Although not widely available until 1948 vinyl was used as a record material as early as 1940, Victor produced some vinyl 78 rpm records. Record sales increased after the end of World War II with the popularity of vinyl long play records (10" or 12" 33⅓ rpm) which could contain an entire symphony. Another popular format was the 7" 45 rpm vinyl record which usually contained a radio hit on one side with another lesser known song on the "flip" side. There's some controversy over why there are two styles and two speeds for vinyl records, a good summary can be found on The Straight Dope. Some claim that a vinyl record produces better sound than today's CD.

Tractor technology development, both during and after the war, changed rural America dramatically. During the war the average farmer was expected to produce more with much less manpower. Because of wartime production quotas on farm machines they were hard to find even though the new technology was crucial for increasing food supplies to feed the troops. Often the only solution was to keep old machines running or turn to the black market. When the war ended the world had to make a difficult transition to a peacetime economy. War industries found civilian uses for the technologies they had developed, thereby agriculture was transformed. New technologies produced by the wartime effort revolutionized agriculture, there was an unprecedented increase in productivity because farmers could do so much more work in many fewer hours.

The first tractors were just an engine on wheels, an operator's seat and a place to attach plows, planters, rakes or harvesters. They were huge, heavy, had limited power and were too expensive for small farmers to buy. The new machines were smaller, versatile and affordable. Between the old machines that farmers were forced to keep running during the war and and the new machines produced from wartime technology the number of tractors on U.S. farms rose from almost 1.6 million tractors in 1940 to 2.4 million tractors in 1945 – an increase of two-thirds.

Perhaps the most important electronics event of the 20th century occurred in December 1947 when the first transistor was invented at Bell Laboratories by William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. This innovation made possible the integrated circuit and microprocessors that are the basis of modern electronics. The name transistor comes from TRANSfer resISTOR. Before its invention the only way to produce electrical current regulation and switching was with the vacuum tube. Miniaturization of vacuum tubes definitely has limits and they waste a lot of energy in the form of heat. Video was possible with vacuum tube equipment, but without the transistor video products would never have gotten very small.


NBC announced that August 30, 1953 Kukla, Fran, and Ollie - one of the biggest hits in all of television in the late 1940s and early 1950s - would be broadcast in color. Heavy on-air promotion about the experimental colorcast piqued viewer and advertiser interest. Sadly, almost no one had color sets as the FCC was still a few months from officially authorizing the color telecasting system. Excited children gathered around the televisions, only to be disappointed as they hadn’t understood they actually needed a color television to be able to see a broadcast in color.
NBC officially inaugurated Colorcasting on November 22, 1953 with "The Colgate Comedy Hour" and shortly thereafter on January 1, 1954 with "The Tournament of Roses Parade". It was a revolution in broadcasting even though it would be well into the 60’s before color televisions were common in American households.

“Risks, I like to say, always pay off. You learn what to do or what not to do.”
~Dr. Jonas Salk~
In 1952 Dr. Jonas Salk discovered a polio vaccine that would end the threat of the most crippling disease of the decade. After clinical trials in 1954 showed dramatic reduction in polio cases permission to distribute the vaccine was granted by the US government in 1955. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was possibly the most famous victim of polio but in the 1950’s children were the most susceptible.

The history of the first Xerox copy machine starts with the story of Chester Carlson, a chemist and physicist at Haloid Photographic Company in Rochester, NY. Haloid which was founded in Rochester in 1906 became Haloid Xerox in 1958, and then simply Xerox in 1961. The first Xerox copy machines were produced in the 1950’s from technology based on the principles of electrophotography discovered and patented by Chester Carlson during the 1930’s. The process later became known as xerography. The first office copy machine, the Xerox 913, was launched to the public in 1959. There are many other companies that produce photocopiers but Xerox still enjoys success as a global brand and the term “Xeroxing” is used synonymously when what is meant is “photocopying”.


The Eight Track tape recording system was popular from 1965 to the late 1970s. Although today the 8-track is dismissed as a failure because of all its problems it was a big success from a contemporary standpoint. The 8-track tape was the first format to achieve a national mass market and it paved the way for many innovations in portable music systems. A continuous loop of 1/4-inch wide magnetic tape with eight parallel soundtracks was housed in a plastic cartridge. It actually contained four stereo programs and could hold twice as much music as its competitor the four track tape. It might well be remembered as the first automobile tape deck. Ironically, it was first developed by William Powell Lear of the Learjet Corporation.

The first counter-top domestic microwave oven was introduced in 1967 by the Amana Corporation (a division of Raytheon). It was powered by 100-volts, cost just under $500 and was smaller, safer and more reliable than earlier models. A microwave oven works by causing water molecules in the foodstuff to vibrate producing heat that cooks, warms, or thaws food. The first Raytheon commercial microwave oven was the 1161 Radarange, which had been marketed in 1954. It was rated at 1600 watts but was so large (as big as a refrigerator and weighed 750 lbs.) and expensive ( as much as $3k) that it was only useful commercially. The counter-top microwave oven revolutionized "home cooking" - and requires care to be used safely.

