Presently, we live in a world that is overly filled with amenities. The prosperity that is experienced and taken for granted by humans today would have never crossed the mind of a person from the 18th or 19th century. This is in large because of the industrial revolution. Despite this, its contributions are underestimated tremendously. The impact of the industrial revolution can be easily understood when comparing a century to the following one. For instance, the early 1700s resembled medieval times more than the 19th century.
Types of Industrial Revolutions
First Industrial Revolution
The first industrial revolution, also considered the only industrial revolution by some historians, began in the mid-1700s in Britain. Many small technologies were being invented during the time; however, it was not until 1760 that all inventions were combined to jumpstart the industrial process. Textile outputs were over 500% by the implementation of technology like power loom and the cotton gin. This was further boosted by the implementation of efficient steam-powered engines. During the early 1800s, printing presses became mechanized, resulting in an efficient spread of knowledge. Meanwhile, iron production was picking up pace as the fuel used for the process, i.e., coal was replaced with coke. Finally, the introduction of machine tools allowed for precise manufacturing, further enhancing the economies. During the time, Britain was known as the “World’s Workshop”. Surprisingly, Brits were aware of their advantage in industrial terms, and politics was set into play to not let the machines and technology spread to other parts of Europe. Despite their efforts, it did happen.
Second Industrial Revolution
While the first industrial revolution enhanced the manufacturing process, the second industrial revolution introduced mass production. It is also known as the Technological Revolution. By the mid-1800s, the production of the iron has almost been perfected, even steel had been invented before the beginning of the second industrial revolution; however, perfecting the process of producing it was one of the crucial events that changed the world, as it gave rise to the most essential network during the time, i.e., the railways. This revolutionized the way we transported raw materials and manufactured goods. The reason why this era was known as the Technological revolution was that it gave rise to modern necessities like electricity, automobile, and telecommunications. Granted, all the mentioned innovations were in their early days; however, these paved the path for the future.
Third Industrial Revolution
This age of industrial revolution shaped the world to what we know today. Fittingly, it is called the Digital Revolution. As mentioned previously, the second industrial revolution introduced electronics; however, it was the third industrial revolution that implemented the technology on a large scale. The miracle of flying to the moon also occurred in the initial years of the third industrial revolution. Things that were previously unimaginable began to surface such as computers, robots, and most important of them all, the internet. Although the digitization of the world began slowly, it caught on like wildfire, and within two decades of the internet, the entire world began was online. This was also the era when armed forces, government, and other special authorities uploaded their database online. Seeing such a usage surge, cloud storage was invented that allowed users to store data without the need for a hard storage device.
Fourth Industrial Revolution
2010 marked the year of the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution. Although we had pretty much all the necessary technology available to us, it was expensive and out of the general public’s reach. With each passing year, the prices of sensors dropped, and more people started buying electronic devices such as smartphones and personal computers. Artificial intelligence that had been proposed ages ago finally began to function as it was designed to. The internet speed was boosted exponentially while also becoming affordable. All the previous technologies have been perfected in this era; however, we are still in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, and one can only imagine what lies ahead.
Examples of the Industrial Revolution
1. The Cotton Textiles
The first industrial revolution is synonymous with cotton manufacturing. The invention of a flying shuttle, a mechanized device used to weave fibers, by John Kay, an English inventor, jump-started the industrial revolution. Following that, James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny allowed a worker to manage up to 8 threads at once. A cotton gin, short for the cotton engine, was invented by an American inventor, Eli Whitney in 1794. This machine took over the work of separating cotton fibers from the seed that was previously done by handheld rollers, resulting in the rapid growth of the textile industry. As the undamaged cotton was used for textiles while the discarded seeds were pressed to make the cottonseed oil. While we are familiar with its impact on Britain and most of Europe, it also changed things in the United States. Seeing the accelerated production rate, it was obvious to the farm owners that they must cultivate a larger number of the cotton crops, which ultimately lead to the growth of slavery, particularly in southern America. This was in large because there was no machine to harvest the crop, it was still being done by hand. Moreover, Britain was also importing cotton from America.
