1879: Incandescent lamp
In 1879, after more than 1,000 trials and $40,000, Thomas Edison introduced an inexpensive alternative to candles and gaslight: the incandescent lamp. Using carbonized filaments from cotton thread, his light bulb burned for two days. These bulbs were first installed on the steamship Columbia and have been lighting up the world ever since.
1903:First powered flight
Orville Wright took off in the first powered flight in history in 1903 with the help of his brother, Wilbur. By 1905, the Wright brothers had completed the first practical airplane for public use. Since the advent of airplanes, the world has experienced a rapid merging of cultures, ideas and resources.
1908:Ford's Model T
At $850, the world's first automobile proved to be an invaluable bargain for farmers and city dwellers alike. And with Henry Ford's introduction of the revolutionary assembly line, the volume of sales increased dramatically, bringing the cost of the Model T, also known as the "Tin Lizzie," to just $525.
1712: Newcomen's steam engine
Although each separate component of a modern steam engine had already been invented by the year 1712, the first person to tie all of these elements together was Thomas Newcomen, an English blacksmith. The steam engine not only provided an immense source of power and energy, but, along with James Watt's improvements in 1769, also paved the way for the Industrial Revolution and the move from an agrarian society to life in a city.
Not realizing the full impact it would have on society, Alexander Graham Bell introduced the first telephone to an amazed audience at America's Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. Within a year, Bell had installed 230 phones and established the Bell Telephone Company, which was later transformed into AT&T. In 1997, 643,000,000,000 calls were made by people in the United States alone.
1901:Wireless transmission of a signal
On December 12, 1901, Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the Morse code letter "s" across the Atlantic from Cornwall, England, to St. John's, Newfoundland. This demonstration of wireless transmission eventually paved the way for today's complex global (and interglobal) communications, including radio, radar, and even signals from other planets.
1926:First public demonstration of television
On January 26, 1926, John Logie Baird displayed television for the first time in public at a department store in London. This was the first major step in the advancement of television since Paul Nipkow received a patent on his proposal for a mechanical television system in 1883. By 1993, there were 215 million television sets in the United States alone.
After ENIAC, the first computer, was invented in 1946, researchers sought a more practical way to perform highly complex calculations. In 1947, three engineers (John Bardeen, William Shockley, and Walter Brattain) demonstrated that it was possible to selectively control the flow of electricity through silicon. This discovery led to the creation of microprocessors and has since paved the way for today's high-speed, efficient computers.
British nobleman John Harington devised the first flushing "water closet," which featured a wooden seat with a cistern and a valve for flushing. However, it wasn't until the nineteenth century when extensive sewage systems were introduced, that the flush toilet became as popular as the outhouse, the chamber pot, and the secluded tree.