Technology — An Evolution
The Ups and Downs over History
Technology: An Overview
Technology is everything we, humans, have around us — buildings, gadgets, vehicles, fashion, fast food — everything! It is everything and everywhere Humans have applied science — and their brains.
In my opinion, Technology can never be actually downgraded. Every time there’s a new innovative idea or an invention, we see improvement in what we have already. Like, a new variety of Engine can make automobiles better, a new kind of microprocessor might increase computers' efficiency. There’s always some kind of up-gradation — whether small or large. And the possible reason is that things that aren’t better are never applied!
Surprisingly enough, it is Technology itself that often leads to, or permits us to create better Technology. Whenever there’s a new discovery or an invention, it either uses older technology as a part of itself, or uses older Technology in it’s creation, or is itself a better version of older Technology. Also, every new Technology paves way for the evolution of the Human race too.
Technology is changing every minute and every second . We humans were mere primates living in the forests. And now, we are ready to colonize on Mars! We were none other than apes, but now we are masters of the Earth. How this came about to be was affected by a range of factors — some explanatory and some mysterious and hypothetical (which we will discuss in later stories). Let’s first see what inventions we paced up with…
Technology that Made us what we Are
Let’s see what all man developed and what all led to its technological evolution over the wheel of time.
Well, humans were really animals for their first 3 Million years on Earth. The First sign of technology appeared with the beginning of the Paleolithic age, about 2.6 Million Years ago, though human ancestors had been around since 6 Million years ago.
So, the first of applied technology were Stone Tools — Human gear used for hunting, killing and all the rough stuff. Then, around 300,000 years hence, humans thought of creating some real cuisine — and learned to tame fire. And apart from cooking, it helped them get warmth, shoo away animals and maybe, get some light at night!
Then, after about 140,000 years, tired of dominating Land, man invented boats and started fishing and traveling across water. Then, worried about constant supply of food, man thought of food security and invented agriculture, some 880,000 years hence. Apart from farming, he started animal domestication too!
Well, with this quite rapid development, humans started building shelter too and within 2000 years more, stone building started to be constructed.
By the end of the Paleolithic, man had developed enough to prevent extinction from earth in the near future — through most circumstances. Hunting techniques, water transportation, food security expanded at a satisfactory pace — Technology was finally evolving!
Development in the Neolithic was quite fast paced and paved way for the technology that we now have, in this era. Construction and Manufacturing became extensively better, with the beginning of Lead Smelting in 6500 BC, Kilning in 6000 BC, Copper Smelting in 5000 BC and Making of Bronze & Tin Extraction in 3000 BC. Man had now achieved to get most of the metals and materials that he could use to make better buildings and tools.
That was also the Time when Wheel was invented, around 4000 BC, revolutionizing the way things were transported. This was the actual beginning of modern automobiles! Things could be carried with a much lesser effort, as wheels reduced friction with the ground.
Finally, tired of drawing on cave walls, Papyrus was finally discovered in Egypt in around 3000 BC and things now began to be written! And within about 8000 years, man progressed much more than he did in the previous millions!
POST NEOLITHIC (2000 BC — 0 AD)
After there was no significant technological development for around 1300 years, existing technology started becoming advanced. Waterways became better with the coming of Warships in 700 BC and Lighthouse in 600 BC.
Better engineering techniques could now be seen with the invention of Crane in 515 BC, Crank in 400 BC, Gears in 300 BC, Hydraulics in 350 BC and Valves in 200 BC.Cast Iron was also invented in around 400 BC and allowed for better qualities of equipment, utensils, tools, etc, along with the discovery of Blast Furnace in 200 BC. Lenses were invented in 750 BC, and mirror in 400 BC, and gave the foundation of optics. Irrigation too became better with the coming of the Water Wheel in 200 BC, along with better canals and dams.
This period, though slow in the beginning, saw rapid up-gradation of existing techniques, although there weren't any considerable revolutionary inventions.
THE 1st MILLENNIUM AD
Development in the 1 millennium was rather quick. We saw a range of new inventions and equipments in this period, like Vending Machines and Automatic Doors in the 1st Century and Turbine in 200 AD. The Seismograph was invented in 132 AD and man could now sense the tremors within the earth.