2. The Steam Engine
Although textile industries were being mechanized and increasing their production, the machines were water-powered, i.e., a waterwheel was used to supply power to the said machines. While it was cheap, it had some drawbacks, such as workshops must be established near running water, the problem of freezing in winters, and higher export rates because of being far from the settlement. This was solved with the introduction of the steam engine. Thomas Newcomen, an English inventor, developed a basic steam engine in 1712; however, it was only used in coal mines. Half a decade later, James Watt, a Scottish engineer, developed the familiar steam engine in 1763. By the end of the 18th century, this steam engine became the go-to power source. The industries no longer had to rely on running water for production, accentuating the first industrial revolution.
3. Iron Production
The first industrial revolution’s building block was iron. One can be under the impression that iron-making only emerged during the industrial revolution; however, the production of iron has always been a part of humanity for centuries. Think of weaponry and tools. The only reason why it was not heavily used in the manufacturing process was because of its unreliability. Coal was used in the extraction process of iron from the iron ore; however, this process resulted in cast iron, which was impure iron. In 1709, a foundryman, Abraham Darby, smelted iron with coke, this resulted in pure but still brittle iron known as wrought iron. After some iterations into the production method, the modern iron was born, and in 1779, the first-ever iron bridge was built that solidified the usefulness of this material. Before achieving this marvel, another key contributor to iron-making was Richard Reynolds, an iron maker who helped drop the travel cost of raw materials in 1767 by developing iron rails. All the new innovations in iron-making, along with steam power, resulted in industries relying on iron for machinery. Finally, the introduction of the puddling and rolling technique in 1783 by Henry Cort, made iron even purer, and thus, began the new iron age.
4. Machine Tools
Machine tools are one of the most overlooked aspects of the industrial revolution, yet it was one of the key aspects of it. Before the mid-1700s, the majority of tools were made out of wood; however, the increasing production demanded a durable material that could withstand excessive workload. This is when iron was substituted for wood, and to make specifically designed frames and small components, machine tools became a necessity. Some key contributors to the production of machine tools were Mathew Murray, Henry Maudslay, James Nasmyth, and Joseph Whitworth.
Presently, cement is used as an adhesive to solidify houses, buildings, and even asphalt, but it may come as a surprise that it was only invented in 1824 by a British bricklayer, Joseph Aspdin. Interestingly, concrete was developed before cement in 1756 by a British engineer, John Smeaton. While he developed concrete to build the third Eddystone Lighthouse, concrete became the go-to compound to build structures until the middle of the first industrial revolution. This revolutionary material, i.e., cement, was used in the construction of the Thames Tunnel in 1843.
6. The Sheet Glass
The production of glass was not new during the first industrial revolution, as it had been made for centuries; however, with the implementation of machine tools and steam engines, the production of glass was enhanced. Chance Brothers used the cylinder process to create long sheets of unbroken glass in 1832. As one can imagine, it was an instant success, and it lead to other manufacturers following the same procedure to produce thin glass. To demonstrate the superiority of this type of glass, the Crystal Palace was erected.
7. Paper and Printing Press
Johannes Gutenberg, a German inventor, was the first person to invent a printing press in the 15th century. Two centuries after that, Nicholas Louis Robert, a French soldier, developed a machine known as Fourdrinier, specifically designed to produce continuous unbroken sheets of paper in 1798. This new type of paper was an excellent choice for printing, and two years after that, the first printing press made entirely of iron was developed by Charles Stanhope, a British scientist. This machine could print 480 pages per hour. While it may sound sluggish by today’s standards, it was lightning fast at the time. Almost half a decade after this, an American inventor, Richard M. Hoe, made use of steam engines that invented the first rolling printing press. This was ages ahead of the previous model, as it could print 8,000 pages per hour. Printing presses played a huge role in educating and promoting literature during the first industrial revolution.
8. Internal Combustion Engine
The internal combustion engine is being phased out of existence in the present world after its reign for over two centuries. Although it is useful in the modern world, it became essential in the growth of industries during the first industrial revolution. Robert Street patented his internal combustion engine in 1794. Following this, many engineers built their own versions, such as a Swiss engineer, Francois Isaac de Rivaz, who developed an engine powered by hydrogen and oxygen in 1807. Two decades later, Samuel Brown, an English engineer, developed an engine to run on gas. However, the internal combustion engine was not widely used until alternative fuel sources were found.
