Technological Innovations in History and their Influence on Business: A Brief Overview

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A Brief History

On December 4, 1791, the first edition of The Observer, the world’s first Sunday newspaper, was published.  Technology and business have always acted as inspirations for one another; a fact that is not too hard to determine on taking a look at history itself. On highlighting some of the most profound points of the technological influence on business, it should help us gauge the kind of impact that the following have had on not just business, but the course of history itself.

Digging Deeper

Paper

The invention of paper is attributed to the ancient Chinese civilisation, sometime during the Eastern Han period. While there were papyrus and leather parchments on which written documents were recorded thousands of years even before that, paper was easier to write on and produce, making it a revolution in every sense of the term.

As the Chinese introduced the Islamic world to paper and the contemporary technology used in papermaking, it slowly spread from there on, and more or less replaced everything else which existed before paper.

From both a business and consumer perspective, the following factors slowly turned the papermaking technology into something that would eventually have ground-breaking impacts on human civilisation as a whole:

  • Unlike parchment or papyrus, paper was easier and faster to make
  • The low-cost, quick and efficient tech behind papermaking gave birth to the paper industry
  • It made all forms of written and drawn data more widely available, creating multiple secondary industries
  • Gradually, it became an easy medium for anyone to record data in language, drawings or symbols
  • Artistry, mapping, writing, education and numerous other fields evolved over the course of several centuries

The Modern Printing Press

The perfect evolutionary step for technology would have to be the printing press, which tremendously bolstered the amazing impacts of paper. Invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, it is widely hailed as one of the greatest inventions of all time in human history.

Now, it is to be noted that Gutenberg did not invent printing on paper by any means, because the Chinese had been doing it via a method called Woodblock printing for centuries before that; however, Gutenberg’s printing machine made modern printing as people came to know later on for centuries onwards, possible. He did it by combining his hand-moulded, metallic printing matrices with the movable-type printing press. This invention created yet another primary industry centred around the printing press, as well as multiple associated ones in literature, news, art and documentation in general.

The Internet

The internet is without argument, the single most important invention which changed the course of human history, business and the technological revolution itself. In rank, it is considered to have had the most significant impact on every aspect of modern living, after the invention and mass production of electricity itself.

From its early days in the 1960s, when ARPANET was used in the late 1960s by the US Defence Department, to the present day use of super, highspeed internet connections for powering enterprise-grade cloud computing solutions and services, the impact of the internet is too far and wide to even comprehend in its full capacity as it exists today.

An excellent example of a business which would be perfectly suited to the theme here is Utility Bidder, which allows companies of all sizes to compare business utilities quotes via a single, unbiased platform. Electricity is the most important industrial invention of all time, and given that no commercial venture can function without it, business energy suppliers hold a position of significant power in the B2B sector; however, thanks to the internet, a platform like Utility Bidder can use the constant competition between the top business energy suppliers in the UK to bring home the best possible quotes for their clients. The seemingly simple ability to compare business utilities on a connected platform acts as a check in power and price, giving even the SMEs a bargaining chip against the power companies.

Mobile Smart Devices

Hardware, software, cloud-based services, mobility in business and various other segments of modern business are not as stationary as they were even five years ago. This is largely made possible due to mobility of the digital revolution, powered mostly by mobile smart devices such as smartphones, tablets and even wearables.

It is largely believed that we are still at the beginning of the technological revolution, which means that the upcoming impacts might be even more profound than those of the internet or the printing press! Nevertheless, there is little doubt that many of those changes will be built on shoulders of the technological innovations that have already been made.

Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think was the most important invention in history? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Smil, Vaclav.  Transforming the Twentieth Century: Technical Innovations and Their Consequences (v. 2).  Oxford University Press, 2006.

The featured image in this article, Gutenberg taking an impression, was taken from Flickr‘s The Commons. The uploading organization may have various reasons for determining that no known copyright restrictions exist, such as:

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More information can be found at https://flickr.com/commons/usage/.  This image was originally posted to Flickr by Internet Archive Book Images at https://flickr.com/photos/126377022@N07/14777458662.  It was reviewed on  by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the No known copyright restrictions.

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Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland