Penicillin

Penicillin

1928

Discovering penicillin might have been a happy accident, but nevertheless Alexander Fleming’s find was a pivotal moment in modern medicine, with the bacteria-fighting antibiotic quickly rolled out. Fleming would go on to win a Nobel prize in 1945 for his work. Today, penicillin is available commercially for treating a wide range of infections.

Television

Television

1926

Whether or not you think we watch too much TV these days, it’s hard to argue that it has not had a beneficial effect since 1926. From allowing national leaders to address the public in times of emergency to educating and entertaining the masses, John Logie Baird’s invention has done much good over the last 87 years. Check out some of the telly’s milestones now.

Farnsworth

Farnsworth

American inventor Philo Farnsworth makes the first all-electronic TV that is commercially viable, receiving a patent for his device in 1930.

Mass-market

Mass-Market-Figure-6-small

RCA starts the era of mass-produced TVs with the release of the RCA 630TS in 1946. By 1950 the number of TVs has climbed to the millions.

Westinghouse colour

Westinghouse colour

Introducing colour, the Westinghouse H840CK15 goes on sale for $1,295. With only 500 built, it will be 15 years before colour TV goes mainstream.

Casio TV-10

tv-10-gr

The first LCD TV to be sold commercially is the TV-10, which while only offering standard low resolutions kick-starts the flat-panel TV market.

LED backlight

LED backlight

The first LED TV — a flat-panel screen that uses LEDs to illuminate the LCD panel instead of cathode lighting tubes — is produced by Sony.

Refrigerator

Refrigerator

1922

One of the most useful day-to-day inventions of the 20th century, the refrigerator allows our food to be stored over long periods, reducing the growth of bacteria dramatically. It was invented originally in 1922 when two students at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, created a gas-absorption chilling cabinet. Unlike modern fridges though this device did not use an electrically driven compressor to maintain internal temperature, but instead an ingenious system of state-changing gases. After realising its potential the inventors put the refrigerator on sale. Unfortunately, it never really caught on, leaving the later electric fridge to make the jump to mass-market success.

Aeroplane

Aeroplane

1903

The Wright Brothers

Wright Flyer in 1903 kick-started the age of aviation, with rotor and then jet-powered craft transforming travel in the 20th century. From military fighter jets through to supersized passenger aircraft, air travel means we can reach each other much faster than ever before. To think that within just 73 years we went from the primitive Wright Flyer, which only travelled a distance of 260 metres (852 feet) to the Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde supersonic passenger jet, capable of cruising comfortably at 2,172 kilometres (1,350 miles) per hour for thousands of miles is simply mind-blowing.

Wireless communications

Wireless communications

1891

Responsible for eventually giving us the television, mobile phone, radio, radar, satellite navigation and even wireless internet access, Nikola Tesla’s work in 1891 creating a wireless communications network was surely one of the most inventive spells of his career. Since Tesla’s network, wireless communications have gone from strength to strength, as the following devices show…

Radio

Radio

Sir Oliver Lodge sent the first transmission signal in 1894 — a year before Marconi, who was later awarded the wireless telegraph patent.

Television

vintage television

Scottish inventor John Logie Baird demonstrates the world’s first moving image on his ‘televisor’ device — a mechanical precursor to the TV.

Mobile phone

Mobile phone

The first handheld mobile phone is demonstrated by two employees at Motorola. It weighs in at a rather hefty one kilogram (2.2 pounds).

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi

While wireless internet existed in academic facilities, it wasn’t until 1997 that standards were laid down for its widespread adoption.