Technology Timeline

We are committed to staying up-to-date with all technology innovations as means for continual improvement and growth. Here is what we consider the key to progress and what led to current breakthroughs year by year.

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1800s
1810s
1820s
1830s
1840s
1850s
1860s
1870s
1880s
1890s
Before 1800s
An illustration of Thomas Newcomen’s atmospheric engine from 1712, used for pumping water from mines.

First Commercially Successful Engine (1712)

Thomas Newcomen invented the atmospheric engine in 1712. It was the first commercially successful engine to transmit continuous power to a machine. Newcomen worked for ten years for his invention to work, and it was primarily used to pump water from mines. But while he improved Savery’s steam pump, Newcomen’s engine was still pretty inefficient. Still, it was not until 1780 that James Pickard improved his design.

An image of the first voltaic pile, the first battery with a steady electricity supply, invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800. It consists of pairs of copper and zinc discs with an electrolyte between them stacked one atop the other.

Voltaic Pile, First Battery (1800)

Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile as the first device with a steady electricity supply in 1800. He initially agreed with Luigi Galvani, the inventor of the electrical basis of nerve impulses, but as soon as he began his experiments, he developed his own theories. He proved his ideas after many tests, and his two-metal theory of electricity eventually led him to produce the voltaic pile or the first “wet cell battery.”

An image of the first working telegraph with static electricity by Francis Ronalds in 1816.

First Working Telegraph (1816)

English inventor Francis Ronalds built the first working telegraph with static electricity in 1816. However, the Admiralty rejected his invention as wholly unnecessary in July. Still, his work was the first published on electric telegraphy that incorporated the risk of signal retardation due to induction. Two decades later, during the subsequent commercialization of the telegraph, inventors utilized elements of his designs.

The Niépce Heliograph, the first known photograph in history from 1827, is portrayed in a white rounded frame.

Niépce Heliograph, The First Photograph (1827)

Joseph Nicephore Niepce used the Camera Obscura to make the first known photograph in history, Niépce Heliograph, in 1827. He conducted photographic experiments to copy prints and record real-life scenes with the camera. Niepce started in 1816 when he produced legible but fleeting camera pictures. However, he tested various chemicals, materials, and techniques, to improve the process over the next decade, which he ultimately called héliographie or ‘sun writing.’ His heliographs, also known as sun prints, were the prototype for modern photography.

A black and white drawing of a man using the first commercially successful reaper. Two horses draw the machine to harvest wheat.

First Mechanical Reaper (1831)

Industrialist and inventor Cyrus H. McCormick developed the first commercially successful reaper. McCormick was born and grew up on a family farm. His father, Robert McCormick, tested designs for a mechanical reaper since his son’s birth. However, he turned the work over to his son. Cyrus made a few modifications and developed a horse-drawn machine to harvest wheat. The reaper could efficiently replace hundreds of laborers. He demonstrated his invention at Steele’s Tavern, Virginia, in July 1831 and patented it in 1834.

An image of the world’s first telegraph message, “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT,” from 1844.

World’s First Telegraph Message (1844)

William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone codeveloped and successfully demonstrated the first electrical and commercially successful telegraph system. They installed it between Euston and Camden Town in London. The next day, they set up the system along thirteen miles of the Great Western Railway and patented their invention in May 1837. Samuel Morse also independently developed and patented a recording electric telegraph in 1837. He sent the first telegram across two miles in the US on the 11th of January 1838. However, he sent the first message, “WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT,” over the 44 miles from the Capitol in Washington to the old Mt. Clare Depot in Baltimore in 1844.

An illustration of the first mechanical dishwasher invented by Joel Houghton in 1850.

First Mechanical Dishwasher (1850)

Joel Houghton invented the first mechanical dishwashing device and registered for a patent in 1850 in the US. He developed a wooden box with a hand-turned wheel that splashed water on dirty dishes and scrubbers. But while many users found the invention slow and unreliable, it served as a good basis for L.A. Alexander’s patent, which added a geared mechanism, enabling users to spin racked dishes through a tub of water.

The no-color image portrays the first traffic light installed outside the Houses of Parliament in 1868. It resembles a railway signal of the time and consists of waving semaphore arms and gas-operated lamps.

First Traffic Light (1868)

English railway manager and inventor J. P. Knight invented the first traffic light, installed outside the Houses of Parliament on the 9th of December, 1868. It looked like any railway signal of the time and aimed to replace police officer control of vehicular traffic. It consisted of waving semaphore arms and red-green lamps operated by gas and was intended for night use. However, it exploded and caused an accident, discouraging further development until the era of the internal combustion engine.

An illustration of the QWERTY Typewriter Keyboard, the first practical typewriter from 1878. On the left is a drawing of the entire device, while on the right is a close-up of the keyboard and its letters arrangement.

The QWERTY Typewriter Keyboard, First Practical Typewriters (1878)

Typing visionary, former journalist, and customs inspector Christopher Latham Sholes equipped a typewriter with a QWERTY keyboard. Its letters arrangement slightly slowed typewriters’ fingers, thus preventing them from jamming. However, he didn’t invent the typewriter alone; a succession of visionaries gradually developed it starting in the mid-1700s. Still, Christopher’s invention was the practical typewriter that went on sale. E. Remington and Sons commercialized the machine as the Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer and began production on the 1st of March, 1873. Moreover, the QWERTY keyboard layout still remains the standard for computer keyboards.

An image of Thomas Edison’s electric light invention of 1880. The first incandescent light bulb highly resembles modern ones and is portrayed on a white background.

First Incandescent Light Bulb (1880)

Thomas Edison received the historic patent that paved the way for the universal domestic use of electric light on the 27th of January, 1880. While Edison improved electric lamps and did not start a whole new design, he made design and material changes that created reliable, safe, and practical electric lamps. His bulbs could last for 1,200 hours. In turn, he has illuminated homes and businesses nationwide, thus helping create a culture that defined its days by the clock rather than by sunrise and sundown. Edison is one of the most prolific inventors, with 1,093 patented inventions and innovations.

A black and white image of Guglielmo Marconi with his 1895 invention, the first practical radio transmitters and receivers.

Radio-Based Wireless Telegraphy (1895)

Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi came up with transmitting messages through radio waves in the mid-1890s. He invented the first practical radio transmitters and receivers in 1894–1895. Because his country didn’t encourage his invention, Marconi moved to England, where he formed a wireless telegraph company. His technology was sending messages across the English Channel and from ships by 1898. Furthermore, his radiotelegraphy set the means of radio communication, and it was the only type of radio transmission during the “wireless telegraphy era” until World War I.