What started all of todays technology?

Ok another one!
For millions of years the inhabitants of this world got by on reletively basic things like a carved wooden wheel or an iron sword for instance. Then all of a sudden in the space of 50 - 100 years (an absolute miniscule amount of time) we have such things as fighter jets, spacecraft, nuclear power, computers and satellite for instance. I have tried to put it down to progression but we had millions of years to progress not all of a sudden everything in half a century!! Who and what got the technological ball rolling in a ridiculously fast way? was it the invention/discovery of electricity, the engine or what???

go make an iron sword, come back when your done and claim that makeing one is basic.

I don’t know, so I’ll make a WAG.

I’d guess it was agriculture, hunting and warefare. In warfare, the side with the better weapons often won; and in hunting, the hunter who had the best tool to bring down game brought it down more often than others. People were throwing spears and somebody said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could throw these things farther?” So they developed a tool to do it. In agriculture, people found that by using implements they could have larger harvests, or expend less energy on the harvests they were getting.

Eventually there were people who might or might not have been good at a certain task, and/but they were good at figuring out how to do it better. Or sometimes they invented something whose use wasn’t readily apparent, but became really big later. (Hero of Alexandria invented a steam engine a couple thousand years ago, but it took someone looking at it in a new way to make it useful.) I think the thing to remember is that “technology” doesn’t just mean microchips.

For thousands of years people made advances in technology; some great advances, and some minor improvements. It’s actually pretty difficult to point to everything and say, “This is how technology advanced.” You’d have to break it down. For example, an alchemist in China was mixing up a potion and invented black powder. People eventually found that it would propel a projectile out of a tube and the cannon was born. Then someone though it might be a good idea if cannons were smaller so that soldiers could carry them. We get the hand cannon. And then small arms. And then the ignition mechanisms were improved by trying different kinds and seeing what worked. Around 1842 Samuel Colt was a seaman and he noticed the ship’s wheel. He carved a wooden model of a gun that had a cylinder. Twenty years later metallic cartidges started to become common. Then others came up with repeating rifles, automatics, machine guns, smaller machine guns, and the GE Minigun. The evolution of firearms alone would take volumes.

And so would the evolution of aircraft, spacecraft, automobiles, personal computers, sewing machines, telephones, aerosol cans… everything! The point is that there were technological advancements happening over hundreds and thousands of years, and they were often happening at the same time.

To partially answer the question a little more directly, I think the Industrial Revolution is the point when things really took off. Better machinery begat better machinery, which sped things up considerably. The water wheel provided power to industrial machines, and then steam engines provided more and better power. And so forth.

The History Channel has some pretty good programs about the history of technology. (On the other hand, they also have “science lite” which I find lacking.) When I was a kid I liked to watch The Day the Universe Changed on PBS. Good series, and you never knew where it was leading. Seemingly unrelated inventions all fed into the ultimate invention that was the focus of the show. There was another show (same guy) called Connections. I didn’t like it as much as the former, but it was still interesting.

Anyway, “fighter jets and spacecraft” have their roots back in the myth of Deadelus and Icarus. Leonardo da Vinci drew flying machines half a millennium ago. The Montgolfier brothers flew a ballon over two centuries ago. It was in the 19th Century that George Caley was flying gliders. And it’s been 100 years this December 17th since the Wrights flew their Flyer. So while inventions have been coming fast and furious over the last 150 years or so, their roots can go way back.

Heh. First you discover that certain rocks melt. (i.e., discover cooper ore.) Then discover that you can alloy it to make bronze. Then discover iron ore. Then figure out how to work it. Then… :stuck_out_tongue: :smiley:

There can be, and have been, many quite “fast” developments or refinements of earlier technology that have come about because of new or more efficient ways of harnessing and storing power.

The industrial revolution happened when steam power was harnessed. Earlier inventions/machines could then be expanded upon, made larger, faster running, etc.

In the last 100+ years, the advances have come about due to the use of electricity (and to a lesser extent, the gasoline powered internal combustion engine.)

Written language played a great part in the development of technology. It allowed people to build upon the knowledge of previous generations.

You can pribably thanj the Industrial Revolution. Once access to serious power (beyond a water wheel) occurred the rest took off. Electricity was also a major player.

