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Technology

Of the many factors that indicate historical societal change, the most obvious is technology. In 1800 there were no bicycles, cars, planes, trains, steamships, telegraph, telephones, electric lights, refrigerators, or computers – which makes those times very different from our own.

Technology changes lives by increasing our capacity for ‘getting things done’, for ‘doing work’. The history of technology is therefore closely linked to our ability to not only use the available energy more efficiently, but to access energy in new and more concentrated forms.

Technology is the use of tools to supplement the work than can be achieved by our bare hands and our bare brains.[1] Physical tools can be as simple as a hammer, or as complicated as a computer. Mental tools can be as simple as an idea, or as complicated as language or mathematics.

Historically, technology was used by one culture to dominate another, most notably in the development of superior armaments. Today, although new technological developments are protected by intellectual property rights, there is much more international sharing of life-enhancing technology.

Kinds of technology

Apart from the distinction into physical and mental tools given above, the study of technology can be categorised into several key areas: communication (including writing and alphabets, printing, telegraph, telephone, radio, film, television), transport (domesticated animals, machinery, shipping, automobiles, aircraft), machinery (driven by muscle-power, fire, water, coal, petrol, electricity, nuclear power – mills, clocks, industrial machines).

Cumulative change

The pace and impact of technological change has increased exponentially as each invention builds cumulatively on its predecessors.

Technology timeline

 

