With each new invention, technology advances humans even further. Without the wheel, there would be no Model T and no Tesla; planes couldn't land on runways. Before smartphones, people had to use their hands to get a taxi. Not only did the creation of Uber and Lyft lead to new jobs, but it also keeps everyone's arms a little less tired. Without human innovation, there would be no language, let alone space travel or the internet. In the last two decades alone, humans landed a rover on Mars, learned to edit DNA, and created the iPhone.
Invention drives humanity forward. There's evidence that our ape cousins are also creators; Chimpanzees have used spears to hunt down and kill prey. Stone tools—one of the first inventions—even helped scientists discover the age of our human ancestors. Around 300,000 years ago, ancient humans gathered around fire with their tools, baking them. These singed tools helped paleoanthropologists determine that these Jebel Irhoud—the precursor to Homo sapiens—were twice as old as researchers had previously thought.
Some inventions came out of necessity while others were serendipitous. Historians believe China created the first magnetic compass in the 11th or 12th century to help with navigation as stars aren't always visible. Alexander Fleming, on the other hand, accidentally discovered penicillin, one of humankind's greatest medical breakthroughs. Antibiotics changed the course of medicine.
While it's easy to know that email couldn't exist without the internet, some other inventions aren't so easy to place on a timeline. Did wind or solar energy come first? What about the telephone or the light bulb? Which computer giant is older: Apple or Microsoft?
Stacker compiled a list of inventions made throughout history. Click through to see if you can identify which came first.
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In 5000 B.C, Egyptians harnessed wind power to get boats down the Nile River. In 200 B.C., China used wind to pump water and people in the Middle East were using windmills to grind grain. Modern wind turbines—which look like airplane propellers—work by producing an electric current when the wind blows. Most shut down if winds get above 55 mph to prevent mechanical damage.
While ancient ancestors started fires by intensifying the sun's rays with magnifying glasses and mirrors, the first solar cell didn't exist until the late 1800s.
Alexander Graham Bell gets credit for inventing the modern telephone in 1876, three years before Thomas Edison filed his patent for the first long-lasting incandescent light bulb. Both inventions modernized human society and are still used today. In 2016, cell phones officially overtook landlines in U.S. homes.
Modern railroad history goes back to the 1500s, but the first steam locomotive carried men, wagons, and iron on a trip through Wales in 1804. High-speed trains now use electric engines or magnets to travel at speeds upwards of 200 mph. German inventor Karl von Drais didn't create the modern two-wheeled bicycle until 1817. While the train came first, bicycles are actually the world's favorite mode of transportation.
German inventor Karl Benz gets credit for creating the first gas-powered automobile in 1885. Benz's car came after steam and electric versions had already taken to the road. It wasn't until Dec. 17, 1903, that the Wright brothers made their first successful flight. Cars didn't become common until 1908, when Henry Ford unveiled the first Model T.
The U.S. Department of Defense's ARPANET, the precursor to the modern internet, sent its first communication in 1969. The first personal computer kit—the ALTAIR 8800—didn't hit the market until 1975. Apple released its first home computer a year later, with IBM following suit in 1981. More than half of the world now uses the internet.
Paul Allen and Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, a year before Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak officially launched Apple. The IBM computer released in 1981 contained Microsoft's 16-bit operating system. The two computer giants have competed for market share over the past few decades. In 2018, Apple was worth $1 trillion. Microsoft is set to follow suit in 2019.
John S. Pemberton created the recipe for Coca-Cola in 1886. A pharmacist named Caleb Bradham made Pepsi-Cola 13 years later. The cola wars have been raging ever since, though in the past decade, consumers have switched from soda to healthier options. Pepsi changed gears to focus on their snack food products—including chips—to bring in revenue.
Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians all used ice to keep food fresh for longer, but the idea for a mechanical refrigerator only came about during the mid-1700s. Jacob Perkins patented a version of the modern fridge, or the “vapor-compression cycle using liquid ammonia” in 1835. The appliance became ubiquitous in U.S. homes by the 1920s. The first domestic microwave didn't enter homes until the 1950s.
People starting using grenades—balls of iron packed with gunpowder and lit with a wick—in the 15th century, a couple hundred years before firearms entered the picture. The muzzleloading rifle, the oldest gun, was invented in the 17th century. The Mills bomb, the modern grenade that has a safety pin in it, was invented in 1915 and used by the British in World War I.
