Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What in the world has happened .. OR .. The top 30 of my 40.

In a mini-blogging celebration of having turned 40 this past December I've been kicking around the idea of cranking out a blog post that highlights some of our nation's accomplishments/inventions/happenings of the last 40 years.

I discovered that I'm older than Post-It-Notes, The Smoke Detector and wait for it ... Human Powered Flight.

I think I need a nap.  And apparently at my age, those may come more frequently.  I mean soon I'll start having dinner at like 2 in the afternoon and breakfast the night before, right?

Well I hope you enjoy this little trip down memory lane.  Some of these are geeky and inline with my profession and others are more common knowledge.  But I found them all interesting and I hope you do as well.

Have fun!

Randolph Smith and Kenneth House patent a battery-powered smoke detector for home use. Later models rely on perhaps the cheapest nuclear technology you can own: a chunk of americium-241. The element's radioactive particles generate a small electric current. If smoke enters the chamber it disrupts the current, triggering an alarm.

A mousepad is a hard surface, square-shaped and rubberized mat for enhancing the usability of a computer mouse. Jack Kelley invented the mousepad in 1969

James Russell, a scientist with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, invents the first digital-to-optical recording and playback system, in which sounds are represented by a string of 0s and 1s and a laser reads the binary patterns etched on a photosensitive platter. Russell isn't able to convince the music industry to adopt his invention, but 20 years later, Time Warner and other CD manufacturers pay a $30 million patent infringement settlement to Russell's former employer, the Optical Recording Co.

The personal computer (PC) is any computer whose original sales price, size, and capabilities make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user, with no intervening computer operator. The Kenbak-1 is considered by the Computer History Museum and the American Computer Museum to be the world's first personal computer which was invented by John Blankenbaker in 1970

A floppy disk is a data storage medium that is composed of a disk of thin, flexible "floppy" magnetic storage medium encased in a square or rectangular plastic shell. In 1971 while working at IBM, David L. Noble invented the 8-inch floppy disk. Floppy disks in 8-inch, 5¼-inch, and 3½-inch formats enjoyed many years as a popular and ubiquitous form of data storage and exchange, from the mid-1970s to the late 1990s.

Bill Bowerman, the track coach at the University of Oregon, sacrifices breakfast for peak performance when he pours rubber into his wife's waffle iron, forming lightweight soles for his athletes' running shoes. Three years later, Bowerman's company, Nike, introduces the Waffle Trainer, which is an instant hit.

Electronic mail, often abbreviated to e-mail, is any method of creating, transmitting, or storing primarily text-based human communications with digital communications systems. Ray Tomlinson as a programmer while working on the United States Department of Defense's ARPANET, invented electronic mail and sent the first message on a time-sharing computer in 1971.[471] Tomlinson is also credited for inventing the "@" sign the mainstream of e-mail communications.

Chrysler paves the way for the era of electronic--rather than mechanical--advances in automobiles with the electronic ignition. It leads to electronic control of ignition timing and fuel metering, harbingers of more sophisticated systems to come. Today, these include electronic control transmission shift points, antilock brakes, traction control systems, steering and airbag deployment.

1972--The Space Shuttle. 
 The space shuttle program was initiated on January 5, 1972 with President Nixon's announcement that NASA would begin development on a manned reusable space shuttle system. The first complete orbiter, Enterprise, was completed on September 17, 1976. The first fully functional space shuttle, Columbia, was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center on March 25, 1979. Columbia's first launch was on April 12, 1981.

