Humanities › History & Culture Timeline of Invention Periods from the Middles Ages On Share Flipboard Email Print History & Culture Inventions Invention Timelines Famous Inventions Famous Inventors Patents & Trademarks Computers & The Internet American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Mary Bellis Inventions Expert Mary Bellis covered inventions and inventors for ThoughtCo for 18 years. She is known for her independent films and documentaries, including one about Alexander Graham Bell. our editorial process Mary Bellis Updated May 20, 2019 From the dawn of humanity, people have been inventing. From the wheel to the alphabet in ancient times to modern technological advances like the computer and self-driving cars, what sets humans apart from other animals is the ability to think creatively to invent, dream and explore. Simple machines like the pulley and wheel from ancient times inspired futuristic machines, like cars and assembly lines, that are in use now. Learn more about the periods of an invention from medieval times until today. Middle Ages Tom Van Der Kolk / EyeEm/Getty Images Most historians define the Middle Ages as a historical period from 500 AD to 1450 AD. While there was a suppression of knowledge and learning during this time, with the clergy dominating as the literate class, the medieval times continued to be a period full of discovery and invention. 15th Century Jedrzej Kaminski / EyeEm/Getty Images The 15th century gave birth to three major events. First, it was the beginning of the Renaissance Era, which began around 1453, with a return to research and learning after the Dark Ages. Also at this time, it was the age of discovery with increased exploration and improved naval ships and navigation methods that created new trade routes and trade partners. Also, this time period included the birth of modern printing courtesy of Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the movable type press in 1440 that made the mass printing of inexpensive books possible. 16th Century Photo by Victor Ovies Arenas/Getty Images The 16th century was a time of unprecedented change. It is the very beginning of the modern era of science with Copernicus and DaVinci giving us brilliant hypotheses and a continuation of exploration, as well as extraordinary arts, literature and novel inventions like the pocket watch and projector map. 17th Century Philippe Lissac /GODONG/Getty Images During the 17th century, major changes in philosophy and science took place. Science was not considered a real discipline until Sir Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal and Galileo began dominating the era. It was during this century that the emergence of newly invented machines became part of the daily and economic lives of many people. Another important development during this time was the evolution from astrology to astronomy. 18th Century Laszlo Szakay / EyeEm/Getty Images The 18th century saw the start of the first industrial revolution. Modern manufacturing began with steam engines replacing animal labor. The 18th century saw the widespread replacement of manual labor by new inventions and machinery. This period was also known as the age of enlightenment with a shift away from religious dogma to rational, scientific thought. 19th Century Felipe Dupouy/Getty Images The 19th century forged the age of machine tools, man-made machines that would manufacture tools, including interchangeable parts. A key invention during this period was the assembly line, which sped up the factory production of consumer goods. 20th Century Pgiam/Getty Images The 20th century started with invention gusto. In 1903, the Wright Brothers invented the first gas motored and manned airplane, the radio became a popular household appliance as did washing machines and televisions. Computers, cars, and robotics revolutionized the technology of the day. 21st Century Michael Heim / EyeEm/Getty Images The 21st century began with fears of a Y2K bug. The computer bug was a potential glitch that computer programmers did not fully think through upon the advent of computer tech as clocks would reset to the year 2000 on January 1. Thankfully the bug did not topple the financial industry and other dependent industries as feared. This example shows human reliance on computers, the Internet, and technology in daily life. The power of human invention is limitless. The scientific community continues to advance space exploration, green energy, genetic engineering and other breakthroughs down the line to cure disease and improve upon current technology.