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The top 5 technologies of all time: Inventors, take a bow

[ 3 ] Posted by on January 18, 2017

We’re surrounded by phrases like “revolutionary design” and “innovative technology” all the time and sometimes it feels like we have become desensitised to such accolades. As a result, I think we occasionally need to take stock of the genuinely remarkable breakthroughs that have been discovered over the course of our history.

It’s worth establishing a rather substantial caveat: no such list could possibly do justice to the wealth of human creation and ingenuity, and that any such list will inevitably be warped by the circumstances in which the criterion of “top” was established. Nevertheless, it’s a start.

1. The Wheel

The Wheel

The earliest wheels have been traced back to 5,000 BC so it’s fair to say that they are one of humanity’s oldest technologies. The hollowed circular disc has been used in a plethora of vehicles and machinery including carts, cranes, windmills, and automobiles. The most common theory for its earliest use is carrying large quantities of material to build stronger and more advanced shelters, indeed the most widely held view of the creation of Stonehenge posits the requirement of some rudimentary wheel.

Without doubt, this technology has revolutionised transport and construction ever since its first use. However what I find most intriguing is that even today the wheel has changed very little in its shape and design which indicates just how elegant an invention it really is.

2. The Battery

The Battery

Batteries are in fact older than most people think, in fact the oldest recorded electrical storage device has been charted back 2,200 years just outside Baghdad in Iraq. This incredible discovery revealed that such batteries could provide a charge with about the same voltage as a typical AA household battery while leading theories for its use include electroplating to metals such as gold and silver onto lesser metals and as pain relief.

Irrespective of their ancient uses, batteries are a central part of our modern lives. Their rechargeable cousins are essential for almost every portable device we use today, including cell phones, motor vehicles, watches, laptops and modern weaponry.

3. The Light Bulb

Light Bulb

No matter how elementary it now seems, the advent of a clean, safe and reliable source of illumination revolutionised the way we see the world. Not only does it extend working hours well beyond the traditional hours of the agricultural life, it literally shed light on aspects of the world previously uncharted.

4. The Internet

The Internet

It’s impossible to create a list like this and miss out the cause of the single greatest technological and cultural change in our lifetimes. The World Wide Web is essentially a confusing and wonderful mess of interconnected information pages which has rapidly transformed our lives, and I would definitely argue for the better.

In the latest stats from Nielsen approximately 34% of the world population are now online which is almost mind boggling. But perhaps the most exciting phase of internet adoption is yet to come as large populations in the developing world will increasingly be logging on using mobile devices.

5. The Telephone

The Telephone

As alluded to above, mobile phones now create an opportunity to talk to each other wherever we go and, even more recently, engage online. However their less advanced predecessors brought an equally important revolution in their own right, by allowing instant communication over vast distances the telephone transformed communication, culture and business in one fell swoop.


These five inventions have revolutionised our daily lives and propelled us on to further stages of technological development. It is perhaps because of their ubiquitous nature that it is so easy to forget just how revolutionary each of these advances were. But take yourself back to a world where you could only transport objects that you could carry, where there was no light past 5pm and everything you used had to be plugged in, where research meant visiting a hall of 10,000 paged unsearchable tomes, and you’re communication range was as far as you could shout. Start to seem pretty incredible don’t they.

As above, this list is by no means exhaustive so please add any technologies that you think I’ve missed below.

Fraser writes about technology and gadgets for several specialist sites including He spends most of his free time buying gadgets, playing sports, and writing about the sociological impact of technology.

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About Jakk: Jakk Ogden is the founder of Technology Blogged. 25, with a love for good writing, you'll find Jakk playing 'Drag Racing' on his Nexus 5 and rocking a pair of Grado headphones. If you love technology, be sure to subscribe to his feed for unique editorials. View author profile.

Comments (3)

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  1. Adam says:

    Although technically not a single invention we should add the plumbing systems! The unsung hero of the modern metropolis and maybe all of civilisation?

  2. Antony Gibson says:

    I believe the printing press should be somewhere in your list.

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