Tech

9 Technologies That Have Been Around Longer Than You Think

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We take a lot of the conveniences of modern life for granted, especially when it comes to our technology. Many of us don’t really think of where it all our devices come from or really give them a second thought as long as they work. What’s surprising is how many of our tech inventions are actually older than we might realize; often what seems new and exciting is actually just an improvement on an idea that’s been around for decades, or even centuries. Not all of the following technologies are exactly “cutting edge” but they can still all be described as modern. That being said, we may need to broaden the definition of “modern” even more considering how long some of these things have been around.

9. DVDs

The DVD (alternately known as “digital versatile disc” or digital video disc” depending on who you ask) pretty much revolutionized the home video format and storage media in general, but it didn’t really catch on until the late 90s/early 2000s. That’s why it may come as a surprise to find out that the DVD has been around since 1995 and the technology of putting digitally encoded films on optical discs has been around even longer, as the defunct precursor to DVD, Video CD (VCD), hit the market in 1993. While DVDs are now in significant decline thanks to online digital distribution and the superior Blu Ray format, it’s still wild to think that these discs have been around for 20 years now.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/11/DVDs.jpg Source: wikimedia.org

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/11/DVDs.jpg Source: wikimedia.org

8. Contact Lenses

Contact lenses have been a viable alternative to traditional glasses for improving eye sight ever since the FDA approved the first soft hydrogel lenses for use in 1971, but they’ve actually been around for a lot longer. In fact, the very first contact lens concepts were drawn up by Leonardo da Vinci and famed philosopher René Descartes in the 16th and 17th centuries, respectively. However, the first wearable lens was developed in 1888 by German ophthalmologist Adolf Fick, made from blown glass. Of course, these first lenses were crude by today’s standards, lacking the comfort and practicality of today’s visual marvels (pun intended) but it’s still impressive to think that we could have ditched our glasses as early as Victorian times.

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http://www.onlinecontactlensescanada.ca/ Source: onlinecontactlensescanada.ca

7. Fax Machines

Alright, so fax machines have been obsolete for decades now, but they’re still used pretty widely, being the bane of office workers everywhere. The fax machine didn’t start becoming a cornerstone of office environments until the 1980s, which gives the impression that the technology must have been pretty new at the time. Not so much. Faxing technology has been around since the 1840s, when a Scottish clockmaker named Alexander Bain devised a way to send poor-quality images electrically. The first fax was sent in 1860 from Paris to Amiens and the technology became regularly used in France not long after. Fax machines didn’t start turning up in offices — and hence, the national consciousness —  until the late 20th century, when digital technology enabled faxing to become a practical way of transmitting large amounts of data.

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6. The Microwave

The microwave oven became a regular part of the American household in the late 1960s, but microwaving had been a viable way of heating food quickly for over 20 years before it became widely available to the public. American engineer Percy Spencer used radar technology discovered during World War II to invent the first microwave oven. Raytheon, using Spencer’s technology patents, introduced the first home-use oven in 1955, but it was too cumbersome and expensive for the mass public. It wasn’t until 1967 that Amana Corporation released the first countertop microwave, enabling the average American family to rapidly nuke all the flavor out of their favorite foods ever since.

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http://www.adventurerv.net/imagemagic.php?img=images/Dometic-RV-Microwave-CDMW07W.jpg&w=&h=&page= Source: adventurerv.net

5. The Vending Machine

The vending machine has been a food depository wonder in Western civilization for hundreds of years, which is incredible enough considering their association with modern commercial products like soda and potato chips. In truth, the vending machine dates back thousands of years earlier to Ancient Greece. In the first-century AD, Greek engineer and mathematician Hero of Alexandria created a machine that dispensed holy water when users inserted a coin. The coin would operate a lever, which opened a valve allowing water to flow out until the coin fell off and a counter-weight snapped the lever back into place and shut off the water. While crude by today’s standards, at least they didn’t have to deal with the candy bar-trapping metal rings of today’s machines.

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http://evergreenterrace.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/lobster.jpg Source: evergreenterrace.com.au

4. Video Games

Another invention inspired by radar technology, video games have been around far longer than the heyday of Pong and Pac-Man in the late 70s and early 80s might suggest. It’s been debated what actually constituted the “first video game”, but many point to the Cathode Ray Tube Amusement Device as the beginning point. In 1947, two engineers named Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr. and Estle Ray Mann created the device, which took the form of a missile simulator consisting of a dot that needed to be positioned on the screen in order to take out targets, which were screen overlays because it was not possible to draw graphics at the time. It may have been so primitive as to make Pong look cutting edge 25 years later, but the amusement device paved the way for video games all the same.

http://bigbackground.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/classic-video-game-wallpapers.jpg Source: bigbackground.com

http://bigbackground.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/classic-video-game-wallpapers.jpg Source: bigbackground.com

3. Air Conditioning

The concept of air conditioning has been around pretty much as long as people have been hot, with the ancient Egyptians using evoporating water to cool air blowing in through windows. Electrical air conditioning is a modern convenience, but has actually been around since 1902, when American inventor Willis Carrier created the first unit by reversing the process of steam heating. It would take another 30 years for the first residential home to receive an A/C unit and by the 1950s, many homes were installing units based on Carrier’s original designs.

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http://ftextures.com/textures/Air-Conditioner-front-view-and-side-view-texture.jpg Source: ftextures.com

2. The Cell Phone

The vast expansion of the mobile phone has only really been seen in the last decade or so, but the cellular phone has actually been on the market since 1983, with the first working mobile being demonstrated by Motorola in 1973. Motorola’s first commercial unit, the DynaTAC 8000X, was extremely cumbersome and primitive…but that didn’t stop the first buyer from laying down $4,000 on March 13, 1984. Suddenly, modern smartphones don’t seem as expensive anymore.

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http://intrapixel.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/image7-e1414635313688.jpg Source: intrapixel.com

1. The Computer

One of the most significant technological innovations of the 20th century, modern computers continue to evolve at a rapid rate every year. While home computers have only been a reality for a few decades at this point, the programmable computer has shockingly been around since the early 19th century. Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer who has been fittingly dubbed the “father of the computer”, created the “Analytical Engine” in 1833. The device was ingenious, relying on mechanical parts and punch cards to store memory, and is now considered to be at least 100 years ahead of its time. Unfortunately, Babbage was never able to finish his machine due to losing his funding, meaning society had to wait until the 1940s for the first general-purpose computers to be built. It’s incredible to think how much further along computer technology might be if Babbage had managed to see his invention through to completion.

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