15 Biggest Leaps in Technology in the Past 50 Years

Over the last 50 years, technological advancements have taken the world by storm. Many of these became the foundation of the world we know today.

Things that now seem mundane were significant breakthroughs made by people working day and night to expand the technological landscape.

1. Digital Camera (1975)

Hasselblad 503CW with Ixpress V96C digital back
Image Credit: Hannes Grobe, Own Work – Wiki Commons.

According to CNET, the first digital camera was created by an engineer named Steven Sasson. The camera’s resolution was 0.01 megapixels, which looks insignificant compared to today’s millions of pixels.

Sasson achieved the impossible by using Motorola parts, movie camera lenses, sensors, and some batteries.

2. GPS (1978)

Development of the GPS II Satellite
Image Credit: AEDC/Wiki Commons.

The need for a stable satellite navigation system prompted the U.S. Department of Defense to develop the first GPS.

According to NASA, the foundational concept of using satellites to track shifts in radio signals became the underlying principle in the conception of GPS. Other advancements, like solid-state microprocessors, computers, and better bandwidth, aided the process.

3. Personal Computer (1981)

Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

While personal computers existed before 1981, but IBM launched them into the consumer world and rallied interest among ordinary people. The IBM 5150 Personal Computer allowed PCs to be connected to the TV while allowing the user to play numerous games.

Their tactic of making the source code available to other companies allowed them to develop software that contributed to their success.

4. 3D Printer (1981)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

According to the Guinness World Records, Hideo Kodama from the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute was the first person to write a paper that illustrated the use of 3D printing. His idea was that polymers could be hardened using UV light to create a three-dimensional object. This is what we now know as a 3D printer.

5. Cell Phone (1983)

Dr. Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone, with DynaTAC prototyp
Image Credit: Rico Shen – CC BY-SA 3.0/Wiki Commons.

In 1983, Motorola DynaTAC was launched, becoming the first cell phone to be released worldwide. Experts at History of Information state that it had 30 minutes of talk time, eight hours of standby, and an LED display that could be used to dial up to 30 saved numbers. The model has a hefty price tag of about $3,995, making it a luxury item.

6. World Wide Web (1989)

WWW's historical logo
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Britannica reports that Tim Berners-Lee and CERN began developing the World Wide Web in 1989. It was initially supposed to help automate messages between scientists in various universities and global institutions. Clearly, it became much more than that.

7. Email and Text Messaging (1992)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

On December 3, 1992, Engineer Neil Papworth typed “Merry Christmas,” which became known as the first SMS sent to Vodafone’s director Richard Jarvis’s cellphone.

According to Vodafone, he was creating a Short Message Service as a paging service to assist them with their workflow.

8. Google (1996)

Googleplex Headquarters, Mountain View, US
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0/Wiki Commons.

Experts at The Verge explain that Google was initially known as BackRub and was merely a research project by Larry Page at Stanford University. Along with his batch mate Sergey Brin, he created a system that could crawl the internet and link multiple pages together, thus producing a revolutionary search engine.

9. Cloning (1996)

Dolly the Sheep
Image Credit: Toni Barros – CC BY-SA 2.0/Wiki Commons.

According to Learn Genetics, the first mammal, a lamb, was cloned in 1996 and named Dolly. Wilmut and Campbell transferred the nucleus from the cell of an adult lamb udder into an enucleated egg while they were researching transgenic technology for farm animals. This unprecedented breakthrough in genetics is still highly regarded by scientists.

10. Flat Screen Displays (1997)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Flat screens are widely used in households today but were invented in the late 90s. According to IEEE Spectrum, this plasma television was 3 inches thick and weighed 40 pounds when it was produced.

This technological advancement was straight from the sci-fi movies that were screened then.

11. USB (1999)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

While there are several debates over who created the USB, it was still a one-of-a-kind advancement that changed how information was stored. The need to access data anywhere on any device in a portable fashion led to the creation of the USB.

According to The Juggernaut, Ajay Bhatt invented the USB during his time at Intel, never patenting it and making it accessible to all.

12. Skype (2003)

Image Credit: Skype Technologies.

While other companies bought voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) services, Skype broke the market with its easy-to-set-up and free-of-cost model, which gained significant traction.

According to The Guardian, Skype was started by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, who began their venture to disrupt the market by providing better prices and more reliability.

13. Electric Cars (2008)

Image Credit: Tesla Motors Inc.

With rising concerns about the climate and increased global warming, Tesla developed an innovative solution to combat environmental degradation.

According to Tesla, the model’s inception began in 2006, and in 2008, they launched their first electric car, the Tesla Roadster, which started the eclectic revolution.

14. Bitcoin (2009)

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Launched in January 2009, Bitcoin changed how we perceive money and value. Experts at US News state that the launch was initiated by programmers under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, whose identities have never been corroborated.

Based on blockchain technology at its core, Bitcoin soared in the following years.

15. Mars Rover (2011)

Curiosity's (MSL) rover hand
Image Credit: NASA.

According to NASA, in 2011, the Curiosity rover was launched into space and made its way to the surface of Mars. The motivation behind this was to identify life forms on the planet and determine whether life ever existed there in the first place.

The rover took rock, soil, and air samples to explore the Gale Crater.

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Image Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.


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