Inventing the Future
1781 Scotsman James Watt patents a rotary motion steam engine. 1830 The Liverpool & Manchester railway begins regular commercial service.
1844 The Morse telegraph enters commercial use. 1876 Alexander Graham Bell develops the telephone.
1878 Thomas Edison creates the incandescent lightbulb. 1886 Karl Benz is granted a patent for a combustion engine for “auto-mobiles.”
1907 Leo Baekeland makes Bakelite, the first thermosetting plastic.
1913 Ford Motor engineers the first moving assembly line for autos at its Highland Park facility in Michigan.
1916 Clarence Birdseye pioneers a flashfreezing system for preserving food.
1933 Boeing introduces the twin-engine, 10-passenger 247, the first modern commercial airliner. 1934 E.I. du Pont de Nemours creates nylon.
1942 Enrico Fermi and colleagues at the University of Chicago achieve the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
1947 A team at Bell Labs invents the transistor.
1955 IBM engineers design the first disk drive for randomaccess storage of data.
1958 Engineers at Texas Instruments and Fairchild Semiconductor independently develop the integrated circuit.
1960 Digital Equipment introduces the first “compact” computer, priced at $125,000 without software or peripherals.
1964 British engineer Leslie Phillips makes carbon fiber. 1964 Two professors at Dartmouth develop the BASIC computer programming language.
1970 The first CD-ROM is patented by James Russell.
1971 Intel introduces the 4004 four-bit microprocessor, which it dubs a “computer on a chip.”
1972 E-mail is pioneered on the Arpanet network, using the @ sign in a message address. 1981 The IBM Personal Computer goes on sale.
1982 The Federal Communications Commission approves commercial cellular phone service.
1985 Microsoft releases Windows 1.0. 1991 The World Wide Web becomes available to the general public.
1998 Two Stanford Ph.D.s incorporate Google. 2002 Amazon.com begins its foray into cloud computing.
2004 Darpa’s Grand Challenge for selfdriving cars draws 15 entrants. (Not one manages to complete the 142-mile course.)
2007 The Apple iPhone debuts. 2011 IBM’s Watson defeats two humans on the quiz show Jeopardy!
2015 GE engineers 3D-print a mini jet engine.