It’s easy to take modern life for granted, especially when everything works so well. You wake up in the morning at the time you set your alarm to go off, walk to the bathroom and switch on the shower to get instant warm water, then head to the kitchen which is stocked with safe and delicious food.
A little over a century ago, even royalty and nobility wouldn’t have had the conveniences that just about everyone takes for granted today.
But to get there, inventors have had to develop these mod cons through hard work, trial and error, and a lot of sacrifice. Here are some of their most influential creations.
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If you travel to work, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll use wheels. The only time you won’t is if you walk the entire way, but the second you get on any form of transport, wheels are involved.
From tiny scooter wheels to the giant ones attached to trains and buses, you’re going nowhere without them.
It was about 5,500 years ago that humans hit on the idea of making cylindrical contraptions to help move across the land more easily. It was quite difficult though as wheels themselves are pretty easy to create, but a way to use them effectively is much harder as you need an axle to attach it to, and that requires you to have a snug and uniform fit, which was hard to achieve using the technology of the time.
The Printing Press
Printed media may not seem so important today given that you can get most of the information you need from the internet, but this wasn’t the case several centuries ago.
Before the written word could be mass-produced, the majority of humans couldn’t read or write, at least not to a high level. Information would, instead, be conveyed via word of mouth, with a lot of weight given to the teachings of local leaders.
This all changed with the creation of the printing press sometime around 1445. Created by a German inventor named Johannes Gutenberg, this mechanical device could automatically transfer ink from moveable type pieces to paper.
It allowed books to be printed en masse rather than having to be painstakingly handwritten each time. Over time, it also allowed for newspapers to be produced quickly enough for daily and even twice-daily editions to help spread information to the masses at speed.
The Slot Machine
Today, millions of people play slot games every year. The variety and choice offered by them draw in a very wide demographic of players.
But modern slots are very different to the early versions created in the late 1800s. For a start, they use video screens (or computers) to display their reels digitally, allowing for bonus features, animations, and special symbols that cover more than one line.
That’s a far cry from the 19th-century machines that relied solely on mechanics to move the physical drums inside them.
While this approach may seem primitive today, it did allow for the modern games we know and love today and helped to shape one of the most popular gaming genres on the planet.
Internal Combustion Engines
Related to the wheel, the internal combustion engine is an important part of modern life. Unless you own an electric car, you almost certainly rely on one to get around.
Of course, many of us also use a bicycle to travel shorter distances, but to get somewhere further away, you nearly always need a car, bus, or train. Most of these vehicles still rely on the technology that was invented by Samuel Brown in 1823 and improved on by Étienne Lenoir and Nicolaus Otto in 1860 and 1876 respectively.
Like slot machines, we’ve refined the technology in the years that have passed since, making them more powerful and more efficient, but the basic premise remains very much the same.
The result of its invention cannot be understated as it has changed just about every part of life by bringing the world much closer together.
We very much take for granted the fact that minor infections don’t generally become a life-threatening problem.
But that wasn’t the case until less than a century ago when, in 1928, the Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming accidentally stumbled upon penicillin.
By leaving a lid off a petri dish in his lab, Fleming discovered that mold could kill bacteria. It would then take another two decades for scientists to purify the microbe to the point that it could be used in medicine, but when they did, they changed the world and increased human life expectancy exponentially.
Sadly, overuse of this incredible invention could lead to antibiotic resistance in deadly pathogens. Should this happen on a large scale (it already does in small clusters), it could be catastrophic for society.
For most of our history, humans have been reliant on natural light. We woke up with the sun and went to bed when it did, with only rudimental tools like candles to see when our giant fiery friend had gone to sleep.
Thomas Edison is widely credited with being the inventor, though the history of the lightbulb is quite a bit more complicated than that.
Regardless, the lightbulb helped to shape the modern world by allowing us to see in the dark and carry on our lives outside of daylight hours.
It also kickstarted the move to install electricity in people’s homes, though it has also forced many people to change their sleeping habits.
The internet is one of the most influential inventions ever created. Like the internal combustion engine, it has made the world a much smaller place by allowing everyone to communicate with each other instantly, even if they are on the other side of the world.
This global network of computers has been used for some impressive feats, including giving humans access to almost every single piece of information ever created and helping us to become more informed and better educated.
The internet’s power has also helped businesses, making local and global commerce much easier, creating entirely new industries, and speeding up communication and collaboration between colleagues and clients.