And now, Oil Well Drilling also started in 347 AD — the basis of today’s vehicular fuels and petrochemical industry. Instead of depending on firewood, Oil — a much better and more promising fuel was now available for use! Also, Sulfur matches, though not at all safe, came into being at around 577 AD. Quite surprisingly, not long after fossil fuels were discovered, non-conventional energy was adopted too. The Windmill, used for grinding grain, was invented in 650 AD.
In an attempt to increase productivity and improve time-keeping, the first mechanical clock was invented in 725 AD. Further, mathematics — an integral part of Modern Technology, needed for Digital and Analog electronics, precision, and calculation — too improved some bit with the invention of Algebra and the Numerical Zero in the 9th Century.
As of increasingly more number of emerging empires, it became important to advance in warfare too for all medieval kings. As a result, Gunpowder (and subsequently Fireworks in 900 AD) was invented in around 800 AD — and it is still used in most kinds of modern military weapons.
1000–2000, the Modern Millennium
After rapid growth in the last millennia, things started becoming even more intricate and complex — and better. Navigation become better after man studied Earth’s magnetic field and invented the First Magnetic Compass in 1119 — of course after the discovery of magnets.
With more and more efforts of Expanding Empires, Warfare became more and more lethal — armies now had Rockets (1200), Land Mines (1277), Bombs (1200), Cannons (1200), Rifles (1400), Dynamites(1867), Tanks (1915), and finally the devastating Nuclear Bombs that threaten mankind even today. Even Navy got artillery after 1378.
Optics now began to be used for Human Aids — and the first eyeglass came in 1286. Apart, it began to be used in scientific research too — with the Telescope in 1608 and the Compound Microscope in 1620.
The Printing Press — the most important invention for Book Readers — was invented in 1439, and it became possible to print long texts in uniform characters without much human endeavor. This further paved way for Newspapers too, which came in 1577.
Engineering also saw development — as expected — and this time, it helped everyone in every scientific way it could. The Water Gauge was invented in 1441 made irrigation better, the Mechanical Calculator in 1642 made mathematics easier, the Barometer in 1643 made it possible to predict weather, the Vacuum Pump in 1650 that could seal things, and the Alcohol Thermometer in 1709 to measure temperature to much better extent.
The First Steam Engine (used to pump water out of mine) was invented in 1712, and people could now expect much better machinery and industries to emerge with this lay stone in the future. Finally enough, the beginning of the automobile, the first Steam Powered passenger car was invented in 1969. Better waterways too took birth, with the coming of the first Steamboat in 1783. Apart from roadways, railway too became advanced with the 1st steam locomotive in 1804. And surprisingly, modern bicycles — now loved for being eco-friendly — came only in 1885! In 1893, done with coal and steam, the better engine, the Diesel Engine, is invented.
And then, we see the largest leap until now — Human enters aviation, to become master of the Air too! — the First manually controlled, fixed wing, motorized aircraft is invented in 1903 — the Wright Brothers did it! And when we couldn’t accept we were limited to the earth and the sky, humans dived right into outer space — and the first Artificial Satellite was launched in 1957 — Sputnik 1. And soon, we has humans themselves go into space, and even land on mars. Several other probes were sent to different planets in the solar system and even outside it!
In the textile industry, manufacturing became far more easier with the invention of Mechanized Cotton Spinning machine in 1738, the Power Loom in 1789, and the Sewing Machine in 1790. Food Storage also got a boost with the making of Artificial Refrigerator in 1755, and the invention of Pasteurization in 1864. The next century also saw the invention of the First Antibiotic — and the step into better medication — with the discovery of Penicillin in 1928.
Better electrical components were also designed in this era, paving way for the modern microprocessor! The Leyden Jar — an early capacitor — was made in 1745. The first electromagnet was made in 1825 and motorization was no longer distant — with the first electric motor invented in 1834. The Air compressor was made in 1776, ready to become a prototype for all later mechanical compressors. The first solar cell — today’s major component for non-conventional energy — was invented in 1839. And then, in 1886, the major component of daily life, used in toys to TV remotes, the Dry cell, was invented, although the first rechargeable had already been made in 1859. The first Electric Generator, the Gramme Machines, was invented in 1873. In search for reliable and safe lighting at night, the First Incandescent Light Bulb was invented in 1879. In 1947, the component used in almost EVERY modern electronic setup — the transistor — was invented.
