100 Years of Technological Changes

13th September 2022

With the passing of Queen Elizabeth II aged 96, we reflected on how the world has changed since she was born in 1926. We made a list of 7 significant technological changes but we also wondered … what would you include in your list?

1926 – TV

In 1926 the first formal demonstration of The ‘Televisor’ was given in front of 40 members of the Royal Institution in London.

Why it was important

The televisor soon became the television which revolutionised communication.


The idea of the Jet engine was formulated then later developed into a prototype with a patent on design granted in 1930.

Why it was important

The jet engine has shrunk the world, it is able to get people, produce and equipment across the world in record time. However, like all inventions it has its downsides – tourism can lead to the over development of areas and engine emissions can contribute to global warming.

RADAR – 1935

RADAR stands for RAdio Detection And Ranging. Scottish engineer Robert Watson-Watt used radio signals to detect aircraft. 

In 1935 Robert Watson-Watt was head of the radio department at the National Physical Laboratory in London when he wrote to the British government and explained how radio waves could be used to detect aircraft.  He then successfully demonstrated that he could use his system to locate aircraft 100 miles away.

Why it was important

Today we use radar to help navigate ships and planes in fog and bad weather. Radar is used to detect speeding motorists and track rain storms and weather phenomena. 

The Transistor – 1947

Transistors are used in complex switching circuits that comprise all modern telecommunications systems.The idea of the transistor was proposed in 1926 but it wasn’t possible to build one at that time. 

In 1947 the first working device was built. The three scientists responsible for the invention shared the 1956 Nobel Prize for physics.

Why it was important

Transistors revolutionised electronics and led to faster, cheaper and smaller devices such as transistor radios, pocket calculators and computers.

1977 – The Personal Computer

Before the 1970s, computers required more than one person to operate and were generally housed in universities, government departments or within very large businesses. These computers were huge in size and were so heavy they couldn’t easily be moved.

Throughout the early 1970s, computers were made smaller in size but were generally still complicated and very expensive. No-one really thought that the average person could afford one, want one or had a use for one.

In 1977 saw the launch of what became known as The Trinity – the first truly successful commercial personal computers: The Apple II, The TRS-80 and the PET 2001. 

Why it was important

The personal computer was important because it democratised technology and communication. Personal computers broke down barriers that existed in society. In the 1960s scientists with degrees used computers and by the 1980s children would not only be using them but writing programs for them!

The World Wide Web – 1989 

British Scientist Tim Berners-Lee was working with scientists from all over the world who were using different computers and different programming languages. Tim was getting very frustrated by the different standards and protocols when he realised that he could help improve communication and sharing of data.

“In those days, there was different information on different computers, but you had to log on to different computers to get at it. Also, sometimes you had to learn a different program on each computer. Often it was just easier to go and ask people when they were having coffee”.

By 1990 Tim had created the bedrock of the world wide web, which enabled computers connected via an internet to be accessed quickly and simply.

Tim realised that the true potential of the web could only be realised if it was democratised meaning that anyone, anywhere could use it for free. So in 1993 the source codes and protocols were published for the world to use for free and without having to ask permission. Personal Computers and the World Wide Web were joined

Why it was important

The Web connected the world in a way that was not possible before, making it easy for anyone, anywhere to get information, share information and communicate.

1984 – Mobile/Cellular Phones

Motorola launched the DynaTAC in 1984.It was the first hand held truly mobile device. However, it weighed over a kilogram and was affectionately known as The Brick. It was very expensive to buy and soon became a status symbol for city bankers and millionaires. By 1992 another invention was linked to portable phones. 

On December 3, 1992, the first ever Short Message Service (SMS)was sent. The message was….’Merry Christmas’.

Why it was important

The cellular phone and text messaging helped revolutionise communication. The downside of course is that from that day onwards everyone was expected to be available all the time!

There are many other technological inventions over the Queen’s lifetime eg DNA sequencing, Social Networks, email, bitcoin, Bluetooth, GPS etc.

  • What do you think is the most important one of the last 96 years? 
  • What have we left out? 
  • What is the most important to you?