Friday, November 28, 2008

Top 5 Greatest Inventions of the 20th Century

Requested by Dad

Sitting in my living room with my parents, my sister and my sister's boyfriend, the topic eventually somehow came to T5E and what tonight's topic should be. My father suggested that I do "Top 5 Greatest Inventions of the 20th Century." So, first, what makes an invention great? I would grade an invention based on its overall effect on global society, influence on later technology and longevity of use. That being said, here's my list.

5. Cellular Phone - Today, everyone and their kid has a cell phone. Anyone can reach anyone personally nearly anywhere on Earth. (Literally everywhere if you could SatPhones.) Remember before cell phones? (Not all of us are old enough to.) Remember having to find someone in a crowd without a cell phone? Remember calling someone's house and having to ask if Johnny was home? For that matter, remember picking up the phone and not knowing who was on the other end? Remember payphones? The fast pace of today's world could not sustain itself without the ability to communicate on-the-go.

4. Airplane - Speaking of the fast pace of the world, what about travel? The invention of the airplane, and to a greater extent after the popularization of jet engines, placed the continents closer together and made travel relatively quick and inexpensive. Business became streamlined. The nature of military strategy completely shifted. Not to mention the role of airplanes and airports in popular culture.

3. Television - National network radio established the foundations for a single American pop culture by giving people across the nation something in common - their entertainment. But radio, time has proven, lacks the absolutely hypnotic effect of television. TV changed the way America, and later the world, spent their spare time, fought their boredom, got their news and educated their kids. Yes, TV is blamed for melting the brains of kids, but think of all the edutaining videos you watched in school, or the Discovery Channel special you watched last week. TV didn't just change the way we relax, it also changed the way we learn and the way we think.

2. Refrigeration - I can't take credit for thinking of this one - this was #1 on my dad's list, and I'll tell you why: Refrigeration changed agriculture by making perishable foods longer-lasting. It changed medicine with its ability to preserve specimens. It changed economics and real estate, because now, through the power of Air Conditioning, people could settle in places no one would have dreamed of living years earlier. What if you had no fridge and no A/C? Think about how much your life would change!

1. TIE: Computer & The Internet - Yes, it's T5E's very first TIE! When we were debating our own Top 5s, we were unable to come to a consensus about which was more important - the PC or the Internet. The Internet revolutionized pretty much everything about everything, but there'd be no Internet without the computer. The computer contributed millions of important breakthroughs in science, medicine and entertainment before the internet became widely used, but the internet is such a huge part of all of our lives and the lives of everyone in the forseeable future, that it's hard not to place it ahead the PC. Today, the two are so completely intertwined that you don't even consider a computer not being connected to the internet. Honestly, if you were to be offered a free computer today and it had no internet capability, you wouldn't think about accepting it, no matter how fast or otherwise state-of-the-art it is.


rrrrrreooow! said...

To be a smart ass, I looked up when the fridge was invented (I am very interested in the word fridge because I almost spelled it in Scrabble today. I had to settle for ridge instead.) Anyway, it is quite debatable when the fridge was invented. I'm considering vetoing it from your list. Although I love it. I'm going to get a tasty cold drink from the refrigerator right now.

Airplanes in 1903. You're safe for that. ;) I like being your editor + more.

David L said...

There is a vending machine that I frequent between my college classes. Very close to it is a payphone. Not long ago I found myself looking at that payphone and thinking about how long it was since someone last used it. I figured they were obsolete and the coin slot was probably filled with dust. The next day I saw someone using that very payphone. The person was speaking in some foreign language, so she may have been a new immigrant or something who doesn't have a cell phone yet. Regardless, it was kinda surreal.

Oh, what about Talking Motion Pictures?

David L said...

Actually, I *would* think about accepting that computer.

Patti in NJ said...

Uncle Mark and I have a running debate over which is more important: ziplock bags or bungee cords. Strange that neither made your list. ;)