Inventions happen almost every day. However, there are few that are so dramatic and disruptive to the norm of life in general that they can easily be classified as inventions that changed all of our lives. These are usually not grandiose creations either. In many cases, the invention itself is a rather mundane improvement, but the actual benefit is groundbreaking. Here are five inventions that really stand out across the world:
1. Freon - Before there were refrigerators and freezers anyone who wanted ice or something cold either needed to live in the north or had to wait for a ship full of ice to reach their destination. People really did purchase ice blocks on a regular basis for a temporary cooler effect. Today, we take for granted our refrigerators and freezers, but only a few decades ago they didn't exist at all. Thanks to the invention of freon gas in the 1920s and how to use it safely, we enjoy cooling effects in our kitchens, homes and cars every day.
2. The personal automobile - Transportation has been one of the great technological strides of humanity. Every time people have figured out a way to travel farther and faster, it has reshaped human history. The car was clearly the catalyst for personal travel and in many ways the growth of modern countries. So we can thank Henry Ford for finding a way to create a reliable combustible engine that moved us on four wheels.
3. The Internet - Many would argue the computer was the big breakthrough in digital technology. However, at the end of the day it's just a glorified typewriter and file cabinet. Instead, the Internet has allowed people worldwide to exchange and find information faster, literally impacting everything from education to the fate of governments (think Egypt and social media). Thanks for the Internet does not go to Al Gore; instead, the U.S. Army is the primary creator, along with universities in the 1960s via ARPANET.
4. Steel Fabrication - If you've ever studied ancient history, you will likely notice that different eras are defined by the metal that was most commonly used (i.e. Bronze Age, Iron Age). From iron comes steel, a much harder form that can handle extreme stress, temperature, and pressure. Once steel fabrication became constant and stable, all sorts of possibilities became reality from skyscrapers to cruise liners the size of small cities. Clearly, steel fabrication was the major driver of both the industrial age and the technology age in the 20th century.
5. Lathe Machines - Once people started building engines, they realized that high quality, precise parts were needed to create better and better engines. These were not parts that could be rapidly produced by chipping or molding. Instead, something else was needed to quickly carve the appropriate shape for the needed part. Borrowing logic from wood carving, lathe machines for metal became commonplace. By being able to create better parts to extreme specifications, vastly improved mechanics were now possible. These early ventures in lathing contributed to our eventual ability to create everything from plane engines to space rockets for leaving the planet.
Again, the above items were not instant treasures or gold-producers. They didn't provide their inventors winning lottery tickets. However, the above inventions became the critical springboards for better improvements that reshaped our common society. One would be hard pressed to find a community today that hasn't been impacted in some way by at least two of the above five inventions.