemented by a London bank called Barclays. These machines used single-use tokens that had been impregnated with radioactive carbon-14. The machine detected the radioactive signal and matched it against a personal identification number entered on a keypad. 

Soon, rival cash dispenser systems began to emerge, including one that used a reusable plastic card instead of a radioactive token. Dallas Engineer Donald Wetzel is said to have devised the first automated banking machine used in the U.S.

32. The telephone and mobile phones have shrunk the world

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
The telephone has changed the way we communicate.

Telephone history conceivably started with the human desire to communicate far and wide.

“Mr. Watson, come here, I want you,” were the immortal first words ever spoken on a telephone. Alexander Graham Bell said them on March 10h, 1876 AD, to his assistant Thomas Watson. This moment would change communications forever.

With the arrival of the mobile phone in the 1980s, personal communications were no longer shackled to cables.

The clever invention of the cellular network supported the revolution of the telephone industry. From bulky mobile phones to ultrathin handsets, mobile phones have come a long way. John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper of Motorola demonstrated the first handheld device in 1973, starting a technological revolution we still live in today.

33. The robot has, and will continue to, change the world

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Robots are only just getting started.

Robotic devices perform complicated, repetitive, and sometimes dangerous tasks.The word "robot" first appeared in R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), a play written by Czech playwright Karl Capek in 1921. Coincidentally, the word "robotics" was popularized by a science-fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, in his short story "Runabout," published in 1942.

But robots have a very long history. Around 3000 B.C, mechanical, human figurines were used to strike the hour bells in an Egyptian water clock. This marked the first mechanical design. As time flew, more designs and devices evolved. 

The foundation for modern robots was laid in the 1950s by George C. Devol, who invented and patented a reprogrammable manipulator called "Unimate."

In the late 1960s, Joseph Engleberger acquired the patent to the Unimate and modified them into industrial robots. For this, he is often called "the Father of Robotics." They are genuinely inventions that changed the world and are only just getting started.

34. Guns have been a force for good and bad

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Guns have changed warfare beyond all recognition.

Weapons have been used since the dawn of humanity. But it is undeniable that guns and gunpowder have revolutionized the world. Gunpowder was invented in China around the 9th century, but it may have originally been used for fireworks initially. One early firearm consisted of a bamboo tube that used gunpowder to fire a spear and was used in China around 1000 AD.

Another early type of portable firearm was the fire lance, a black-powder–filled tube attached to the end of a spear and used as a flamethrower; shrapnel was sometimes placed in the barrel so that it would fly out together with the flames. 

Gunpowder was made more potent by increasing the amount of saltpeter. This, in turn, meant that a more robust barrel was needed, the bamboo was replaced by metal, and the projectiles were replaced by smaller pieces of metal that fit into the barrel more tightly.

By the mid-to-late 14th century, knowledge of gunpowder and firearms had reached Europe, and smaller, portable hand-held cannons were developed, creating a type of personal firearm. The problem of needing to reload frequently was solved with the invention of a hand-driven machine gun called the Gatling gun. Richard J. Gatling invented it during the American Civil War. As the tech has continued to evolve, each following model has become more deadly. 

35. Films were another important invention

35 of the most revolutionary inventions that shaped our world
Film was a very real innovation.

Almost everyone loves to watch movies like love stories, comedies, dramas, horror, suspense, action, fiction, biography, etc. A film is also called a movie, motion picture, theatrical film, photoplay, or flick. The word "film" originates from the fact that a photographic film has been the medium for recording and displaying motion pictures.

Early inspiration for movies came from plays and dance, which had elements common to film: scripts, sets, costumes, production, direction, actors, audiences, and storyboards. Later in the 17th century, lanterns were used to project animation, achieved by various mechanical slides.

In March 1895, the first motion picture film shot with a Cinématographe camera was La Sortie de leucine Lumière a Lyon (Workers leaving the Lumière factory at Lyon). The commercial, public screening of ten of the Lumière brothers' short films in Paris on December 28, 1895, is often thought of as the start of projected cinematographic motion pictures.

With time, movies have evolved to include sound, color, and advanced digital technology. 

And that is your lot for today.

There have been tools for as long as there have been human beings. While simple in design, in the beginning, modern tools are highly complex engineering. Entirely what we'll be inventing in the future is anyone's guess, but rest assured, we will continue to make things for as long as our species exists.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
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