Science

10 Amazing Inventions That Were Ahead of Their Time

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Introduction To The 10 Amazing Inventions That Were Ahead of Their Time

The jetpack, the flying car, and universal free electricity are all theoretically possible yet technologically impossible inventions within our lifetimes. However, as time progresses, our conception of what is technically impossible to achieve shifts. Bored scientists develop novel and exciting solutions to odd issues; as a result, circuits get smaller, and engines become more efficient.

Then, after that cutting-edge gear has become ordinary, it may be utilized as a springboard to go further and sound a few more technological sabers. For instance, we don’t know enough about the inner workings of a flush toilet to understand how they function, but the ancient Minoans were already constructing them by 1800 B.C.

Here is a list of 10 groundbreaking innovations decades ahead of their time.

10. Google Glass

Google Glass
Source: https://www.google.com/glass/

Google Glass is a wearable Android device that looks like a pair of spectacles and can be operated by the user’s voice and motion to project information directly into the user’s field of view.

By combining visual, auditory, and location-based inputs, Google Glass creates an augmented reality experience. Users may immediately be notified of any changes to their scheduled flights when they enter a designated area, like an airport. It could let users see turn-by-turn navigation in their field of view through a Google Maps integration.

Customers were worried that the glasses would invade their privacy when the first version was released in 2013. As a symbol of ubiquitous recording, Google Glass made it impossible to avoid being constantly filmed. Initially, Google tried repositioning the glasses as a useful tool for skilled professionals like doctors and factory employees. However, Google ultimately abandoned the Google Glass consumer product in 2015 due to continuing public unease. Yet the project itself continues to this day as an enterprise solution for businesses that are interested.

Although Google Glass failed in the hands of consumers, it inspired a slew of new head-mounted AR products including Microsoft’s Hololense that may make the Google Glass relevant again in the near future. This has been made more evident by the fact that a new pair of AR glasses have been announced at Google IO 2022.

9. The First Electric Vehicle And G.M.’s EV1

GM EV1
Image Source: Twitter

Many would be surprised if someone told them that the first car that had been ever made was an electric car. The first crude electric vehicle was developed by, Robert Anderson around 1832 which later became the basis for the first production car in the 1890s which was also electric.

First electric vehicle in 1890

In spite of that, the battery technology was nowhere near the modern terms and people at the time preferred much more efficient gasoline cars abandoning electric as they were well ahead of their time.

Later in the late 1990s, G.M. (General Motors) manufactured and leased the EV1, an electric vehicle. It was the first mass-produced, purpose-built electric vehicle from a major carmaker in the modern period and the first General Motors car explicitly designed as an electric vehicle.

In large part, inspired by the positive reception of G.M.’s 1990 Impact electric concept car, the EV1 is an electric vehicle that will be produced in large numbers. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued a mandate requiring the seven major U.S. automakers to produce and sell zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) to continue marketing their vehicles in California, inspired by the Impact’s apparent potential for success. The EV1 was made available to residents of Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Tucson, Arizona, under lease-only arrangements.

Source: MotorWeek

This commitment did not succeed as EV1 sold less than 2000 units before it was discontinued. However, in recent years EVs are on the rise mostly due to Elon Musk’s Tesla and other car manufacturers following suit.

8. The Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle

In 1981 the Space Shuttle was the first reusable spacecraft to be ever built. There was a total of 135 launches carried out by the space shuttle program. It could transport seven astronauts at once or a large cargo to and from Earth’s orbit. Spaceflight made it possible for satellites to enter Earth’s orbit. The shuttle launched a significant amount of components for the International Space Station (ISS) into space and it is safe to say that without the space shuttle we may not have the ISS right now. The amazing Hubble Telescope which discovered many mysteries of the universe to this day had also been launched and later repaired by the space shuttle Discovery and Atlantis respectively.

As a comparison, the space shuttle could be compared to a space plane more so than a traditional rocket as it is carried to space by a large Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) and lands back on the ground like a plane. This was the first time in human spaceflight history that a solid-propellant had been used as the primary propulsion.

The space shuttle has the feel of a laboratory. It was primarily used for microgravity experiments and large cargo launches. When compared to Earth, conducting research in space presents unique challenges. One or two weeks were devoted to each mission. There were six space shuttles in total “Challenger”, “Enterprise”, “Columbia”, “Discovery”, “Atlantis” and “Endeavour”.

Although the space shuttle was ahead of its time in spaceflight history, it was not without its issues. Challenger and Columbia were destroyed in mission accidents killing a total of fourteen astronauts in 1986 and 2003 respectively.

