Considering the rapid advancements in technology, it’s easy to forget some of the revolutionary inventions of the 20th century. Some of these inventions have resulted in products or services we take for granted today.

Many emerging technologies can be attributed to one, or several, earlier inventions. A prime example of an obsolete technology that has transformed the modern world is cathode ray tube monitors. While it was prominent in earlier years, they were quickly replaced when LCD and plasma screens were invented.

The same applies to typewriters, pagers, dot matrix printers, fax machines, floppy discs, cassettes and first-generation mobile phones. Much of today’s technology can be traced back to a moment in history stemming from creative ideas and innovative thinking.

Inventions That Changed The World

So much has happened between the first 10 years of the 20th century and what we see today. Events that caused defining ripples across human history like the Wright Brothers’ successful flight is just one example. Who would have thought back then the impact it would have on our aviation prowess today?

Then we have to mention Hubert Booth’s 1901 compact vacuum cleaner that set the stage for modern day devices. The escalator is another one worth mentioning as it’s been tinkered with over the years resulting in a host of derivatives used at airports and other locations. While we could go on forever, we’d like to focus on these 9 inventions starting with Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Eintein’s Theory Of Relativity

Many of you know or heard of E = mc² but what exactly does it mean? Albert Einstein published the theory of special relativity in 1905 explaining that there is no “absolute” frame of reference so every time you measure the velocity of an object, its momentum or how it experiences time, it is always relative to something else.

It also states that the speed of light is the same regardless of who measures it or how fast they are going when measuring it. And finally, it shows that nothing can go faster than the speed of light which is definitively explained here.

Examples Of Einstein’s Relativity Theory

A popular example is how astronauts experience time in space differently to those on Earth called dilation. GPS is another prime example as satellites move at a different speed relative to Earth, about 6,000 mph (10,000 km/h). And considering they are 12,600 miles (20,300 km) above the Earth, if we didn’t take relativity into account, your GPS will be off at least 5 miles (8 km) after just one day. Other examples include the ‘yellow’ colour of gold, how mercury works and electromagnets.

The Aeroplane

The first aeroplane was a defining moment in our history as it changed the way we travel and fight wars. From passenger aircraft to fighter jets, cargo planes, drones and even future aircraft like The Tempest. All can be attributed to what happened when the Wright brothers’ invention of aircraft controls that led to fixed-wing powered flight.

Aeroplanes have made the world dramatically smaller as it takes mere hours to travel across continents. It has allowed people to share experiences, cultures and ideas so much more than traveling by ship or road. To think that it would have taken weeks and month to cross oceans where now a flight from London to New York is between 8 to 10 hours.


Paul Cornu invented the first helicopter in 1907 which became a major means of transportation in the public and private sector, not to mention military applications. While the design has changed and improved since then, Cornu’s original invention was the framework for everything. It included an open structure built around a curved steel tube with a rotor at both ends and even then only required one pilot.

The first full large-scale production helicopter was the Sikorsky R-4 in 1944 but there were many other attempts. Some standout concepts were developed as early as 1887 by Gustave Trouvé who built and flew a tethered electric helicopter. Others included the Autogyro in 1933, Focke-Wulf Fw 61 in 1936 and the Bell Model 30 in 1941.

Apollo 11 And The Moon Landing

The 1960’s were known for many things but none more influential than the space programme that led to the moon landing in 1969. To think that the technology that they had at their disposal was equivalent to the processing power of a modern day scientific calculator.

Everyone at NASA and astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins should be proud of their accomplishments. Even though there are still countless debates surrounding the legitimacy of the moon landing, don’t believe everything you read. One way or another, space as we knew it changed and it became the springboard for concepts and inventions that could take us beyond the Moon,             .

Mercedes Petrol-Powered Car

If you can believe it, the first petrol-powered Mercedes series came into existence in 1901. It was very powerful for its time, lightweight and advanced especially if you consider the 35 horsepower engine. This was the beginning of the Mercedes line of cars which was rebranded in 1926 to Mercedes-Benz. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) was responsible for producing the Mercedes 35 HP or as it was known in Germany, Mercedes 35 PS. As you can deduce, the name came from the power of the engine.

While it may not have been as popular as some of the electric cars during this time but the design made it a worthy racer among the first hill clubs in Europe. It had a wheelbase of 2.3 metres and a track of 1.4 metres with a total weight of about 1200 kg. This was as a result of constructing the main chassis frame of pressed steel in a carefully designed U-shaped cross section. It was deemed the first modern car.

Final Thoughts

It’s evident that these inventions played a major role in what we see today although there are many more. And if you think about it, what could today’s inventions lead to in the next 100 years? The possibilities seem endless especially if you considering talks on new terraforming technology for Mars and beyond. Not to mention medical devices, robotics, AI and augmented reality.

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