If you hear someone use the word “technology” today, you may think of the latest iPhone or Samsung’s curved television technology. You may not consider ubiquitous inventions like fire, the wheel, or toasters as worthy of discussion when the topic of innovation comes up. However, their very pervasiveness in society throughout the ages is a good indication of just how great an invention is.
In this month’s Tech Tips, we’re going to look at a few inventions that have not only survived the test of time, but have shaped the way human beings have spent that time.
#1: Fire – The earliest evidence of humans using controlled fire comes from the Lower Paleolithic age over 1.5 million years ago on the African continent. While fire itself is not strictly an invention, considering that lightning-caused fires had been around for milennia, the process of controlling fire for cooking, warmth, and protection is an invention that has been strictly limited to the human species, at least on this planet.
From cooking to metallurgy to the combustion of rocket fuel, fire is everywhere in natural and man-made processes. Life would not be the same without means of controlling this volatile and sometimes destructive force.
#2 Concrete – Romans used concrete for building beginning well over 2000 years ago for everything from aqueducts to monuments. While the stuff they made back then isn’t as good as the QuickCrete you can buy in a bag today, it would set even in seawater. The mixture of lime and ash was so resistant to chemical decay that many of these Roman structures are still standing (at least partially) today, ie the Pantheon, the Colloseum, etc.
Can you imagine today’s world without concrete? No roads, no building foundations, no sidewalks or terrible garden sculptures…
#3 Penicillin – Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic properties of the drug in 1928, while Howard Walter Florey developed it into a medicine. Countless lives have been saved by this moldy substrate, especially during World 2 in which 2.3 million doses of the drug were produced in time for the invasion of Normandy.
#4 Coffee – Arguably the most important discovery of all, coffee has fueled the world’s late-night cram sessions and war room discussions for hundreds of years. While coffee’s introduction in Europe was quickly condemned by opponents as “the bitter invention of Satan”, coffee was already huge in the Arabian Peninsula and part of the culture there. Today, much like an improved version of Napoleon’s army or Genghis Khan’s horde, coffee has conquered every quadrant of the glob and become one of the most profitable export crops in the world.
While we may have improved on the inventions of yesterday, it just goes to prove that age really does make everything better…not just cheese or wine. See you next month!
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