A catalytic converter provides an environment for a chemical reaction wherein toxic combustion by-products are converted to less-toxic substances. First used on cars in 1975 to lower emission standards, catalytic converters are also used on generator sets, forklifts, mining equipment, trucks, buses, trains, and other engine-equipped machines. The catalytic converter was invented by John J. Mooney and Carl D. Keith at the Engelhard Corporation, creating the first production catalytic converter in 1973

Everyone agrees that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a brilliant invention--but no one agrees on who invented it. The physical effect that MRIs rely on--nuclear magnetic resonance--earns various scientists Nobel Prizes for physics in 1944 and 1952. Many believe that Raymond Damadian establishes the machine's medical merit in 1973, when he first uses magnetic resonance to discern healthy tissue from cancer. Yet, in 2003, the Nobel Prize for medicine goes to Peter Lauterbur and Peter Mansfield for their "seminal discoveries." The topic of who is the worthiest candidate remains hotly debated.

Performing abdominal thrusts, better known as the Heimlich Maneuver, involves a rescuer standing behind a patient and using their hands to exert pressure on the bottom of the diaphragm. This compresses the lungs and exerts pressure on any object lodged in the trachea, hopefully expelling it. This amounts to an artificial cough. Henry Heimlich, as the inventor of his abdominal thrust technique,[481] first published his findings about the maneuver in a June 1974 informal article in Emergency Medicine entitled, "Pop Goes the Cafe Coronary". On June 19, 1974, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that retired restaurant-owner Isaac Piha used the procedure to rescue choking victim Irene Bogachus in Bellevue, Washington.

The Post-it note is a piece of stationery with a re-adherable strip of adhesive on the back, designed for temporarily attaching notes to documents and to other surfaces such as walls, desks and table-tops, computer displays, and so forth. Post-it notes were invented by 3M employees Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver in 1974.

The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode symbology that scans 12-digits numbers along the bar in order to track trade items and to encode information such as pricing to a product on a store's shelf. The Universal Product Code, invented by George Laurer at IBM, was used on a marked item scanned at a retail checkout, Marsh's supermarket in Troy, Ohio, at 8:01 a.m. on June 26, 1974.

The digital camera is a camera that takes video or still photographs, digitally by recording images via an electronic image sensor. Steven Sasson as an engineer at Eastman Kodak invented and built the first digital camera using a CCD image sensor in 1975.

The first satellite in the modern Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS) is launched. (The GPS's precursor, TRANSIT, was developed in the early 1960s to guide nuclear subs.) It is not until the year 2000, though, that President Clinton grants nonmilitary users access to an unscrambled GPS signal. Now, cheap, handheld GPS units can determine a person's location to within 3 yards.

Cyclist Byron Allen crosses the English Channel in a pedal-powered aircraft called the Gossamer Albatross. The flight takes 2 hours, 49 minutes, and wins a £100,000 prize for its crew, headed by designer Dr. Paul MacCready.[499] Constructed of Mylar, polystyrene, and carbon-fiber rods, the Albatross has a wingspan of 93 feet 10 inches (28.60 m) and weighs about 70 pounds.

Polar fleece, or "fleece", is a soft napped insulating synthetic wool fabric made from polyethylene terephthalate or other synthetic fibers. The first form of polar fleece was invented in 1979 by Malden Mills, now Polartec LLC., which was a new, light, and strong pile fabric meant to mimic and in some ways surpass wool.[500] Found in jackets, hoodies, and casual wear, fleece has some of wool's finest qualities but weighs a fraction of the lightest available woolens.

Control-Alt-Delete, often abbreviated as Ctrl-Alt-Del, is a computer keyboard command on PC compatible systems that can be used to reboot a computer, and summon the task manager or operating system. It is invoked by pressing the Delete key while holding the Control and Alt keys: Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Thus, it forces a soft reboot, brings up the task manager (on Windows and BeOS) or a jump to ROM monitor. Control-Alt-Delete was invented in 1981 by David Bradley while working at IBM.

Fetal surgical techniques using animal models were first developed at the University of California, San Francisco in 1980. In 1981, the first human open fetal surgery in the world was performed at University of California, San Francisco under the direction of Dr. Michael Harrison.

Paintball is a game in which players eliminate opponents by hitting them with pellets containing paint usually shot from a carbon dioxide or compressed-gas, HPA or N20, in a powered paintball gun. The idea of the game was first conceived in 1976 by Hayes Noel, Bob Gurnsey, and Charles Gaines and first played on June 27, 1981.

