A short history of technology

  • -312: The aqueduc is invented.
  • -100: Paper is invented.
  • 100: Paper production at scale begins.
  • 900: Gunpowder has been invented.
  • 1040: The modern compas has been invented.
  • 1439: Gutenberg’s printing press.
  • 1451: Christopher Columbus’ boats have lateens, triangular sails that allow boats to go against the wind.
  • 1656: First mechanical clock.
  • 1682: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek develops the microscope.
  • 1712: Newcomen’s steam engine.
  • 1758: The first railway.
  • 1775: Invention of the modern steam engine by Watt. Watt was a knowledgeable technician.
  • 1789: The smallpox vaccine is created based on prior observations by milkmaids.
  • 1793: First cotton engine.
  • 1799: The electrical battery is invented.
  • 1803: The steam-powered carriage is invented.
  • 1821: Invention of the electric motor by Faraday. Faraday taught himself while working in the streets of London.
  • 1824: Portland cement is invented.
  • 1862: Maxwell’s equations
  • 1876: Invention of the telephone.
  • 1879: Invention of the light bulb.
  • 1884: Invention of the steam turbine. Invention of the linotype machine that made modern-day newspapers possible.
  • 1885: Lord Kelvin states “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”. First modern bicycle.
  • 1887: Invention of the induction motor. The Eiffel tower is built.
  • 1888: Modern tires.
  • 1889: The electric furnace made aluminium into an affordable metal. The Daimler engine would make the gasoline-powered automobile practical.
  • 1891: Toilet paper.
  • 1892: Moving picture camera.
  • 1895: Wireless telegraphy.
  • 1903: The Wright brothers invent the airplane. They were self-taught inventors without advanced degrees. The airplane would be used in the 1914-1918 war. The ECG (heart monitoring) is invented.
  • 1907: Leo Baekeland coined the term ‘plastics’.
  • 1908: The Ford Model T is commercialized. Oreo cookies are invented.
  • 1909: First synthetic plastic (Bakelite).
  • 1910: Haber-Bosch process (synthetic fertilizers).
  • 1923: Insulin and the method used to make it is patented, the patent are sold to the University of Toronto for $1.
  • 1928: Fleming discovers penicillin.
  • 1943: First mass production of antibiotic (penicillin).
  • 1946: ENIAC, the first general purpose electronic computer.
  • 1947: Invention of the transistor.
  • 1949: Ridley implants an intraocular lens in a human eye.
  • 1951: Univac is the first commercial computer.
  • 1953: The structure of the DNA is discovered.
  • 1957: The first container ship, the Gateway City, began regular service. The shipping container has been described by economists as the most important invention of the XXth century. The alkaline dry cell battery gets patented.
  • 1960: the silicon integrated circuit is invented.
  • 1961: Spacewar is the first successful video games. It will inspire the current video game industry.
  • 1963: First liver transplant.
  • 1965: Moore’s law is first stated.
  • 1967: Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing email. Kelman makes cataract surgery significantly less invasive. Dynamic random-access memory is invented.
  • 1968: Engelbart demoes the first computer mouse. Moore and Noyce found Intel. The first practical LED display is introduced.
  • 1969: Apollo 11 lands on the Moon. The first packet-switching networks (e.g., ARPANET) become operational.
  • 1971: first commercially available microprocessor (Intel’s 4004).
  • 1972: The contraceptive pill becomes generally available to American women. Apollo 17 is the final mission of the Apollo program.
  • 1974: Knee replacement surgery becomes common.
  • 1975: Microsoft is incorporated.
  • 1977: The Apple 2 computer is released; in 2016 dollars, it was worth more than $5000. The Atari 2600 is released with 128 bytes of memory, its processor runs at 1.19 MHz.
  • 1978: First in-vitro baby is born (Louise Brown).
  • 1980: The VIC-20 and the TRS-80 Color Computer are launched.
  • 1981: IBM launches the PC with a processor running at 4.77 MHz.
  • 1982: The Commodore 64 is launched, its processor runs at 1 MHz.
  • 1983: Cataract surgery becomes common.
  • 1984: Apple launches the Mac.
  • 1985: Intel introduces the 386 processor.
  • 1987: A suitcase design with two wheels is invented (Rollaboard). It would commercialized years later.
  • 1988: Monoxidil is approved for treating baldness in men under the name ‘Rogaine’. Laser eye surgery is invented.
  • 1989: The World Wide Web is invented. Intel releases the 486 processor. The first GPS satellite.
  • 1991: Linus Torvalds starts work on Linux. Sony commercializes the first lithium-ion batteries.
  • 1993: Intel releases the first Pentium processor.
  • 1994: Amazon.com is incorporated. The PlayStation is released, its processor runs at 33 MHz. Mosaic Communications Corporation is founded (would become Netscape and then Mozilla).
  • 1995: Microsoft launches Windows 95.
  • 1996: Molly the sheep is cloned. First mammal cloned from an adult (somatic) cell.
