The History of Technology — Past, Present and Future

We live in the digital age, with the Internet growing exponentially and with our lives becoming more online every day. It is easy to believe that the development of technology has happened primarily in recent times, given this explosion of information technology.

However, that is far from the truth. Indeed, technology, in all of its various facets, has been emerging over the course of millennia. Let’s take a look at just some key technology invention dates from earliest to most recent:

2,400 BC: The abacus is invented in Babylonia.

300 BC: The binary number system is invented by Pingala.

87 BC: The Antikythera Mechanism to track the movement of stars is invented in Rhodes.

724: The first fully mechanical clock is invented by Liang Ling-Can.

1041: The movable printing press is invented by Bi Sheng.

1280: Eyeglasses are invented.

1350: Suspension bridges are constructed in Peru.

1450: The alphabetic and movable type printing press is invented by Johann Gutenberg.

1500: Leonardo Da Vinci invents ball bearings; he also invents a mechanical calculator, among other inventions.

1576: The ironclad warship is invented by Oda Nobunaga.

1581-1609: The pendulum, thermometer, and microscope are invented by Galileo Galilei.

1642: The adding machine is invented by Blaise Pascal.

1687: Newton authors Principia , the physics at the foundation of modern science.

1698: The steam engine is invented by Thomas Savery.

1708: Jethro Tull invents the mechanical seed sower.

1742-52: Benjamin Franklin invents the Franklin stove and the lightning rod.

1769: The steam engine is invented by James Watt.

1783: The hot air balloon is invented by the Montgolfiers.

1793: The cotton gin is developed by Eli Whitney.

1814: The steam locomotive is invented by George Stephenson.

1821: The electric motor is invented by Michael Faraday.

1826: Photography is invented by Joseph Nicephore Niepce.

1834: The refrigerator is invented by Jacob Perkins.

1838: The electric telegraph is invented by Samuel Morse.

1862: The revolving machine gun is invented by Richard Gatling.

1877: The phonograph is invented by Thomas Alva Edison.

1883: The first skyscraper is erected in Chicago.

1885: The motorcycle is invented by Daimler and Maybach.

1903:The powered airplane is invented by the Wright brothers.

1907: Color photography invented by Auguste and Louis Lumiere.

1908: The Model T is mass-produced by Henry Ford.

1923: Sound film is invented by Lee DeForest.

1937: The jet engine is invented by Whittle and Von Ohain.

1941-45: The atomic bomb is developed.

1969: The first manned moon landing takes place.

1990: And finally, the World Wide Web is invented by Tim Berners-Lee.

As this partial timeline shows, technology has been advancing for a very long time. Of course, technology builds on itself, so recent developments may seem more monumental to our modern minds than those that took place long ago.

But it is important to recognize that many prior inventions were technological game-changers back in their day. Indeed, it is possible that people of the future might view our current state of technology as prehistoric, even though, from our perspective, we are living on the technological bleeding edge.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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