The Internet began as a Cold War project to create a communications network that was immune to a nuclear attack. In 1969 the U.S. government created ARPANET, connecting four western universities and allowing researchers to use the mainframes of any of the networked institutions. ARPANET was a project of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) a branch of the military that developed top secret systems and weapons during the Cold War. ARPANET allowed information to be shared through "packet switching," a message sent on the network would find its way to its destination via any route available.

There is an opposing view to ARPAnet's origins. Charles M. Herzfeld, the former director of claimed that ARPAnet was not created as a result of a military need, but that "it came out of our frustration that there were only a limited number of large, powerful research computers in the country and that many research investigators who should have access were geographically separated from them."

In either case ARPANET was the model-T of the information highway, the grandfather of the internet.


CAT Scan
Computed Tomography (CT) imaging is also known as "CAT scanning" (Computed Axial Tomography). Tomography is from the Greek word "tomos" meaning "slice" or "section" and "graphia" meaning "describing". CT was invented in 1972 by British engineer Godfrey Hounsfield of EMI Laboratories, England and by South Africa-born physicist Allan Cormack of Tufts University, Massachusetts. Hounsfield and Cormack were awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The first clinical CT scanners were installed between 1974 and 1976. The original systems were dedicated to head imaging only, but "whole body" systems with larger patient openings became available in 1976. CAT scans take the idea of conventional X-ray imaging to a new level. Instead of finding the outline of bones and organs, a CAT scan machine forms a full three-dimensional computer model of a patient's insides.In a CAT scan machine, the X-ray beam moves all around the patient, scanning from hundreds of different angles. The computer takes all this information and puts together a 3-D image of the body. Doctors can even examine the body one narrow slice at a time to pinpoint specific areas. The technology is an innovation that has made it possible for doctors to diagnose and treat illness with no invasive exploratory surgery increasing life expectancy and improving overall quality of life.

First Patent in the Field of MRI
Although magnetic resonance imaging didn't actually become widely used until the early 80's the basis for using magnetic resonance imaging as an innovative medical diagnostic technique was discovered in 1970 by Raymond Damadian, a medical doctor and research scientist. He found that different kinds of animal tissue emit response signals that vary in length, and that cancerous tissue emits response signals that last much longer than non cancerous tissue. Less than two years later he filed his idea for using magnetic resonance imaging as a tool for medical diagnosis with the U.S. Patent Office, entitled "Apparatus and Method for Detecting Cancer in Tissue." A patent was granted in 1974, it was the world's first patent issued in the field of MRI. By 1977, Dr. Damadian completed construction of the first whole-body MRI scanner, which he dubbed the "Indomitable." When you lie inside an MRI machine, the magnetic field temporarily aligns the water molecules in your body. Radio waves cause these aligned particles to produce very faint signals, which are used to create cross-sectional MRI images — like slices in a loaf of bread. The MRI machine can also be used to produce 3-D images that may be viewed from many different angles. Like the CAT scan it often eliminates the need for invasive surgery to diagnose "malfunctions" of the human body.

War of the Video Formats
The 1970s was a period when video recording came to be a major production factor in the television industry. As is usual with technological innovations several companies attempted to produce "the" television recording standard for the world. At the height of the race to produce a standard the home video industry battled over the two most popular formats - Betamax and VHS (Video Home System). Sony's Betamax video standard was introduced in 1975, JVC came out with VHS in 1976. Manufacturers chose sides in the battle: on the Betamax side were Sony, Toshiba, Sanyo, NEC, Aiwa, and Pioneer, on the VHS side were JVC, Matsushita (Panasonic), Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Sharp, and Akai. Throughout the decade the two standards battled for dominance, with VHS eventually winning the war.


The compact disc (CD) has changed significantly the way we listen music and store data.

  • 1981: First test CD created in Hannover, Germany.
  • 1982: Mass manufacturing of CDs began.
  • 1982: First ever album released on a CD - Billy Joel’s 52nd Street.
  • 1983: CD players and discs marketed in the US and the rest of the world.
  • 1984: Arrival of advanced technology to store and retrieve data from CD-ROM.
  • 1985: Dire Straits became the first artist to sell a million copies on CD.
  • 1987: The first format for storing and playing video and audio (VCD) was created.
  • 1988: The concept of a recordable CD (CD-R) was born.