Columbia Shuttle Explosion

High costs, slow turnaround, few customers, and major safety problems made the Bush administration realize it was time for the Space Shuttle Program to retire. The initial launch occurred in 1981. Missions ended in 2011. To this day we do not have a spacecraft that can match the space shuttle in terms of its capabilities.

7. Instant Camera Polaroid

Polaroid Instant Camera
Source: Wikipedia

We may all take hundreds of photos on our phones nowadays. Still, back in the days of analog cameras, instant photography was just a dream. You had to wait days and it required specialized equipment and a darkroom that used red lighting to allow photographs to slowly develop. This led Edwin H. Land who struggled to show his daughter a photograph instantly to later go on to invent the first instant camera, the “Polaroid” in 1948.

The polaroid could take a photograph and instantly print it out as a snap within 15 minutes onto a special 2-by-3-inch photo paper also known as Zero Ink or ZINK Papers. These polaroid snaps could be carried in your wallet, add to a photo album, or framed and displayed around your home. The polaroid camera itself was also very compact in its size that it was able to fit inside your pocket.

Finding a traditional analog 35mm film camera is easy, but natural old-school photography requires patience while you wait for your pictures to be developed. Back then, if you were starting with film photography but wanted photographs immediately, an instant polaroid camera was the way to go. Nowadays in the digital era, you might not find the Polaroid-style snaps much interesting but in case you do, you’ll find much to enjoy in today’s best instant cameras, such as the Instax and the new Polaroids.

In a time when instant photography was just a dream, the polaroid was a new revolution that was well ahead of its time.

6. Altair 8800

Altair 8800

You are reading this article using a computer, be it a Personal Computer (PC) or a Smartphone the Altair 8800 was the father to all. Built in 1974 by a small firm called MITS, the Altair 8800 holds the title of being the first personal computer. It was 7 years earlier than the original “IBM PC” and a whole decade earlier than the iconic “Apple Computer 1”. This was at a time when computers were large machines that took up about the size of a room and had specialized engineers to operate them. The likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were inspired by the Altair 8800 and went on to found their own companies Microsoft and Apple respectively.

Although the Intel 8080-based Altair 8800 was designed with enthusiasts in mind, it became the first commercially successful personal computer because of its ideal combination of performance and price. While other commercial personal computers were in the thousands of dollars, this kit sold for about $439 (about $2200 in current value). With the components included in the kit, one might construct the barest minimum of what is commonly referred to be a computer. However, it was arduous work to set up the aforementioned machine. The user had to set the appropriate switches to execute a binary instruction for the 8080 microprocessor.

One or two 4096-word memory boards and an interface board were needed for the announced Altair BASIC in July 1975, increasing the price. While the Altair DOS wasn’t released until August 1977, MITS made the announcement back in 1975. In January 1975, Popular Electronics published an article about the Altair 8800, which is interesting since it was the impetus for the formation of the Homebrew Computer Club.

5. SR-71 Blackbird

SR-71 Blackbird
Source: mcha.nl

The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”, is a high-altitude, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft that was developed covertly in the late 1950s by the American aerospace company Lockheed Martin Corporation.

Since its first flight in 1964, the SR-71 is still considered the fastest jet in the world to this day. It could outrun a missile and cruise close to the edge of space. It has never surpassed either speed for a non-rocket-powered aircraft or height for a horizontal flight. Before satellites and drones, it was one of a line of spy planes designed to fly deep into enemy territory without being shot down.

The plane’s distinctive black paint job, meant to radiate heat, gave rise to the moniker “Blackbird” and, when combined with the plane’s long, streamlined fuselage, set it apart visually in a way that hasn’t worn off.

4. Saturn V

Saturn V
Source: vistapointe.net

NASA constructed the Saturn V rocket to send humans to the moon. For those wondering, the “V” in the name represents the Roman numeral for “five.” Saturn V rocket is a three-stage heavy lift vehicle. This indicates its potency. As far as rockets go, it was and still is to this day the most powerful one ever to make it into space since its first successful launch in 1967 and the later launch in 1969 which carried 3 astronauts including Neil Armstrong to the moon. The Saturn V was used in the 1960s and 1970s Apollo program. It was also used to send the Skylab space station into orbit.

The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is where NASA’s Saturn V was built. NASA constructed three distinct Saturn rocket variants. It took two smaller Saturn rockets to put humans into low-Earth orbit: the Saturn I (1) and the Saturn I.B. (1b). They were propelled to the moon and beyond by the Saturn V rocket. In 1967, the first Saturn V rocket was launched, known as Apollo 4 for short. Soon after, in 1968, came Apollo 6, the final unmanned test mission. Both launches were without any humans aboard. The Saturn V rocket was evaluated during these launches.