9. The Steel
Similar to iron and glass, steel was also present during the first industrial revolution; however, it was in the form of cast steel. It was a superior material to iron, but because of the production cost, it was reserved for specialized applications. Finally, in 1856, Henry Bessemer, an English inventor, developed modern steel by using oxygen to reduce the carbon content in the iron. Not only was this process cost-effective, but it was also efficient. Now, this method of producing steel is known as the Bessemer Process.
10. The Railways
Until the 1770s, wagonways were used to transport materials. It was a network of wooden rails, upon which wagons used to run, pulled by horses. In the 18th century, wood was replaced with iron. But as mentioned previously, iron was brittle, therefore, the rail wasn’t much successful in the 18th century. As soon as the 19th century started, Samuel Homfray, an English industrialist, funded the idea of steam engines to replace horses. This machine was invented in 1804 by Richard Trevithick, a British inventor. It resembled more a tram than a locomotive. Finally, in 1812, George Stephenson, an English inventor, built the first locomotive. Now, trains could haul up to 10 tons of material at 60 miles/hour, something wagonways could never compete against. Accelerating every aspect of the first industrial revolution.
To make transactions faster, telecommunications were invented, and with it began the second industrial revolution. Telegraphs were invented by an American engineer, Samuel Morse, in 1844, and it was later adopted by the rest of the western world. Moreover, the telegraph proved its usefulness during the American Civil War. Thirty years after that, Alexander Graham Bell patented the first telephone in 1876. Although the telephone was developed, the necessary technology to spread it was not available at the time. Finally, in the 1880s, the telephone was popularized. Initially, it was only viable for 100 miles because of the iron wiring.
In the modern world, one of the key inventions of the second industrial revolution, i.e., electricity is taken for granted, and for a good measure because it is one of the most efficient ways to transfer energy. Unsurprisingly, there was a time when familiarity with electricity was only surrounding the thunder and lightning. While there were many inventors that produced electricity in various ways, they were all unusable and unreliable. Finally, an Italian scientist, Alessandro Volta, developed the first steady electricity generator in 1799, known as the voltaic pile. Still, the workings of electricity itself were unknown. Later, a German physicist, Georg Ohm, introduced magnetism to electricity and published his findings. Michael Faraday, an English scientist, conducted numerous experiments that became the basis for an electric motor, electric generator, and transformer. Finally, electricity was used purposefully by Thomas Edison in 1879 with the invention of the light bulb, although there are conspiracies that state Nikola Tesla was the first person to invent the light bulb. Following this, electrical lines and grids were established to lighten the world, and electricity changed the world drastically. Electricity was one of the most crucial aspects of the second industrial revolution.
Although many experiments were conducted to develop the automobile, it wasn’t until 1886 that the first largely accepted car was invented. Carl Friedrich Benz, a German inventor, invented the first motor car with an internal combustion engine. Interestingly, to prove its worth, his wife, Bertha Benz, took this car on a cross-country tour that took two days to complete. Moreover, many inventors also produced electric vehicles; however, those were equally unreliable and the cost of electricity was exponentially greater than other fuel sources. The automobile is another gift to humanity from the second industrial revolution.
14. Assembly Line
By the end of the 18th century, manufacturing was at an all-time high, and various industries in the western hemisphere were booming. Despite this, there was one drawback, that skilled workers were essential for the manufacturing process because learning how to operate machines was equally important. Eli Whitney proposed the idea of replaceable parts in Europe, and a French gunsmith, Honoré LeBlanc, embraced this concept. Unfortunately, other gunsmiths were opposed to this idea, as they believed it would destroy their uniqueness, and this idea was ultimately discarded in Europe. Fortunately, this idea was picked up by an American automobile manufacturer, Ransom Olds, in 1901. This allowed the company to produce 20 units of curved dash per day, compared to 2 units per day by hand. Moreover, it eliminated the need for skilled workers. Finally, in 1924, Henry Ford developed the conveyer belt. This invention boosted the production rate to the point where Ford was producing an entire car within 90 minutes. Thus, the second industrial revolution is befittingly known as the technological revolution.
