The world was different before the Internet Changed Our Way of Life
Top Twenty-five Innovations in Non-Medical Technology, according to research done by CNN and reported on June 19, 2005.
Without the Internet, you would not be reading this. There would be no way to instantly find the name of the movie your favorite actor was in five years ago or how much it costs to fly to Aruba. Shopping required braving the elements and the crowds. Paying bills relied on the postal service.
Today, with a couple of clicks, you can go anywhere in the world without leaving your computer.
So it should come as little surprise that the internet (as we know it) headlined the top twenty-five innovations of the past quarter century, according to a panel of technology leaders assembled by the "Lemelson-MIT Program", which promotes inventiveness in teens.
In creating the list, the group hoped to single out "twenty-five non-medically related technological innovations that have become widely used since 1980, are readily recognizable by most Americans, have had a direct and perceptible impact on our everyday lives, and/or could dramatically affect our lives in the future."
The creator of the Web as we know it is British software consultant Tim Berners-Lee. Frustrated by the multitude of information systems requiring complicated access, Berners-Lee fashioned a universal one that made information readily available.
He created HTML (hypertext markup language) and its rules of usage (HTTP, hypertext transfer protocol) and in 1991, unveiled the World Wide Web, making no money from any of them.
Like the internet, other items on the top twenty-five list have changed the way people go about their lives and are so commonplace that they are almost taken for granted.
For example, many people turn off their PCs (No. 3) and their HDTV (No. 19) or plasma screen TVs (No. 18) and grab their cell phones (No. 2) and laptop computers (No. 7) as they leave their homes.
Once in their cars, they will probably give the airbags (No. 13) that can save their lives in an accident barely an afterthought as they listen to music on CDs (No. 8).
Some will use the commercialized GPS (Global Positioning System, No. 6) to plan their route, and if it is a pleasure trip, they will probably bring along their digital cameras (No. 9).
Upon arriving at their destination, others will check their e-mail (No. 5) via short-range high frequency radio (WI-FI, No. 25) and their voicemail (No. 23), before heading off to an ATM (No. 14) to get some cash.
The technology that makes these items possible is taken even more for granted by the average consumer
It is safe to say that the first words of someone who walks away from a car accident unharmed are not, "Thank goodness for the advent of nanotechnology (No. 21) and MEMS (microelectromechanical system, No. 11)."
Yet without the tiny silicon chip that sensed the impending collision, the airbag would not have deployed in time.
"The device that causes an airbag to inflate in a crash is a nanotech device," said David Kirkpatrick, senior editor at Fortune Magazine.
"It's a highly sensitive little device, an accelerometer that can detect when a car's movement has suddenly stopped, and that's a very key safety device that affects all of our lives."
Emergency phone calls are made possible by compact power sources such as nickel-metal hydride and lithium-ion batteries (No. 15). Without them, cell phones would be far less dependable and certainly not rechargeable.
Flash memory (No. 22) made the digital camera possible and changed the way people take photographs and OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes, No. 17) are likely to improve the displays on cameras and are starting to appear on some models.
"Flash memory is a tiny version of the disk drive that's in your computer," said Gene Fitzgerald, MIT professor of material science and engineering. "On your disk drive you might store pictures and other information, and the flash memory is a tiny device that can store all that information.
"You can have it in your cell phone, you can have it in your PDA, just like your disk drive in the computer."
Law enforcement has used science to its advantage with DNA fingerprinting, the process that produces a printed pattern of a person's DNA (No. 12), and everything from airport security to supermarket checkout lines use radio frequency ID tags (No. 10) to track materials.
Some of the inventions on the list have brought to life concepts formerly reserved for science-fiction writers. Among them are the space shuttle (No. 20), which advanced space exploration, and hybrid cars (No. 16) which pollute less by using less gasoline. Interestingly, the innovation that laid the groundwork for many of the inventions mentioned above can be found underground, where fiber optics (No. 4) has helped turn the world into a global village.
"Fiber optics have linked the world together and made our world, our planet, basically one small place," Kirkpatrick said. "If it weren't for fiber optics, we wouldn't be able to have inexpensive global phone calls or 200 cable channels on our televisions."
Rounding out the list are modern hearing aids (No. 24), which have improved the quality of life for the hearing impaired by offering better-designed models.
- The Internet
- Cell phone
- Personal computers
- Fiber optics
- Commercialized GPS
- Portable computers
- Memory storage discs
- Consumer level digital camera
- Radio frequency ID tags
- DNA fingerprinting
- Air bags
- Advanced batteries
- Hybrid car
- Display panels
- Space shuttle
- Flash memory
- Voice mail
- Modern hearing aids
- Short Range, High Frequency Radio
Related topics about "technology":
Geographic Information System (GIS): Index;
Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS);
Global Positioning System (GPS);