Personal Computer
One of the most significant inventions of the 1980's decade is the PC. The first personal computer came into being in 1981 along with MS-DOS, a command driven operating system that runs the computer and connects the software programs to the hardware. MS-DOS was one of the first operating systems designed specifically for the personal computer. In 1982 Time magazine named ‘the computer’ its ‘Man of the Year"! In January 1984 Apple reveals the Macintosh with a user-friendly interface - the number of new computer users mushrooms. Some might claim that Windows 1.0 was developed by Microsoft in 1985 in reaction to the Macintosh, but in any case it added to the ease of using a PC for the majority. It meant that rather than having to memorize and type MS‑DOS commands you point and click your way through screens, or “windows” with a mouse.

December 2, 1982
Seattle dentist Dr. Barney Clark was the first person implanted with the Jarvik-7, a "permanent" artificial heart. The 61 year old man had suffered from debilitating congestive heart failure and was too sick to be eligible for a heart transplant. The FDA had just approved a new artificial heart for human implantation - the Jarvik 7 - a device named after one of its key developers, Dr. Robert Jarvik. Clark knew that his chances of long-term survival were almost zero but he agreed to the surgery to advance science. The major problem with the device which made the patient immobile because of the size of the compress it required was the threat of infection. Barney Clark's story became international news, he survived 112 days. The second patient to receive a Jarvik 7 lived 620 days. Currently artificial hearts are only used for patients whose own hearts are too damaged for the use of portable pumps while waiting for a donor. There has not been success in replacing the human heart but artificial-heart research continues.


Although the terms "Internet" and "World Wide Web" are often used interchangeably they are not the same. The "Internet" is a global system of interconnected computer networks. The "Web" is a collection of textual documents and other resources, linked by hyperlinks and URLs, transmitted by web browsers and web servers. In short, the Web is an application running on the Internet. The Web as we know it today came into being when Tim Berners-Lee.
created the World Wide Web and Internet protocol (HTTP) and WWW language (HTML) in 1990.

A few Computer Innovations from this decade…

  • 1991 - Sega Game Gear Handheld, Super Nes, Sonic the Hedgehog
  • 1992 - Windows 3.1, Linux, Wolfenstein
  • 1993 - Windows NT 3.1, Mosaic browser, Age of Empires, Doom
  • 1994 - Netscape web browser, Warcraft
  • 1995 - Windows 95, Netscape 1.2, PlayStation, Pokémon
  • 1996 - NT 4.0, Netscape Navigator 2, Internet Explorer 3, Nintendo 64 the N64, Quake, Tomb Raider
  • 1997 - Netscape Communicator 4.0, Internet Explorer 4
  • 1998 - Windows 98, Nintendo Game Boy Color Handheld, Grand Theft Auto
  • 1999 - Internet Explorer 5, Neo-Geo Pocket Color Handheld, Sega Dreamcast, Tony Hawk's

On July 5, 1996 a white lamb was born, the first to be cloned from an adult cell not an embryo. Proof that scientists do have a sense of humor, albeit sometimes a little twisted, the lamb was named Dolly after Dolly Parton because the nucleus of a mammary gland cell was used. The first step of the process involved reprogramming the udder cells from a white sheep to keep them alive, but not growing, then injecting them into the unfertilized egg of a blackface ewe. The nucleus had been removed from the egg in preparation for implanting the donor dna, and then electrical impulses were used to force the cells to fuse. After it was determined that the cell was dividing normally it was implanted into a third sheep, another blackface ewe. The development of cloning technology has led to new ways to produce medicines and is improving our understanding of development and genetics, but it also set off a firestorm of ethical concerns.
(Artwork by Linda R. Herzog)


2001 - 2006
On October 23, 2001 Apple Computers publicly announced their portable music digital player, the iPod. In April 2007 the 100 millionth iPod had been sold! It is estimated that approximately 86% of MP3 player users own an iPod. The iPod was announced several months after the release of iTunes, a program that converted audio CDs into compressed digital audio files, and could organizes your digital music collection. The iTunes Store followed and became the market leader soon after its launch. Apple advertised the sale of videos through the store in 2005; full-length movies became available in 2006.

The TiVo® Premiere DVR (digital video recorder) is the world's first Smart DVR. It brings the best entertainment from cable and the web together in one place, with one remote and one simple search across everything. Other DVRs are frustrating and difficult to use; TiVo is elegant and intuitive, and it does everything! It handles Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant Video, and Blockbuster on Demand; lets you surf videos from sites like YouTube; acts as your cable box and pulls in over-the-air signals; hosts and streams music. It's even reported to have saved marriages!

Amazon Kindle — With the superior legibility of electronic ink, long battery life, and the ability to hold thousands of pages, e-book readers were already quite handy in 2008. But Amazon made them even more convenient by adding a free cellular connection for downloading newspapers, magazines and books—in seconds. A true innovation! There are other electronic readers competing for the market, and prices continue to fall. This is a device to watch for future innovation.

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