Afterward, there were 10 U.S. crewed Apollo missions (Apollo 8–17, 1968–1972) including the iconic Apollo 11 launch in 1969 which put the first men on the moon. Six missions in total (Apollo 11-12, 14-17) carried 24 astronauts to the moon 12 of whom were able to walk on the moon. In 1973 Saturn 5 launched for the last time carrying the Skylab satellite to orbit.

Ever since the Saturn V was retired and the Apollo program ended no man had ever stepped on the moon for over five decades. Sometime in the future when SpaceX’s Starship becomes the successor to the Saturn V by being the most powerful rocket this may change.

Saturn V VS Others comparison
Source: en.wikipedia.org

3. Mechanical Keyboard

Mechanical keyboard
IBM Model M was manufactured in 1986. Source: reddit.com

If you’re a computer user of a certain age, you probably remember the days when typing meant filling the room with a deafening click as the words magically appeared on paper. Generations of 20th-century office employees and would-be novelists used typewriters to develop their typing skills. Because of the folks who recognized what typing should be like, mechanical keyboards remained a standard component of computer sets through the 1990s. Early computers like the iconic IBM PC had very high-quality mechanical keyboards such as the Model M keyboard which are to this day preferred by many enthusiasts over the new keyboards with cheap rubber dome keys.

In the 21st century, in an age of disposable electronics, keyboards became a prime target for computer manufacturers to skimp on. Unfortunately, when the home P.C. industry exploded in the late 1990s and early 2000s, manufacturers searched for cheap, mass-market solutions to get tens of millions of people on their machines and online, and mechanical keyboards fell out of favor for cheap plastic keyboards with rubber dome keys.

However, in recent years the computer peripheral manufacturers have decided to go back to old mechanical key switches as the consumer demand was rising for high-quality mechanical keyboards instead of cheap rubber dome ones.

Mechanical Keyboard
New Mechanical Keyboard
mechanical switch
Mechanical Switch. Source: logitechg.com

2. Sony Walkman (Sony TPS-L2)

Sony TPS-L2
Source: techspot.com

The blue and silver metal-cased Walkman TPS-L2, the first affordable portable stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979. It first appeared in the United States in June 1980. It had stereo playback and two tiny headphone ports, allowing for simultaneous listening by two individuals (though it came with only one pair of MDR-3L2 headphones).

In place of the record button on the Pressman, the TPS-L2 had a “hotline” button that activates a tiny internal microphone, partially masking the cassette’s audio so that the two users can carry on a conversation despite the background noise. A new name, “Walkman,” was shortly stamped into the metal tape cover of the gadget that SONY had previously marketed under the names “Soundabout” in the United States, “Stowaway” in the United Kingdom, and “Freestyle” in Sweden.

What made the Sony Walkman ahead of its time was the fact that before the Walkman there was simply no listening to music on the go unless you wanted to carry around a huge boombox on your shoulders. It was not just the Walkman itself but also the headphones that came with it that made it much more wearable and comfortable to use.

Sony Walkman (Sony TPS-L2)
Source: universal881.com

Later in the early 2000s, Apple’s iPod was inspired by the Sony Walkman. “The Walkman walked so the iPod could run”. The Walkman as iconic as it is, paved the way for portable audio as we know it today and made music naturally integrate into our lives.

1. Concorde

Concorde
Source: vistapointe.net

Have you ever dreamed of flying around the world at supersonic speeds and getting to your destination in hours rather than days? Then it would be no surprise to you that the Concorde was well ahead of its time being able to do just that five decades ago.

The British and French aviation industries collaborated to create the Concorde, the world’s first commercial supersonic passenger airliner (or supersonic transport, SST). Concorde made its maiden transatlantic flight on September 26, 1973. On January 21, 1976, the first regularly scheduled supersonic passenger service began, with British Airways flying the plane from London to Bahrain and Air France operating it from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.

In May 1976 and November 1977, respectively, both airlines began offering regular service to the nation’s capital. The Concorde also made chartered flights to locations worldwide, and other routes were introduced temporarily or seasonally. The aircraft could only fly a restricted number of routes due to its high operating costs and disruptive noise levels.

As the Concorde was well ahead of its time being the only ever commercial supersonic passenger airliner, a devastating crash happened on 25th July 2000 which resulted in the deaths of all 100 passengers on board along with the 9 crew members and another 4 on the ground.

After a two-year investigation, this led the Concorde to be eventually retired in 2003 after 27 years of commercial operations.

Stay tuned to ReadWires to find out more exciting stuff. Don’t forget to check out our previous articles and Subscribe to our newsletter.

Kiyara Molina

Kiyara Molina has more than 05 years of experience as a Client Manager at RR Donnelley. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and graduated from Arizona State University. She is spending her free time exploring exciting things and writing blog articles on Readwires.

Pin It