- GPS Technology
Originally developed as a navigation system by the United State military, the Global Positioning System uses a network of satellites around the earth to pinpoint the exact position of a receiver anywhere on the planet. Since its development in 1978, it is now used in cars, aircraft and boats.
- The Sony Walkman
In 1979 Sony spawned the era of wearable technology with its iconic personal stereo. It enabled music fans to listen to their music while on the move with inflicting their choices on those around them. It proved the soundtrack to millions of morning commutes. The Walkman quickly changed listening habits and became hugely popular as jogging culture took the 1980s by storm – here was something that allowed you to listen to your music while you worked out. This wearable technology has now evolved, thanks to Apple, into the iPod and has changed the music for ever.
- The bar code
These boring sets of black and white lines can now be found on almost every single item bought from a shop. At first glance, it seems hard to see how they possibly made any impact on the world, but they have fundamentally changed the way we shop. Norman Woodland first developed an early form of the bar code in 1949 by combining ideas from movie soundtracks and Morse code to help him speed up store checkouts. They now allow stores to instantly access product details, prices and stock levels with a sweep of a laser.
- TV dinners
Food on the go has been around since the time of Ancient Greece, but convenience food really took off in the 1970s and transformed the way families ate meals, the high street, the countryside and national health. Traditionally family dinners around the table disappeared and pre-packaged ‘ready meals’ eaten on the sofa became the norm. Due to hectic lifestyle, the products, which were often frozen, were designed to make life easier for life-pressed consumers.
Although games consoles had been around for some time, Sony’s PlayStation took gaming out of spotty teenagers’ bedrooms and into adult living rooms when it was released in 1994. Here was a computer with more power than the average family PC. As of July 2008 more than 102 million PlayStation units had been sold, while the next generations, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, have also been turned into best sellers. The gaming industry is now worth almost as much as the film industry, taking in more than £15 billion in 2008.
- Social Networking
Around the world, every day more than three billion minutes are spent by computer users on Facebook. Along with other social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, it has completely changed the way we interact and who we interact with. Millions of people now communicate tiny details of their professional and personal lives by poking, twitting and posting. Online social networking has allowed people to rekindle friendships with friends they lost touch with years ago. Others chat online with complete strangers on the other side of the world. In 1967 American psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted the ‘small world’ experiment to prove the strength of old fashioned social networks. In the digital age his ‘six degrees of separation’ has almost become redundant.
- Text Messages
Text messaging has created a new vocabulary and new grammar that is almost incomprehensible to those who do not use it. LOL and FYI have now passed into everyday English. It has also changed the way people use their thumbs – the old QWERTY keyboard layout suddenly became redundant. Among 13 – 17 year olds, text messaging now outweighs old fashioned phone calls by seven to one.
- Electronic Money
In the UK there were 7.4 billion purchases made during 2008 with plastic cards. Combined with internet banking, cards have made the cheque almost redundant. Credit cards gave us greater convenience for spending, greater security and the ability to spend money anywhere in the world. They also brought us internet fraud and record levels of debt that have contributed to the global credit crunch.
Not the ovens, but the electromagnetic waves. Microwaves – electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging between 1 millimeter and one meter – are used by mobile phones, wireless broadband internet and satellite television. They also gave us a new way of cooking food while the US military has developed a ‘less-than-lethal’ weapon that can blast victims with a heatwave.
Nightclub bouncers might not like them, but trainers changed fashion and the feet of generations. The Goodyear Metallic Rubber Shoe Company was the first to use a new manufacturing process that melded rubber to cloth in 1892, but it was not until the 1970s they took off. With the help of celebrity endorsements by sporting superstars such basketball legend Michael Jordan, trainers turned from being purely practical clothing for sport into a fashion item. The Army now reports that young people are increasingly growing up without ever wearing leather shoes and their feet are now too soft to wear traditional military boots.