DATE BPCOUNTRYTECHNOLOGYPOPN
WORLD (billion)
POPN
AUSTRALIA (‘'000s)
ENERGY USE
Kcal/day (‘West’)
BIOLOGICAL ENERGY wood fuel or fire, plant energy to power muscle
3.4 million–c.3,300 BP STONE AGE stone used for implements
2.5 MEuropestone scrapers
1.5 MEuropefire
170,000Europeclothing
300,000Europecounting (bone notches)
100,000Europestone tools4
25,000Europepottery4
20,000Europebow & arrow
(Cro-Magnon man)
15,000Europedomestication of animals and plants4.5
c. 12,000–6000 BP NEOLITHIC EVOLUTION plant and animal domestication, settled communities, agriculture
9,000 BPEuropebow-sling, microliths6
8,000Middle-Eastcopper, agriculture, plough7
5,600-Europeconcrete11
5,500Russia/solid wheeled vehicles
Mesopot.
Mesopot.potter’s wheel
Mesopot.kiln fired bricks
Mesopot.irrigation
Egyptpyramid of Gizeh
5,300Mesopot.nails
5,100ChinaRice domesticated (Yangtze River)
5,000Egypt/candle
Crete
Egyptsquare-sailed ships
4,800Egyptpyramids
4,400Babyloniaabacus
Egypt, Lebanonglass
Mesopot.
bronze
4,000?Europewheel, gnomon (sundial), water clock17
3,500?Europewriting & alphabet20.5
(E Mediterranean)
c. 3,300 – 1,200 BC BRONZE AGE
copper and alloy bronze used for implements and weapons.
3,300?Europebronze21
2,700Europeaqueduct
2,650?Turkeycoinage
2,500Europesalt22
2,000Europechariot31
C. 1,200 – 50 BC IRON AGE
iron used for cutting tools and weapons
1,500Europeiron
800 BCEuropesundial
650 BCEtruscans, Greece2-masted ship (Etruscans), crane (Greece)
644 BCPersiawindmill
500 BCglass
geometry (Pythagoras)
450 BCChina,coinage
Greece, India, Anatolia
Greececast-iron, cross-bow
400 BCGreececatapult24
water wheel
300-200 BChorseshoe
compound pulley
crane
water screw (pump)
Greece, Egyptlocks (Suez Canal), water wheel, 3-masted ships
200-100Roman Empire, Chinaamphitheatre27
segmental arched bridge horse saddle
100 BCChinawheelbarrow
DATE AD
?NATURAL ENERGY wind (sails, windmills), water (ships, canals, waterwheel), gunpowder
100Greecestirrup, windmill (to drive machine)
Chinapaper
200-300Romanscrank, connecting rod30
305Chinawoodblock printing
600-700Chinapaper money26
Chinaporcelain
724Chinamechanical clock
800-900ChinaGunpowder25
algebra
850Mediterr.triangular sails
1000-1100Chinamovable type printing press26
waterwheels widespread
Europe
1100-1200Chinamagnetic mariner’s compass26
glass mirror
Italy
1286Italyeyeglass
1288Manchuriagun firing lead bullets
1327ChinaBeijing-Hangzhou Canal
1400-1500Europeperspective (Masaccio art)26
1439Germanyalphabet printing press
1450EuropeNews sheets
1480sPortugalmariner’s astrolabe
1500Italyball-bearing
Germanypocket watch
1581Italypendulum
1592Italythermometer
FOSSIL FUELS, STEAM coal, oil, petrol, gas
1608Germany, Hollandoptical telescope
1609Italymicroscope (compound optical)
1620Hollandsubmarine
1622Europeslide rule
1642Italybarometer
1645Germanyvacuum pump
1650Germanydaily newspaper (Leipzig)
1657Hollandpendulum clock
1671Germanygeared-wheel adding machine
1675Hollandmicro-organisms
1698Englandengine (steam)32
1702EnglandDaily Courant first daily newspaper
1705Englandengine (steam piston)
1708Englandmechanical seed sower
1709Germanyalcohol thermometer
Europepiano
1752USlightning a form of electricity
1750-1850 INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION fossil fuels, steam engines, complex machinery
1755EnglandSamuel Johnson’s first English Dictionary
1762Englandchronometer
Britainmechanisation of Britain begins (Industrial Revoln)
1763Englandspinning jenny
1776Englandsteam engine
(commercial, Watt)
1778Britainthreshing machine
1779Englandstem-powered mill
1783Francehot air balloon
1784USbifocal lens
Switzerl’doil lamp
1788European 859
Ab. c. 350,000
1786USsteamboat
1793Francesemaphore telegraph
1796Britainvaccination (smallpox)
1797Francemodern parachute
1800Italybattery (electricity store)15.2238
1804Englandlocomotive
1807USsteamship
1809Francefood canning
1810Germanysteam-powered printing press
1814Englandlocomotive (steam)
1818Germanybicycle
1819Francestethescope
1820Denmarkelectricity-magnetism linked33.5
1822Englandmechanical computer
1825Francephotographic image
Englandelectromagnet
1826Britaingas stove
1827Englandfriction matches
1830Britainthermostat
Britainpassenger trains
1831USelectric telegraph
1832USsewing machine
FranceDC generator
1834UScombine harvester
USelectric motor
1835USrevolver
UKmorse code
1836USsteel plough
1837Francephotography
1838Englandelectric telegraph
USMorse code
Francedaguerreotype photography
1840Britainpostage stamps190.4
1843UKtypewriter
UKlong-distance electrical telegraph
1845Britainrubber band
1846USrotary printing press
1849USsafety pin
1850BelgiumAC generator1.2405.4
1850– - 1915 TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION electrical machinery and products, chemicals, plastics, mass prodn
1851telegraph cable across English Channel
1852Franceair ship
1856Britainsteel mass-production
?Mendel’s laws of inheritance
electric lighthouse
England
1859engine (int. combustion)
Francemodern slide rule
18601,145.60
1861USpony express transport
1862USGatling machine gun
1864Francepasteurisation
1866Swedendynamite
telegraph cable across Atlantic
1867Francereinforced concrete
Swedendynamite
1868USmodern typewriter
1869EgyptSuez Canal opened
1872Germanypolyvinyl chloride (PVC)
