9 reasons to celebrate Inventors Day
Which digital invention has changed your life? February 11 is Inventors Day, when the world celebrates the people that have created something completely new.
February 11 2017 is the day we honour Inventors of all shapes and sizes. Where would we be without the great inventions of our era? The following list of inventions has a distinctly digital focus and you might be surprised to find some of the popular 21C inventions had their beginnings many decades ago.
The indispensable digital ‘pointing device’ that many of us use every day actually has a much earlier history than the PC that it’s used with. Starting life as a trackball that was part of a WWII-era radar system, Ralph Benjamin thought he could design a more elegant solution and in 1947, the roller ball prototype was patented using a metal ball that rolled on two rubber-coated wheels. The invention was so good, it was kept a military secret.
No prizes for guessing that GPS (Global Positioning System) is another invention originally designed for military purposes. GPS describes a network of satellites orbiting the earth, beaming down signals that can be picked up by anyone with a GPS receiver. The signals contain geographical data that can pinpoint exact position, speed and time anywhere in the world. The US Department of Defence is credited with inventing the first version of GPS (NAVSTAR) in 1978, following up with a 24-satellite system in 1993.
The first hand-held mobile phone was invented by Martin Cooper a researcher at Motorola, who on April 3 1973, made the first mobile phone call to his rival, Dr Joel Engel of Bell Labs using his prototype. The phone weighted 1.1kg, was 23cm long, 13cm deep, 4.45cm wide and provided talk time of 30 minutes, taking a full 10 hours to recharge.
For the handheld mobile phone idea to really take off, it needed to get a lot more mobile. The invention of the cellular network meant that mobile phones could move beyond one coverage area. The first analogue cellular network (now referred to as 1G) that was actually deployed was in Tokyo, Japan in 1979, and successfully spread to the rest of Japan in 1981 – the same time 1G technology started being used in Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.
Following 1G, came digital 2G in 1991 and the game-changing 3G, launched by Japan’s NTT DoCoMo on 1 October 2001, which used packet switching instead of circuit switching to transfer data across networks. While the developed world, and much of the developing world is currently using 4G technology, it was the invention of 3G that ushered in a wave of other hi-tech inventions that made huge impacts on our daily lives, such as Skype and Facebook
At last, an invention that can be clearly attributed to inventors. Skype was invented in 2003 by Swede Niklas Zennstrom and Dane Janus Friis. Skype is an application that provides video chat and voice call services across the internet, allowing text and video messages to be transmitted. Purchased by Microsoft in 2011 for $US8.5 billion, latest statistics show there are currently over 300 million active users.
We always like seeing an Australian on any list, and the invention of Wi-Fi is all down to the work of electrical engineer John O’Sullivan, who together with colleagues at the CSIRO invented the core technology that made a wireless LAN (local area network) possible during the 1990s. The CSIRO was granted a patent for Wi-Fi technology in 1996 following court cases in the USA which granted the CSIRO millions of dollars in compensation from American telecommunications companies.
Wi-Fi really refers to the IEEE 802.11 set of specifications than allows computers to communicate using radio frequency bands.
Credited (rightly or wrongly) as the application than started the social media revolution, ‘The Facebook’ was invented by Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow Harvard student Eduardo Saverin in 2004. Within a month of its launch on February 4, more than half the undergraduate population of Harvard University were registered Facebook users. By 2005, Facebook had expanded to 21 universities around the world, had dropped ‘The’ from the name and purchased the facebook.com domain for $200,000. An average of 300 million photos are uploaded on Facebook every day, making it the single biggest online photo depository in the world.
Directly related to Facebook, in that it actually uses Facebook’s social search software technology, Tinder was invented in 2012. It’s still disputed who actually invented the location-based mobile app, commonly used as a digital dating service, but it’s widely accepted that Sean Rad, Jonathan Badeen and Justin Mateen were certainly involved in the invention of this app that consists of a ‘double-opt-in’ system that filled a gap in the digital market for strangers to meet strangers rather than connecting with people already known to them.
Tinder was the first of the ‘swipeable’ apps, allowing users to control the app by swiping a finger across the screen of a mobile phone.
So, this is the one invention on the list that hasn’t quite made it into our daily lives – yet. The first truly autonomous cars started appearing in the 1980s, when a vision-guided Mercedes-Benz van was the first vehicle to achieve a speed of 63km/hr on city streets (without traffic).
Bringing us right up-to-date is US-company Tesla, who back in 2015 introduced its Autopilot technology which is now up to version 7.1. Tesla vehicles are capable of acting autonomously but still require the full attention of the driver as it may be necessary for the driver to quickly take control of the vehicle in some circumstances. Tesla isn’t alone with Volvo, Delphi Automotive, Google and NuTonomy are names that are at the forefront of driverless car technology.
Are you working on an invention of your own? There’s never been a better time to have an exciting new idea. If you’re looking for a digital partner to bring your concept to life, contact iFactory today and speak to our team of award-winning developers and designers.