Inventions From the First Half of the 20th Century

Technology progressed at an accelerated rate during the hundred years of the 20th century, more so than any other century.

The first half of the century, which witnessed the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II, also saw the momentous inventions of the airplane, the car, the radio, the television and the atomic bomb, which would define the century and change the world from that time forward. On the lighter side, the yo-yo, Frisbee, and jukebox debuted.

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1900-1909

In 1903, the Wright brothers invented the first gas-motored and manned airplane.
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The first decade of the 20th century, the so-called aughts, saw momentous inventions that would set the tone for the century. The Wright Brothers made the first flight of a gas-powered airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina; Henry Ford sold his first Model T; Willis Carrier invented air conditioning; Guglielmo Marconi made the first-ever radio transmission; the escalator was invented; and Albert Einstein published his Theory of Relativity.

No one living today can imagine life without airplanes, cars, AC, or radio. This was one impressive decade.

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1910s

Portable Superheterodyne Radio Receiver
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The Teens were less life-changing, but they made a contribution. Thomas Edison made the first talking movie; radio tuners could receive different stations; women discovered bras, then called brassieres; and the superheterodyne radio circuit was invented by Edwin Howard Armstrong. You might not recognize what this is, but every radio or television set uses this invention.

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1920s

The Tommy Gun
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In the Roaring '20s, Tommy guns, the weapon of choice for bootleggers and gangsters, were invented. With the rise of cars came traffic signals and car radios, which must have seemed pretty magical to people who had recently gotten around in buggies pulled by horses or actually riding horses. The first robot was built, along with the first electronic TV. In a major health breakthrough that would save millions of lives in the 20th century, penicillin was discovered. Band-aids were invented, too, and while they don't save lives, they sure do come in handy. Last, and also least, yo-yos were invented, and they became a big thing for a while.

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1930s

1930s UNIDENTIFIED FAMILY...
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During the 1930s, the United States was occupied with survival during the Great Depression, and inventing took a back seat. Nevertheless, one extremely important invention was made: the jet engine. The rise of personal photography was helped along by the invention of the Polaroid camera, the zoom lens, and the light meter. It was the first time people could flip the radio dial to FM, and they could have a can of beer while they were listening. Nylon was invented, just in time for World War II, as was the Colt revolver.

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1940s

A mushroom cloud forms after the initial Atomic Bomb test explosion off the coast of Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands.
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The 1940s were dominated by World War II, and the two most prominent inventions of this decade were directly related to that: the Jeep and the atomic bomb. On the home front, people played with Frisbees for the first time and listened to music on a jukebox. Color TV was invented. In a sign of things to come decades down the road that would again change the world forever, the first computer controlled by software was invented.