1874GermanyDDT
USlarge span steel bridge
1876Britain, US, Canadatelephone (wired)
1877USphonograph,
microphone
Francestreet lighting (Paris)
1878UScathode ray tube
UK/USmicrophone
1878hydroelectricity
1879USlight bulb (incandescent)
18802,231.50
1882US/Britainthermal power stations
1883USsteel frame skyscraper
(Chicago 10 stories)
1884USphotographic film
Francerayon
1885Germanymotorcycle
AC transformer
1886UScalculation with punch cards
1887Germanycontact lens
USgramophone
1888Germanyradio waves
USportable camera
Britainpneumatic tyre
USroll film camera
USkinetoscope
1889Germanyautomobile
USdirect dial/automatic telephone exchange
1892UStractor
1893Britainelectric toaster
USzipper
1894Italyimproved wireless telegraphy
1895Germanydiesel engine
Francecinematograph
GermanyX-rays discovered
1896Italyradio
USelectric stove
intercontinental telegram
1897Germanycathode ray oscilloscope
1899Denmarkrecording by magnetised tape
1900GermanyZeppelin1.63,765.3092
1902USair conditioning
Italyradio signal across Atlantic
1903USpowered airplane (Wright brothers)
1904Germanyradar
Germany2-sided gramophone discs
diode
England
1906USamplifying tube (triode)
USanimated film
UStriode
1907Francecolour photography
Francehelicopter
US/N’wayoutboard motor
USelectric washing machine
?in-vivo culture of animal cells
1908USmass production Model T Ford car assembly line Henry Ford
Geiger counter
Germany
1909Belgiumbakelite
1910Franceneon light
UStalking motion pictures
1912USelectronic oscillator
1914Britainsteel, stainless
Germanyhand-held camera
C AmericaPanama Canal opened
1915Britainsonar
Britainmilitary tank
?bacterial viruses (phages)
USTheory of Relativity
1916USradios with tuners
1919EuropeLondon-Paris air service
19205,411.30
1923UStalking movies (talkies)
US/RussiaTV
UStraffic lights
UScathode ray tube
UStelevision camera
1924USfrozen foods
USloudspeaker
1925USmicrophone recording
1926USliquid fuelled rockets
1927CanadaUSquartz clock
UKtelevision broadcasts
USAl Jolson “Jazz Singer” movie with sound
1928Britainpenicillin
USelectric razor
USMickey Mouse movie
1929Britainparticle accelerator
1930?latex condom
Britainjet engine
USsupermarket
1931Britainstereophonic sound
1933Germanyelectron microscope
1934USlight bulb (fluorescent)
1935BritainPolyethylene
USSRDNA isolated
USelectric typewriter
UScolour transparency film
1937Britaincomputer
USnylon
USphotocopying (xerography)
jet engine
Britain
1938Hungaryballpoint pen
USTeflon Electronic flash
US
1939US/USSRhelicopter
scheduled TV broadcasting
radar
Britain
1940UScommercial tape recorder7,077.60
1942Germanyguided missile
USnuclear reactor
USrefrigerator
1943FranceSCUBA underwater breathing apparatus
1944Germanyassault rifle
USgovernment computers
DNA the material of the gene
1945USatomic bomb
1946USmicrowave oven
USfreeze-dried food
UScarbon 14 dating
USmobile phone
1947UStransistor
polaroid film
1948Hungaryholography
USlong-playing record (LP)
AUSFirst Holden car
1950USdisposable nappies2.5
TV
birth control pill
solar cells
xerox
UScredit card
1951USnuclear power reactor
UScommercial computers
1952UShydrogen bomb
UScardiac pacemaker
1953Britaindouble helix DNA
1956USoptical fibre
oral polio vaccine
1957USSRlaunch of Sputniks 1 & 2
earth satellites
1958USsilicon chip
USlaser
Britainultrasound imaging
USphotocopying (Xerox)
USintegrated curcuit
1960USGreen Revolution310,391.90
colour TV
semiconductors
satellite communication
1961USSRUri Gagarin in space
USoptical disc
1962USlight emitting diode (LED)
first radiocarbon dating showing Aboriginals in Australia >10,000 yrs
high yield wheat in Mexico (Green Revolution)
US
1963USliquid crystal display (LCD)
audiotape casette
US
1966USfax machine
1967BritainATM
1968USvideo games
EgyptAswan Dam completed
1969USman on the moon
Japanvideocassette recorder
USmicroprocessor
INFORMATION AGE (digital, computer, electronic) computers, biotechnology
1970Britainanimal cloning3.7
USdigital wristwatch
1971USemail
USpocket calculator
USfloppy disc
USmicroprocessor
1972USprozac
USvideo games
USpocket calculator
1973USethernet
USpersonal computer
USgenetic engineering (gene splicing)
1974USSupermarket barcode scanning
personal computer
1975UScolour television
1977USfibre-optic telephone cable
1978UKworld's first IVF baby born (test-tube baby)
1979Japancellular phone network
USlaser-scanned barcodes
1980Holland,laser compact disc4.414,807.40
Japan
USIBM computer
USlaptop computer
UScomputer mouse
USvideo rental
UStransgenic animals
1981USSony Walkman portable casette
1982UStransgenic tobacco resistant to antibiotic
1984BritainHuman DNA fingerprinting
1985UScar cellular phones
USMicrosoft Windows
1987First human family tree using mtDNA tracing back to 'Eve'
1990BritainWorld Wide Web5.3
1992UScomputer servers
1994USFlavr Savr tomato first GM food
1995Japan,US,HollandDVD
1996UKmammal cloning (sheep)
1997USviagra
1998USGoogle founded
1999Arabidopsis thaliana first complete plant genome
2000619,272.60230
2001USWikipedia
?rice genome decoded (first crop)
stem cell research
2003UShuman genome completed (started 1990)
2004USsocial media begin
2005USYoutube
2007US/ASIASmartphones
20106.8
20509.2

First published on the internet – 1 March 2019

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