In a race against the Germans, the U.S. government created the Manhattan Project and detonated the first atomic bomb in 1945. The U.S. dropped a bomb on Hiroshima later that year. Nuclear power followed in the 1950s when nuclear fission was used to produce energy. Nuclear power now accounts for about 11% of the world's power. In 2018, President Donald Trump signed legislation to speed up nuclear innovation in the U.S.
Isaac Merritt Singer patented the first user-friendly sewing machine in 1851, more than 30 years before Josephine Cochran created a hand-operated dishwasher. Modern dishwashers weren't popularized until the 1950s. Gandhi was a champion of the sewing machine, remarking that it was “one of the few useful things ever invented.” The Wright brothers sewed their first airplane cover on a Singer.
Humans started fermenting beer and wine about 9,000 years ago, but animals have most likely been imbibing for much longer. “Our ape ancestors started eating fermented fruits on the forest floor, and that made all the difference,” says Nathaniel Dominy, a biological anthropologist at Dartmouth College. “We're pre-adapted for consuming alcohol.” Sumerians didn't invent cuneiform writing until about 3200 B.C.
Alexander Cartwright created the Knickerbocker Rules for baseball in 1845. He and his team played an official game a year later. Modern baseball is still based on the guidelines. James Naismith, an instructor and graduate student at Springfield College, didn't invent basketball—a less physical sport than rugby or football—until 1891.
Human affinity for mustard dates back to the Egyptian pharaohs; they were buried with mustard seeds so they could enjoy the flavor in the afterlife. However, ancient Romans were probably the first to make a paste by combining crushed grapes with ground mustard seed. The first record of a tomato-based ketchup recipe—first inspired by Chinese sauces—didn't surface until 1812.
In 1964, a hand transplant in Ecuador only lasted two weeks. From 1998 to 1999, two successful procedures were performed; the first on an Australian man in France and the second on a New Jersey man in the U.S. The first partial face transplant took place in France in 2005, followed by the first full facial transplant in Spain in 2010.
Earl Tupper's revolutionary plastic containers launched in 1946 when he worked at DuPont. Dow Chemical didn't introduce their Ziploc plastic bags until two decades after Tupperware parties were going strong. Tupperware replaced glassware in a lot of homes, and it's even now on display in museums.
World War II soldiers received the first flu vaccine in 1945. Mass vaccinations for polio—which can affect a person's brain and spinal cord—weren't available until 1955. Polio was eradicated in the U.S. by 1979. The flu virus is still going strong. Modern vaccines are altered each year to fight the three or four most common viruses.
Dr. Frederick Banting successful treated diabetes with insulin in 1922. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928, and the first antibiotic didn't successfully treat infections until 1942. Insulin treatment is still vitally important for the survival of those with Type 1 diabetes, but medication isn't always affordable.
Irrigation—watering crops by something other than rainfall alone—goes back hundreds of thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians funneled water to their fields from the Nile by creating canals and ditches. Ancient Romans created aqueducts. After agriculture came the domestication of animals, which later led to the oxen-drawn plow. Modern agriculture adapted both of these inventions.
Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook when he was at Harvard in 2004, two years before Twitter was released to the public. Facebook is now the most popular social media network in the world, boasting more the 1 billion active users. In recent years, the social media juggernaut has faced a number of controversies, including proliferating fake news and releasing user data to third-party apps.
Egyptian and Babylonian ancestors were cleaning their teeth with twigs around 3000 B.C. Tooth powders were added as a dental hygiene measure in the early 1800s, with pastes arriving during the 1850s. The very first odor-killing deodorant wasn't patented until 1888. A modern, less-irritating form called Stopette didn't come out until 1941.
Our Egyptian ancestors used honey to seal cuts in 1500 B.C. Earle Dickson (with some input from his wife Josephine) made things easier when he created the Band-Aid adhesive bandage for Johnson & Johnson in 1920. Leo Gerstenzang didn't create Q-tips until 1923. While the cotton swabs have stayed relatively the same over the years, Band-Aids now come in a liquid form or pre-treated with antibiotics. The newest versions are even touch-screen compatible.