The trick here is the ability to get greater abd greater portions of the population away from the day-to-day necessities of basic survival. Once farming and ranching become possible on a large scale you free up huge masses of the population to do other things (like go to school rather than working the farm). Efficient farming becomes possible with the use of machinery instead of the horse or ox and distribution becomes better with machinery allowing you to get food stuffs to distant populations witout spoiling (faster travel and eventually refigeration).

Now you have a whole lot more people available to work on the ‘basic’ sciences. Medicine improves allowing a longer lived and generally healthier population. Add sanitation to the list…plagues and other nastiness drop off. Even more people now are available for more intellectual pursuits. In the past you had a few geniuses pop up but instead of drawing from a few thousand of the ‘leisure’ class that could afford to dawdle on intellectual pursuits you can now draw from millions.

Then of course you add economic pressures. Technology made some people fantastically wealthy (e.g. railroad barons, textile barons, etc.). The road to wealth was clear…come up with a clever idea (cotton gin for instance) and you’re on the road to a fortune.

I heard once that more technological advancement happend between 1900 and 2000 than happened in all of human history previously. I marvel at what my grandma witnessed (she died a few years ago). She was born in 1897 and lived from horse-and-buggy days thorugh electricity, cars, airplanes, radio, moving pictures, spaceflight, television (not to mention two world wars and the depression). I still think she got to witness one of the most spectaular 100 years ever (or near enough…she was 98 when she died). What a world she got to follow (good and bad)!

My vote is for fire. Even verbal language might not have gotten very far without fire.

Money and NASA.

Let’s not forget advances like the effin’ wood-fire-generated, steam-powered servers, such as the one used by SDMB.

Also a great deal of money and research in the 1920s went into the development of scalar weapons. . .

In 1999 the Discovery Channel did “the 100 greatest inventions”, and the printing press (invented by Johann Gutenberg in the 1400s) was #1 for this reason. I personally think the press would have been invented eventually and that something like electricity is more important, but I agree the case can be made for the press.

The printing press is just a bit too broad for me although it clearly was key to enhancing communication. (Off topic aside: Movable type and presses existed in Asia prior to Gutenburg but not much came of them - showing that it takes more than just a good idea to change the world, it takes a society ready to use it.)

I would vote for the concept of mass production (interchangeable parts, assembly line, etc.) combined with electrical power to speed up the process. This allowed the great leap in standard of living which in turn allowed more effort to be devoted to research.

Back-engineering of the UFO wreckage recovered from Roswell.

That’s what I believe, anyway.

Thak throw rock at food beast. Food beast not fall over. Thak no can eat. Thunk dig up root with sharp rock. Thak wonder if Thunk sharp rock also dig into food beast. Thak need figure out way to get sharp rock from Thunk without fight against Thunk brother…

Monkey brains. Double spoonfuls of monkey brains.

Technology builds primarily on technology. Tools are easier to build with other tools, and as the technology spreads to more than a handful of people you get more innovation.

Think of someone (lets call him Ogg) making a hammer. Once he has made a hammer, he can go off and try to do some things, but that one guy is not going to get very far. What he does is make another hammer with his hammer. He gives this to a buddy, and they start cranking out hammers. Once Ogg has 50 guys with hammers, they all get together and decide to beat down some trees and build a few cabins, something that Ogg could never do by himself.

Ogg’s buddy thinks that maybe there is a better way of taking down trees, and finds 5 others to help him with his “axe” idea, while Ogg and a few delinquents begin to practice the fine art of hammer chucking. Tada! Modern society is born, and exponential technological expansion is explained.

leighton1978, I´d like to point that the human race, Homo Sapiens Sapiens, has not been around for millions of years. However hominids begun to use technology… well, stone tools for what it´s worth, about 2.4 million years ago.

Oh, yes; and I agree that the availability of more energy sources was the driving force behind the technological leap of the last two centuries.

Hunt down copies of James Burke’s The Day the Universe Changed, Connections, and The Axemaker’s Gift. These are wonderfully written books about the history of technology, the effects on developing society, and the consequences of our current dependence on it.

Don’t forget The Pinball Effect. A great read. Mr. Burke is in fact one of the smartest people around.

While we’re on a Mr. Burke roll, you might also find Circles and The Knowledge Web interesting.

This idea of technology and society is at the heart of each book mentioned here.