From time to time, we are subjected to lists of the ‘best’ or the ‘greatest’ or the ‘mostest’ or some such ‘estest’ thing. I always like to take a peek, especially if there is a technological element. One such list caught my eye recently.
A survey asked people to identify their greatest inventions of all time. Heading the list were the usual suspects. Naturally, the wheel ranked number one – although I don’t think it is so much the wheel (which in isolation can’t even stand up on its own) but rather the wheel-axle combo. Next up were the aeroplane (or should that be airplane, I’m never quite sure?) and light bulb. Fair enough.
I am pleased to say that IT puts in a strong showing by rounding out the top five with the internet and PCs. Elsewhere, too, information technology gets a fair representation, albeit in some unexpected company.
The satellite dish came in at number 92, just edging out pedestrian crossings, but behind Post-It notes. The phenomenal growth of online social networking has Facebook – a name that was virtually unknown a couple of years ago – a very respectable 82nd, one place above the tried and tested escalator but still trailing the hair dryer, binoculars and the push-up bra. Clearly, chatting online has its merits but some things you just can’t beat being in the flesh, if you get my drift.
Wi-fi and satellite navigation both break into the top 50 (47th and 46th, respectively). They beat out matches (49th) but come up short against that trustiest of inventions, the roof.
The pen (28th) is mightier than the sword – which is nowhere to be seen. This surprises me as surely the sword has had as much impact on our history as any tool. However, it would seem it is not thought to be as mighty as the keyboard, as email edges it out by a place (27th).
Google ranks 25th, ahead of microwave ovens but behind trains. Mobile phones (21st) are viewed as a better invention than toilet paper (22nd) – I guess you could argue either way here … depending on your particular need at the time.
So far, I can live with most of these choices. But one has left me somewhat puzzled. Of all the things ever invented – and we’re talking here about anything and everything – coming in at heady number 8 is the iPhone. Now, the iPhone is a fine instrument. I don’t know about you, however, but this seems a little absurd, especially when you consider some of the things it beat to get there. Is it really a greater invention than the combustion engine or the steam engine? Or the flush toilet, the contraceptive pill, the fridge or the freezer? I think not.
What we have here is a case of over-excitement about the latest gizmo.
If anything, the iPod arguably has a greater claim to fame, as it ultimately set Apple off down the iRoad. Interestingly, electricity and clean, running water failed to make the grade at all.
And how jandals, beer, pineapple lumps, and Caller ID failed to make the cut, I’ll never know.
Or, for that matter, waht abuot speel chceker? Now there’s an invention that really changes lives.