Barbed wire, a simple tool, reshaped Life in the American West by allowing ranchers to tame the land. The new fencing simplified the work of the rancher and farmer, and significantly affected political, social, and economic practices throughout the west.
Before the famous invention of barbed wire, the lack of effective fencing limited the range of farming the number of settlers in an area. With little or no wood and no rocks there wasn’t any way to fence off your land.
Wire fences used before the invention of the barb consisted of only one strand of wire, which was often broken by the weight of cattle pushing against it. Michael Kelly made a significant improvement to wire fencing with an invention that “twisted two wires together to form a cable for barbs – the first of its kind. Kelly’s double-strand design made the fence stronger, and the painful barbs taught cattle to keep their distance.
The widespread use of barbed wire changed life on the Great Plains dramatically and permanently. The lives of Native Americans were radically altered they began calling barbed wire “the Devil’s rope.” Fenced-off land meant that more and more cattle herders were dependent on the dwindling overgrazed public lands. The harsh winter of 1886, and a big January 1887 blizzard, wreaked further havoc on the cattle market. Large-scale, open-range cattle enterprises effectively disappeared.
Barbed wire has survived the passage of time being used everywhere from farm land to prisons and even in battle fields. Barbed wire, a simple famous invention, truly tamed the West.
The microwave oven
It was during a radar-related research project around 1946 that Dr. Percy Spencer, while working for Raytheon Corporation, noticed that a candy bar in his pocket melted during the testing of a new vacuum tube called a magnetron. This intrigued Dr. Spencer, so he tried another experiment, this time he placing some popcorn kernels near the tube and, watched as the popcorn sputtered, cracked and popped.
The next morning Spencer decided to put the magnetron tube near an egg. Spencer and a colleague both watched as the egg began to tremor and shake. Spencer’s colleague moved in for a closer look just as the egg splattered yolk all over his face. Dr. Spencer concluded that if you can cook an egg that quickly, then you could cook other foods as well. He began experimenting. Dr. Spencer enclosed the food to be cooked in a metal box that he fed the microwaves into. Dr. Spencer had invented what was to revolutionize cooking, and form the basis of a multimillion dollar industry, the microwave oven, another famous invention.
In 1947, Raytheon demonstrated the world’s first microwave oven and called it a Radarange. The first microwave ovens cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Around 1952-55, Tappan introduced the first home model priced at $1295. In 1967 Raytheon owned Amana Refrigeration introduced the first countertop microwave oven. It cost just under $500 and was smaller, safer and more reliable than previous models.
By 1975, sales of microwave ovens would, for the first time, exceed that of gas ranges. In 1976, the microwave oven became a more commonly owned kitchen appliance than the dishwasher, reaching nearly about 52 million U.S. households. America’s cooking habits were being dramatically changed by the convenience of the microwave oven. Once considered a luxury, the microwave oven had developed into a practical necessity for a fast-paced world.
The transistor is possibly the most important of the famous inventions of the twentieth century. I don’t think it’s the most famous necessarily, but I believe it is one of the most important inventions ever. Without it there would be no personal computers, no cell phones, no calculators and no GPS system. Life would be quite different.
Before the advent of the transistor, the valve used in electronic circuits was the vacuum tube. The vacuum tube worked but it was bulky and used a lot of electrical power that ended up as heat which shortened the life of the tube itself. The transistor is small and uses much, much less power than the vacuum tube. Because it uses so little power there is little heat to dissipate and the transistor does not fail as fast as does a vacuum tube.
The transistor was successfully demonstrated on December 23, 1947 at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. Bell Labs was the research arm of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T). William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain were the three individuals credited with the invention of the transistor.
Shockley had been working on the theory of such a device for more than ten years. While he could work out the theory successfully but after eight years of trying he could not build a working model. Bardeen and Brattain were called in to handle the engineering and development, which they did in the relatively short time of two years, creating point-contact transistor.
Shockley subsequently designed a new type of transistor called the “bipolar” transistor which was superior to the point-contact type and replaced it. Thus the transistor was, in large part, Shockley’s creation.