At one time, every invention was at the forefront of technology, whether it was the first sharpened stone, the first electric fan, or the first can opener (which was created 83 years after the first canned food). And so it was with the cutting-edge technology on this list, each inspiring others to proclaim, “Oh, we have got to do better than this.” Here is some old-fashioned cutting edge tech!
1862: First Fax Machine
Called “the Pantelegraph” by its creator, Giovanni Caselli (who should have taken a page from fellow inventors James Dyson and George Foreman and called it the “Caselli” or “Giovannator”), the first fax machine transmitted handwriting and even drawings over regular telegraph lines. Using clock parts, the machine’s stylus perfectly copied the message or illustration via a stylus across two metal plates as a pendulum swung. It took about two minutes to receive 25 words, which is an absolute marvel considering that most mail back then was sent via foot, horse, or paper airplane. Very few Pantelegraphs remain to this day, but they still work without error (and without that screeching noise you hear whenever someone accidentally sends a fax to your phone number).
1865: First Modern Printing Press
The printing press used to be one of the most important inventions in the world, allowing the spread of knowledge all across the country. But the first presses were either slow or, as they grew in size, dangerous. But William Bullock was able to create a press that fed paper on a nonstop roll, printed on both sides, and automatically sliced the paper into uniform-length sheets. But here’s why we really shared this invention — two years after he created this press, Bullock died by falling straight into it, mangling himself and literally becoming front-page news. This puts him in a very small group of people who died from their own inventions, which includes the first person who attached razorblades to a boomerang.
1884: First Roller Coaster
Unveiled at Coney Island in 1884, the Switchback Railway was the very first roller coaster made specifically for an amusement park. (One wonders what the other roller coasters were made for — maybe a coal miners carpool?) Designed by LaMarcus Adna Thompson, the ride cost five cents ($1.19 today) and propelled passengers forward on wooden tracks at 6 mph over a small hill, and then another small hill. This, of course, was a great thrill to park-goers, who would have to wait another nine years for the first Ferris Wheel and several decades before they could vomit on their own lap and head in the first gyroscope ride.
1925: First Television
Resembling not so much your parents’ old TV as your great-grandmother’s jewelry box attached to a See ’n Say with a waffle cone, the Mechanical Television introduced the joy of staring at a very, very tiny screen. Originally known as the “televisor”, this TV was sort of like a radio attached to rotating disks that could transmit both images and sound. That said, it had trouble recognizing actual human faces, so the first image ever broadcast was that of a distorted ventriloquist dummy’s head (the frighteningly named “Stooky Bill”), thereby scaring the hell out of millions who would swear by radio for another two decades.
1965: First Minicomputer
When we think of a “minicomputer” today, we certainly don’t think of three stacked dorm fridges. But this was a mere 15 years after the first commercial computer, the UNIVAC 1, which weighed 15 tons and took up an entire floor. The first minicomputer, though, the PDP-8, was comparatively smaller, and was crammed with a whopping 12-bit memory and sold for $18,000 ($135,492 today). It sold over 50,000 units, making it the most successful personal computer at the time and inspiring people to dream of one day owning a tiny computer that could easily be transported by way of wagon or catapult.
Which pieces of technology that you own are going to seem insanely old-fashioned someday? (My vote goes for the Samsung Galaxy S5.) Let us know in the comments below!