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Q: How has life changed in the past 100 years? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: How has life changed in the past 100 years?
Category: Reference, Education and News > General Reference
Asked by: jeffpb-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 28 Aug 2003 09:56 PDT
Expires: 27 Sep 2003 09:56 PDT
Question ID: 249738
what things have been invented since 1902 and how has life changed in
the last 100 years?
Subject: Re: How has life changed in the past 100 years?
Answered By: omnivorous-ga on 28 Aug 2003 17:47 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Jeffpb --

A great question!  We can be more precise with the first half, as we
know invention dates and can track the adoption rates of various
technologies.  Looking at how life has changed is more qualitative,
but we have a couple of ways to look at things. has an interesting "Inventors" page which has a timeline
(though you want to beware the pop up ads on their pages).  The site
is nice for an outline of inventions and for links on the history of
"Inventors" (Mary Bellis)

I'll add to these some inventions that I'd put together recently for a
reunion timeline to indicate what happened in each decade.  You'll
often see the invention pre-date wide use by a decade:

DECADE: 1900-1910

1900: the Zeppelin is designed, a rigid dirigible airship
1901: Gillette invents the safety razor
1901: radio telegraph service is instituted for the first time in
1902: neon lights invented
1903: the Wright Brothers first flight in a heavier-than-air craft
(and the centennial is this December): 
1904: Holt's first treaded tractor
1905: Einstein's Theory of Relativity published
1906: Will Kellogg introduces cornflakes
1907: the Lumiere brothers invent color photography
1908: gyrocompass invented by Sperry
1909: instant coffee invented

DECADE: 1910-1920

1910: Edison shows the 1st talking motion picture
1911:  Kettering invents the 1st automotive ignition system
1912:  LifeSavers candy introduced
1913:  the modern brassiere and crossword puzzle are invented
1914: gas mask invented in time for WWI
1915: Pyrex invented
1916: Model T Ford prices fall to $360 -- half the 1911 price
1916: stainless steel invented
1917:  modern zipper invented
1918:  Armstrong's core design for super heterodyne radio circuit --
which eventually becomes universal
1919:  short-wave radio invented

DECADE: 1920-1930

1920: Band-Aid invented
1921: 1st robot designed
1922: insulin invented
1923: Garrett Morgan granted patent for the traffic signal
1923: Clarence Birdseye introduces frozen food
1924: spiral-bound notebooks first appear
1925: Baird's mechanical TV demonstrated
1926: Robert Goddard's first liquid fueled rockets tested in Auburn,
1927: Farnsworth's electronic TV demonstrated
1928: Fleming discovers penicillin; Schick patents the electric shaver
1929: Zenith Radio starts year as lowest priced stock on NYSE -- ends
year as highest priced stock due to demand for its radios; Paul Galvin
(later president of Motorola) invents the car radio

DECADE: 1930-1940

1930: Scotch tape invented at 3M; first jet engine designs
1931: electron microscope invented
1932: good year for photography: Land invents the Polaroid process;
zoom lens and light meter are also invented
1933: stereo records developed
1934: first magnetic tape recorders for broadcasting
1935: Dupont invents nylon; radar first developed; and beer is canned
for the first time
1936:  Colt's revolver patented
1937:  photocopier invented
1938:  ballpoint pen and Teflon invented
1939:  Sikorsky's first helicopter flown

DECADE: 1940-1950

1940: Jeep designed
1941: aerosol spray cans developed
1942: turboprop engines designed
1943: synthetic rubber invented, along with the Slinky and Silly
Putty; Cousteau co-develops the aqualung
1944: synthetic cortisone developed
1945: atomic bomb developed and used
1946: microwave oven invented by Percy Spencer after he melts
chocolate bar in his pocket
1947: Schockley-Brattain-Bardeen invent the transistor
1948: Velcro and the jukebox invented
1949: prepared cake mixes introduced

DECADE: 1950-1960

1950: Diner's Club introduces first credit card
1951: Super Glue invented; so is first video tape recorder
1952:  first bar code patent issued; first diet soft drink developed
1953:  transistor radio invented at Texas Instruments (TI); radial
tire developed
1954:  oral contraceptives invented; Ray Kroc starts franchising
1955: tetracycline & optical fiber invented
1956: first use of computer hard disk
1957: Fortran developed
1958: Noyce (at Fairchild Semiconductor) and Kilby (at TI) both submit
patents for integrated circuits
1959: important to generations of girls -- the Barbie Doll is

DECADE: 1960-1970

1960: halogen lamp invented
1961: valium invented
1962: audio cassettes developed
1963: pop-top cans
1964: BASIC computer language; permanent-press materials
1965: Astroturf; Kevlar; soft contact lenses
1966: electronic fuel injection developed for cars
1967: first handheld calculator
1968: Douglas Englebert invents the computer mouse
1969: ATM machine invented; Arpanet also appears and bar code scanners