Apart from solar cells and petroleum, new sources of energy were too being developed consistently. The Modern Steam Turbine, today used to power most of the households, was invented in 1884. A little later in 1887, Wind turbines became a reality and wind was now being used for electricity — wow!
Steel, the backbone of modern industry, was made in 1872 for the first time. Shortly before, the first man-made plastic — Plastic being found literally everywhere we look — , Parkesine, was invented, in 1862.
The first modern leap into communication, the first Telegraph was invented in 1792. The most important aspect of modern communication, that was the first thing to connect us to people living far away, anywhere in the world, the Telephone, was invented in 1876. With somewhat the same techniques, the Television is invented in 1909 — revolutionizing the way people entertain them and keep them updated.
And then, the much awaited, the First Programmable Mechanical Computer was Invented by Babbage in 1822 — the beginning of the Modern Computer Industry and the Silicon Valley was made! In 1904, the first Vacuum Tube and Diode were invented too, later helping to make the 1st Generation Computers! A range of Programming Languages were developed, a range of Softwares, Operating Systems, etc. were developed too — mankind was now becoming computerized. The ARPANET, which later culminated into the much knows Internet, was developed in 1969, followed by Email — the moder way of communication — in 1971, modern Internet in 1973 and finally the World Wide Web — home to all websites — in 1990.
So, that was probably All. I of course didn’t mention ALL inventions and discoveries in the world — just the major ones. The main motive that I had was to tell about how the rate of development of technology itself grew with an increasing rate — because as we had more and more technology in stock, we had more options to improve the existing one as well as to make new and better technology from what we have already.
HEY, BUT WHERE’S 2000–2018?
Well, though this is a hard fact, humans seem to have run out of ideas, finally! After the Internet, we have really not witnessed any true, useful and NEW invention. All we have is at most betterment of the older technology, and we have this always-going non-useful competition between Mobile Phone Sellers, PC sellers and Software Vendors — these are no longer an invention! Technology has become stagnant, at least for these couple of decades.
A COMPARISON: HOW TECHNOLOGY PACED UP WITH TIME
Lets compare, on the basis of technology mentioned above, the time periods when Technological Evolution Took Place and see where it was fast, and where we went slow! The graphs below are an approximation.
The above chart might not look very clear, as most of the time it is absolutely ZERO. Still, you can infer from this that technological development was almost negligible between 6 Ma to 1 Ma (Ma = 1,000,000 years), and then it suddenly shoots up between 1 Ma and 500 Ka (Ka = 1,000 years) and then even quickly between the last 500 Ka of Human Life on Earth. Let’s see a more detailed chart that displayed values beginning from the Mid-Neolithic (6,500 years ago), the time when we actually started development.
The trend of development is again positive, as we might have expected. It is quite prominent that the main technological evolution occurred after 1000 AD, and increased even exponentially after 1500 AD. Now, let’s zoom into the graph again and look at the detailed view of 1700 to 2000 — during which technology grew with an explosion.
Though there may be some ups and downs, we still get some net rising, and we can actually say that these were the golden centuries of technological development for mankind — for this was the period where everything applied in earlier times became better and advanced — and finally digital. Fuels became more efficient, cleaner with time. Space Journey became easier, and Airways became flash! Steam Engines are now Bullet Trains, and instead of just cars, we are working to have self-driven vehicles. We have smart phones — at least 1 per person — and we have better and better computer chips and processors, storage devices and what not. Everything is becoming as better as it can be — logistics, cuisine, software, utility, hardware — everything.
But, why? Why is man doing all such? Survival is possible without these, because other organisms without any of these are yet not extinct. And even if this was phenomenal and natural to happen, why just us? And although our pace was controlled by what I said earlier, why is it so unbelievable to think now? And if we go back to the beginning, why just one day man though of taming fire? Why not in the earlier 4 million years? What was his source of learning, source of inspiration? These are question that are unanswered yet, so mysterious and yet illogical to think about. I guess, we will be covering everything in the coming stories where Technology would be connected back to Mythology and our Cosmos — ETI.