Voicemail messages are stored on hard disk drives, media generally used by computers to store other forms of data. Messages are recorded in digitized natural human voice similar to how music is stored on a CD. To retrieve messages, a user calls the system from any phone, and his messages can be retrieved immediately. In 1979, Gordon Matthews formed a new company, VMX (Voice Message Exchange) and filed a patent, which was granted on February 1, 1983. Matthews invented what was called "Voice Message Exchange," which is the pioneer patent for what later evolved into today's voicemail. Matthews eventually held over thirty-five patents relating to his invention.

Molecular biologist Alec Jeffreys devises a way to make the analysis of more than 3 billion units in the human DNA sequence much more manageable by comparing only the parts of the sequence that show the greatest variation among people. His method quickly finds its way into the courts, where it is used to exonerate people wrongly accused of crimes and to finger the true culprits.

Prozac becomes the first in a new class of FDA-approved antidepressants called "selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors," which block the reabsorption of the mood-elevating neurotransmitter serotonin, thereby prolonging its effects. Though at times controversial, Prozac helps patients cope with clinical depression, reshaping our understanding of how personality and emotion can be chemically controlled. Within five years, 4.5 million Americans are taking Prozac--making it the most widely accepted psychiatric drug ever.

The space shuttle Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, the world's first optical space telescope[529][530][531], approximately 350 miles (560 km) above the Earth. Although initial flaws limited its capabilities, the Hubble Space Telescope has been responsible for numerous discoveries and advances in the understanding of outer space. From 1946 onward, Lyman Spitzer at NASA was the driving force behind the Hubble Space Telescope and overseeing its design.[532] As the United States raced to the moon in the 1960s, Spitzer worked to tie in research components. Finally, in 1975, NASA began work on the Hubble Space Telescope which was launched in 1990.

A blog is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. In 1993, Dr. Glen Barry invented the phenomenon known as blogging.

JavaScript is a scripting language widely used for client-side web development. It was the originating dialect of the ECMAScript standard. It is a dynamic, weakly typed, prototype-based language with first-class functions. JavaScript was influenced by many languages and was designed to look like Java, but be easier for non-programmers to work with. In 1995, JavaScript was invented by Brendan Eich under the name Mocha, which was later renamed to LiveScript, and finally to JavaScript.

A scroll wheel, or mouse wheel, is a hard plastic or rubbery disc on a computer mouse that is used for scrolling up or down on a web page. It is perpendicular to the mouse surface and is normally located between the left and right mouse buttons. The scroll wheel was invented by Eric Michelman in 1995.

TiVo DVRs provide an electronic television programming schedule. TiVo Inc. was incorporated on August 4, 1997 as "Teleworld, INC." by Jim Barton and Mike Ramsay,[549] veterans of Silicon Graphics and Time Warner's Full Service Network digital video system. Originally intending to create a home network device, they later developed their idea to record digitized video on a hard disk.

1998--MP3 PLAYER
Depending on who you ask, the MP3 is either the end of civilization (record companies) or the dawn of a new world (everyone else). The Korean company Saehan introduces its MPMan in 1998, long before Apple asks, "Which iPod are you?" When the Diamond Rio hits the shelves a few months later, the Recording Industry Association of America sues--providing massive publicity and a boost to digital technology.

Nothing has really happened since 1998. I mean honestly, the world was supposed to end in 2000 so I guess the significant accomplishments took a nosedive. Takes time to get back on your game after dodging a bullet like that :)



Shaddy said...

Everything listed is awesome, yet the best thing in the last forty years is YOU.

Bacon said...

Segway was an interesting concept, but it never took off and became the "revolutionary" vehicle that changed our lives.

Shaddy is right, the best thing over the past 40 years (and still improving) is you, unlike all those other items which just get replaced at some point and time.