The first aircraft was invented by the Wright brothers; however, the jump from the first-ever aircraft to the commercial airline happened within a time span of 50 years, and shockingly, it is part of the second industrial revolution. In the early 1900s, all aircraft were bi-planes and powered by a propeller. At large, aircraft were used by the military, the government for postal service, and by some thrill-seekers, such as Charles Lindbergh, who became the first person to travel non-stop from New York to Paris by air in 1927. In both World Wars, airplanes played a vital role, and near the end of the Second World War, jet engines emerged. This led aviation to transition from seaplanes to strictly land planes by 1945. Finally, in 1950, de Havilland DH 106 Comet was developed that became the first commercial airplane. What comes as a real surprise to most people is that aircraft manufacturer, Lockheed, developed SR-71 Blackbird in 1966, which could travel at March 3 or three times the speed of sound.
The concept of road has been around for centuries, as travelers, whether it be on horses or early automobiles, required paved surfaces for comfortable travels. Interestingly, an early form of asphalt has been around for ages; however, it was used in the construction of buildings. Finally, in 1870, a Belgian chemist, Edmund J. DeSmedt produced and laid the first asphalt pavement in New Jersey. His asphalt is known as sheet asphalt, and he also laid the Pennsylvania Avenue. Another contributor to the asphalt was Frederick J. Warren, and in 1900, he mixed bitumen and aggregate to enhance the quality of asphalt. By this time, the demand for automobiles was increasing, which in turn increased the demand for better roads. Finally, the big change in asphalt production came during the Second World War, as jet engines were used in planes, better roads for takeoff and landing became a necessity. We can thank the second industrial revolution for this marvelous development.
17. The Computer
Charles Babbage, an English mathematician, is known as the father of the computer, as he developed the first mechanical analytic engine in the 1830s. Nearly 60 years after that, Herman Hollerith, a German statistician, invented the tabulating machine in 1890. It was a mechanical machine, but it was powered by electricity. This can be considered the true basis of the modern computer. The tabulating machines became immensely popular, therefore, making the demand for data processors evident. Two decades after that, the corporate giant, IBM, was established in 1911. Finally, in 1942, the first digital computer was built by John Atanasoff. Following that, many small changes were introduced in digital computing to make a computer what it is today.
Easily the award for humanity’s best and worst creation at the same time goes to plastic. It has been tremendously useful in the past, as it allowed for easier packaging and it was malleable enough to manufacture different products. Although different polymers had been created many years ago, those were highly flammable and couldn’t be used for the designed purpose. In 1907, Bakelite was invented by Leo Baekeland, a Belgian-American chemist. It is considered the first synthetic plastic. Following that, it was a matter of time before plastic was being used in everything.
19. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence that we know of today is significantly different from its initial version, which was developed in the second industrial revolution. The concept of artificial intelligence dates back to the Roman empire; however, the term “artificial intelligence” only surfaced in 1956 by John McCarthy, an American computer scientist. Interestingly, the first AI programs were written to play checkers in 1951. Machine learning has advanced exponentially since then.
20. To the Moon
The third industrial revolution began with exponential advancements compared to the second industrial revolution with space exploration. Although the first manless spacecraft was launched in 1957 by the Soviet Union in the form of a satellite, Sputnik 1. Once again, the Soviets became the first nation to send a human into the orbit of the Earth in 1961. However, as we all know, Neil Armstrong from the United States became the first person to set foot on the surface of the moon in 1969, and this moment was rightfully called “one giant leap for mankind”.
In the same year as the moon landing, Kawasaki, a Japanese company, developed the first-ever industrial robot called Kawasaki-Ultimate 2000. This jumpstarted the robotics revolution. Although contraptions using steam engines and even internal combustion engines were around for decades, those are considered machines rather than a robot. In the west, a lab researcher, Victor Scheinman, created the first electronically operated robot arm. Things like microchips, sensors, and artificial intelligence were being implemented in robots for better manufacturing processes. The advancements in robotics were rapid, as just two decades after this, in 1985, the first robot-assisted surgery was carried out using PUMA 560 Robot Arm. It was also during the third industrial revolution that people started believing that robots would take over the world. Thankfully, it didn’t happen.
