- Tractor Treads
1904 Benjamin Holt “In the Roberts Island tract, where a man could not walk without sinking to his knees, and where tule-shoed horses could not be used, the new traction engine was operated without a perceptible impression in the ground.” Farm Implement News, May 18, 1905 “It looks like a caterpillar,” said a photographer observing … Continue reading "Tractor Treads"
- Audion Tube
The Audion acts as an amplifier, transforming quiet electric signals into loud ones. Background In 1906, Lee de Forest invented the “three-electrode Audion” vacuum tube. In 1906, Lee de Forest invented the “three-electrode Audion” vacuum tube. The Audion acts as an amplifier, transforming quiet electric signals into loud ones. Originally de Forest wasn’t quite sure … Continue reading "Audion Tube"
1827 Friction matches are ordinary matches. Strike them against a flint or, for some types, any hard service and they start a fire. Friction Matches were invented by Englishman John Walker in 1827. While it seems hard to believe it took so long before the innovation of matches by Walker people would have to find … Continue reading "Matches"
- Oil Drill
Drake’s oil drill is one of the stranger stories, in a collection of innovation origin stories where strange is common. The oil drill vastly lowered the cost and increased the efficiency of collecting oil. Before the drill, oil was usually collected in naturally formed pools at the ground surface. Most early oil was distilled into … Continue reading "Oil Drill"
- Color Photography
1908 James MaxwellSergey Prokudin-Gorsky Scottish physicist James Maxwell laid the groundwork for color photography. Eventually, Russian Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky perfected the technique using three exposures through a red, green, and blue filter. Recombining each exposure into one print accurately portrays color. This method, combining red, green, and blue, remains the foundation of how color is reproduced … Continue reading "Color Photography"
- Stock Exchange
Like insurance, regulated stock exchanges opened the door to high-quality stock offerings which allowed businesses to procure financing. That both lowered the cost of capital and also spread both the risk and returns of an investment to a wider group of people. The Antwerp, formed in 1531, traded what today is called of government debt … Continue reading "Stock Exchange"
- Circular Saw
1813 Tabitha Babbit In 1777, Samuel Miller patented the first circular saw. However, the wind-powered saw did not have enough power to be of practical use. In 1813, Tabitha Babbit, a Shaker, invented the circular. Her insight was that sawing back and forth wasted half the motion of a saw. In response, she created a … Continue reading "Circular Saw"
1899 Arthur EichengrünFelix Hoffman Aspirin is often referred to as a miracle drug. The inexpensive medicine relieves pain without addiction, reduces fever, and even helps prevent heart attack. There is some evidence Aspirin even prevents cancer. Aspirin is the distilled and purified version of medicine known since ancient times. Hippocrates, he of the Hippocratic Oath, … Continue reading "Aspirin"
- Mini Steel Mill (mini-mill)
1969 Ken Iverson “Integrated” steel mills create steel from raw materials. They use the Bessemer process to transform raw materials into enormous amounts of steel. The plants are giant, inflexible, dirty, and expensive to erect and run. Ken Iverson worked at the Nuclear Corporation of America (eventually, Nucor), a conglomerate of assorted businesses pulled together … Continue reading "Mini Steel Mill (mini-mill)"
- Web Search Engine
Noteworthy early search engines include Archie, from 1990, that searched filenames, and Gopher, from 1991, that organized files. Early Search Engines In March 1994, Stanford students David Filo and Jerry Yang created “Jerry and David’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” Their website contained lists arranged by category of the burgeoning World Wide Web. Sites … Continue reading "Web Search Engine"
- Portable Ventilator
Ventilators breathe for people when they cannot breathe on their own. John Emerson was a physician focused on breathing devices who developed the first mass produced iron lung. Building on Emerson’s work, Bird developed the portable ventilator and, later, created a company, Bird Corp., to commercialize it. Bird Corp. created a home ventilator in 1965, … Continue reading "Portable Ventilator"
- Personal Portable Music Player
Battery operated portable personal music players are fun, enabling users to build a cocoon of their own music. Portable radios and stereos date back to the invention of the transistor. Over time, these grew in size and power. Enormous stereos run from batteries, “boom boxes,” were commonplace. However, boom boxes played music from speakers and … Continue reading "Personal Portable Music Player"
- Archie McCardell: Worst CEO Ever
Archie McCardell is the worst CEO in history. Sure, there are CEO’s who committed crimes, CEO’s who bankrupt their businesses, and CEO’s who looted their businesses. There are crooks, those who hire cronies, people who paid bribes, plenty who demanded sex or servitude, and countless sociopaths. In fairness to him, Archie did none of these … Continue reading "Archie McCardell: Worst CEO Ever"
- Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS)
MEMS are literally microscopic-machines. The best-known MEMS are the accelerometers that have become ubiquitous in smartphones, allowing precise tracking of movement on the X, Y, and Z-axis. Significantly, MEMS are the reason your phone can sense movement. Additionally, other MEMS devices include miniature microphones, projectors, cameras, and countless others. MEMS were first proposed in 1959 … Continue reading "Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS)"
Dynamite blows up otherwise difficult to move things, like boulders, mountains, and bedrock. It lowers the cost of removing rocks to make level land and tunnels, railroads, roads, and enables foundations for skyscrapers. In 1847 chemists Théophile-Jules Pelouze and Ascanio Sobrero had synthesized nitroglycerin but the chemical was unstable and difficult to harness. Nobel encased … Continue reading "Dynamite"