DECADE: 1970-1980

1970: Alan Shugart (chairman of hard drive supplier Seagate) invents
the floppy disk
1971: Intel's 4004 is first microprocessor design; dot-matrix printer,
VCR and LCD displays also invented
1972: first video game -- Pong -- invented
1973:  gene splicing invented; Ethernet networking invented at Xerox;
BIC develops disposable lighter; Black-Scholes pricing model developed
for options
1974: Post-it Notes and liposuction invented
1975: laser printer developed
1976: ink jet printing invented
1977: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) invented
1978: Visicalc spreadsheet introduced for PCs; first PC models appear
from Heathkit, Apple, Radio Shack
1979: Walkman invented by Sony; roller blades developed; Seymour Cray
designs the supercomputer

DECADE: 1980-1990

1980: vaccine for hepatitis-B invented
1981: IBM introduces the PC and MS-DOS appears for the first time
1982: human growth hormones genetically engineered
1983: soft bifocal contact lenses introduced
1984:  Apple Macintosh popularizes the graphical interface; CD-ROMs
1985: Microsoft brings out Windows 1.0
1986: Microsoft's initial public offering (IPO); first disposable
camera introduced
1987: disposable contact lenses invented
1988: Doppler radar invented; first patent issued for
genetically-engineered animal issued
1989: first HDTV broadcasts in Japan

DECADE: 1990-2000

1990: Tim Berners-Lee develops protocol for both World-wide web (WWW)
and the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
1991: first digital answering machine
1992: smart pill invented
1993: Intel introduces Pentium family of 32-bit microprocessors
1994: first Internet audio broadcast from Interop
1995: DVD invented; Java language launched by Sun Microsystems;
RealAudio broadcasting introduced
1996: WebTV introduced
1997: gas-powered fuel cells developed
1998: Viagra developed
1999: is formed and the search engine goes into beta test
2000: mapping of human DNA completed


Researcher Missy-GA  does an interesting job trying to reconstruct
24-hour periods over the centuries in the following answer.  She pulls
information from several journals to document what life was like 100
years ago and the writers (including former President, Jimmy Carter)
note that it was a much more rural lifestyle, one where dozens of
diseases that have now disappeared were common:
"24 hours"

Much has changed about the population of the United States and most of
the industrial world.  In 1900, the median age was 22 but today with
longer spans it has risen to almost 36 years old, according to U.S.
Census Bureau statistics. Families averaged 3.5 children in 1900 (down
from 7 in 1800) and have continued to shrink, averaging only 2.1
children now.   At the beginning of the 20th century, most people
lived on farms but cities have continued to grow in size and
percentage, now accounting for about 8 of every 10 people:
Statistical Abstract of the United States
"Population" (2002)

Fellow researcher Smudgy-GA suggests in a comment that you look at
being teleported back 50 or 100 years to see rates of change: "What
would happen if you got teleported from now into 1950.  A lot of
things would be different, technologically speaking but by and large
you would not have much trouble getting round in society."

"However, imagine if 50's icons Ozzie and Harriet got teleported into
the past fifty years to 1900.  Almost everything would be lien to
them. The automobile hardly exists as they (or we) know it; the
telephone is a novelty; television is a glimmer in some fantasist's
eye; there are no heavier-than-air aircraft; electricity is only
beginning to be worked with. . ."

There have been interesting attempts to simulate life in these earlier
times, including a pair of popular television "reality shows" casting
people back 100 years or more.  Both of these websites have a fair
amount of background material, but the videos are interesting to see
details in the difference in modern and century-old lifestyles:
"The 1900 House" (London, 1900)

"Frontier House" (Montana, 1883)

Another interesting way to look at changes over the past century is to
look at what has remained constant -- in diet, religion, family life. 
Specific foods and preparation styles have changed but the typical
diet is still the same meats, starches and vegetables.  Jack Daniels
hasn't changed; Levi's makes the same blue-denim work clothes;
baseball's played with basically the same rules; teenagers are still
rebellious; and there's no cure for the hangover.

Google search strategy:
"20th century inventions" + timeline

Best regards,

jeffpb-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Thanks!  Excellent detailed answer with lots of good references.

Subject: Re: How has life changed in the past 100 years?
From: nronronronro-ga on 29 Aug 2003 17:30 PDT

The answer by omnivorous is excellent!

Someone calculated in 2000 that real per capita wealth has
increased 7x since 1900 and 19x since 1800.

I wonder if people today are 7 times happier...

Best regards,
Subject: Re: How has life changed in the past 100 years?
From: omnivorous-ga on 30 Aug 2003 07:50 PDT
Jeff --

Thank you for the comment and the extra sum.

Another way to look at change is to see what's disappeared in 50 or
100 years.

Since 1902, cities and farms have both seen the horse disappear from
daily labor; electrification become universal -- which meant that
indoor plumbing came to millions of farms too; iceboxes and daily
block-ice deliveries disappeared in the cities; polio, diptheria,
tuberculosis and smallpox have all but disappeared (and smallpox was
eradicated in the 1970s); trains are no longer the principal means of
transportation.  Coal was a principal source of central heat (so you
can tell how old a house is by whether or not it has an old coal

Since 1952, we've see colonialization disappear; the end of apartheid;
black-and-white TV is gone; so too are vinyl records as the principal
recording media; typewriters are obsolete, as are phone booths, slide
rules, LORAN, IBM punchcards, the Soviet Union, Checker cabs and
drive-in movies.  Very few people are served by in-home milk delivery.
 And there's no longer a mandatory draft for military service in the

Best regards,


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