You are able to read this article thanks to the power of the internet, and unsurprisingly, it is part of the digital revolution. The first internet-like technology can be traced back to 1969 with Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). It was wireless transmission of a message saying “login” between two computers at a significant distance from the United States Department of Defense. Although it crashed the system, it was a great start. Following this, different types of wireless networks began to emerge in London and Norway. In 1971, Vincent Cerf established a transmission protocol to allow all these networks to communicate with each other; however, it was only used by the scientists at the time. In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web, a virtual space that could be used by anyone with an internet connection. Since then, the development of the internet has been advancing rapidly, and today, entirely everything is online.
Presently, if we need to learn about anything, we simply google it. This action of searching for something on the internet has become synonymous with Google, so much so that the term “Googling” is used to describe it. This is all because of this search engine’s effectiveness. Interestingly, it was only in 1998 that the Google search engine was developed. Despite other search engines such as Yahoo being in use, none could manage the same amount of traffic as Google. Perhaps it is one of the most notable developments of the third industrial revolution.
24. DDOS Attack
By this time, Yahoo and eBay had been established. Granted, both websites and the internet were in their early stages. In 2000, the first distributed denial-of-service attack was launched on the mentioned websites. It is a type of virtual disturbance that overwhelms the server, therefore, fraudulent and other online thefts can occur. This showcased the vulnerability of the internet, and thus, security measures were taken, which strengthen the usage of the internet in the third industrial revolution.
Similar to Google, the smartphone of the choice in the present world is the iPhone. It can also be considered the first true smartphone. iPhone was unveiled in 2007, and at the time, all mobile phones were equipped with either a physical keyboard or a resistive touchscreen, which were hard to operate. Interestingly, iPhone was ridiculed by other brands for not having the mentioned feature, but it inevitably became the best-selling smartphone to this day. This invention propelled the development of modern smartphones.
Nowadays, cryptocurrency is a relatively familiar term, and a little annoying as well; however, before 2008, there was no such thing as a blockchain. The true inventor of bitcoin is unknown, but it was certainly established in 2009, but it was in its early stages at the time. It was only being used to carry out transactions on the deep web, and the introduction of bitcoin marked the end of the third industrial revolution.
27. 3D Printing
3D printing trace backs its roots to Japan. In 1980, Hideo Kodama, an automobile designer, released his research on a rapid prototyping system. This technology could stack layers of polymers to create an object. In 1983, Charles Hull, an American inventor, created a similar system; however, it used a liquid base instead of solid polymers to create objects. This revolutionized how we perceived manufacturing. Granted, 3D printing was in its infancy in the early 2000s and was alarmingly costly, but the continuous advancements in the field brought the cost down and made 3D printing viable.
28. Refined Technology
With the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, humanity had already come a long way, from using handheld wooden tools to manufacture clothes to buying them online. Everything had already been invented in the previous three industrial revolutions, therefore, the true contribution of the present industrial phase is refinement. After 2010, the world saw a significant drop in the prices of electronic devices. The internet became 20 times faster, and the automobile industry produced highly efficient engines, then finally transitioned into adopting the electric motor.
29. Eco-Friendly Approaches
While the previous industrial revolutions enabled humanity to become an advanced civilization, it happened at the cost of our environment. Thankfully, the fourth industrial revolution is bringing technology that allows us to efficiently utilize renewable sources like wind energy, solar power, and even geothermal energy.
Although technology has been used in surgical procedures and diagnoses, biology and machines have always been considered separate. However. the fourth industrial revolution is changing this notion. Our DNA contains vast amounts of information that can be copied by the cells to produce new tissues, muscles, or a new life entirely. Unfortunately, it can also contain errors or mutated information that can lead to serious diseases. Thankfully, scientists are able to edit those genes; however, identifying each DNA again takes a long time and effort. This is where AI comes into play. By writing codes just once, an AI can quickly enable the scientists to identify the defected gene and edit it. This technology is known as CRISPR.