  • 1997: A powerful computer designed to play Chess (Deep Blue) defeated the world champion (Kasparov). The first modern Wifi standard is published (802.11).
  • 1998: The International Space Station is put into orbit. Google is incorporated. Apple commercializes a PC without floppy drive (the iMac). Sildenafil is marketed as Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction.
  • 1999: Apple releases the first wifi-enabled laptop.
  • 2000: The PlayStation 2 is released. Its processor runs at 299 MHz. Intel introduces the Pentium 4.
  • 2001: Wikipedia is launched. First version of Windows with builtin support for Wifi comes out (Windows XP). Apple introduces the iPod. The first in-car GPS assisted navigation devices are released.
  • 2002: The first camera phones are commercialized in North America.
  • 2003: The Human Genome Project is completed.
  • 2004: Facebook is launched. It will become a massive social network covering the entire planet.
  • 2005: YouTube is launched. It will become a massive repository of user uploaded videos.
  • 2006: The PlayStation 3 is released. Its processor runs at 3.2 GHz. Amazon starts offering Amazon Web Services, which is often viewed as the beginning of cloud computing. Shinya Yamanaka shows that the introduction of four specific genes encoding transcription factors convert adult cells into pluripotent stem cells.
  • 2007: The first mass-market smartphone is launched (the iPhone). It has 128 MB of RAM and its CPU runs at 412 Mhz.
  • 2009: A computer program (Pocket Fritz) running on mobile-phone hardware achieved Grand Master level in Chess.
  • 2010: Apple launches the iPad. Scientists find that transplanting a young thymus in mice extends lifespan.
  • 2011: After being lobbied by Google, the state of Nevada autorizes autonomous cars on its streets. IBM Watson, a powerful computer system, defeated the best human beings at Jeopardy, a question-answer game. Scientists manage to selectively remove senescent cells for the first time.
  • 2013: The PlayStation 4 is released.
  • 2015: For 100k$, you can get a clone of your dead dog. Amazon sells computerized tablets for $50. Google has a fleet of self-driving cars that have neither pedals nor steering wheels. First anti-aging clinical trials are approved using an inexpensive and safe drug (metformin). Scientists discover a new class of drugs, called senolytics, that clear senescent cells.
  • 2016: An AI player defeats a professional Go player. UK scientists have been allowed to modify the DNA of human embryos. Senescent-cell clearance shown to significantly extend healthspan and lifespan in mice. Google makes available an API that makes advanced image recognition techniques widely available (face detection, sentiment analysis, text extraction…) Europe Gives Green Light To First Gene Therapy For Kids. Release of the first mass-produced high quality VR goggles (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR). Pokémon Go is the first massively popular augmented reality game. McDonald’s rolls out self-ordering kiosks. There are ongoing parabiosis clinical trials to defeat aging and Alzheimer’s. We can regenerate heart muscles using stem cells (in monkeys). Full self-driving hardware on all Tesla cars. Researchers Repair Brain Damage in Mice With Stem Cell Transplants. Blood from human teens rejuvenates body and brains of old mice. CRISPR gene-editing tested on a human being for the first time. In genetically modified mice, researchers were able to reset cells so that they appear younger: though we have no clue how to do the same in human beings, if we did it might be equivalent to rejuvenation. Researchers have found a marker of skin aging called Complex II: reversing the decline of this key metabolic enzyme within mitochondria could (speculatively) reverse skin aging. And more.
  • 2017: DeepStack becomes the first computer program to beat professional poker players at No-Limit Poker according to the authors. A competing system, Libratus, can also make a similar claim. We are inserting synthetic cartilage in people with arthritis. Using stem cells, we can get a dog to regrow a whole new tooth. Baar et al. show that a molecule we can inject in mammals can remove senescent cells and thus (partially) rejuvenate old tissues and organs (tested in mice) (ref). Google has announced at io17 that it has computing pods capable of 11.5 petaflops. Apple introduced ARKit, a new framework that allows sophisticated augmented reality applications on iPhones and iPads. Intel’s latest chip, the Core i9 X-series, can produce one teraflop of computing performance for about $2000. Clearing senescent cells is shown to alleviate osteoporosis in mice. A German company, DeepL, achieves breakthrough machine translation quality using a 5.1 petaflops computer: on some tests, it surpasses the previous champion (Google) by a wide margin: by some account, it is as good as amateur human translators. Memory cards with a capacity of 400GB are commercialized. The first 50TB hard drives are commercialized. Supplementation with osteocalcin, a natural homone, is shown to rejuvenate memory in mice in addition to rejuvenating muscles. A robot did better than 80% of human students in a Japanese university entrance tests.Google announces $200 headphones that can translate any one of 40 different languages in real time. A team from Google (Alphabet/DeepMind) has created a computer system (AlphaZero) that can learn games like Go and Chess in a few hours, based only on the rules, and then beat the very best software systems and all human beings. A woman with a transplanted uterus gives birth.

Daniel Lemire, "A short history of technology," in Daniel Lemire's blog, March 30, 2018.