The engineers and inventors of the post WWII period turned their attention to advancements in electronics, communication, and entertainment. Breakthrough inventions range from LEGOs and computer gaming to the integrated circuit and Ethernet — a range of advancements that have little in common except they changed our lives.
Ole Kirk Christiansen
Ole Kirk Christiansen, a master carpenter and joiner in the village of Billund, Denmark, owned a company that manufactured stepladders, ironing boards, and wooden toys. The company was named LEGO, which is formed from the Danish words LEgGOdt, or “play well.” In 1947 LEGO was the first Denmark company to buy a plastic injection-molding machine for making toys. In 1949 the company produced about 200 different plastic and wooden toys, including Automatic Binding Bricks, a forerunner of the LEGO bricks we know today.
R. Buckminster Fuller
R. Buckminster Fuller was a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called artifacts. Some were built as prototypes; others exist only on paper; all he felt were technically viable. His most famous invention was the Geodesic Dome developed in 1954. Its design created the lightest, strongest, and most cost-effective structure ever devised. The Geodesic Dome is able to cover more space without internal supports than any other enclosure.
Jack Kilby was an American electrical engineer who took part (along with Robert Noyce) in the realization of the first integrated circuit while working at Texas Instruments in 1958. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000. He was also the inventor of the handheld calculator and the thermal printer, for which he has patents. He also has patents for seven other inventions.
Robert Noyce was once known as the Mayor of Silicon Valley. He founded Fairchild Semiconductor in 1957. He is credited with inventing the integrated chip (along with Jack Kirby). Fairchild Semiconductor filed a patent for a semiconductor integrated circuit based on the planar process on July 30, 1959. That was the first time he revolutionized the semiconductor industry. Noyce stayed with Fairchild until 1968, when he left with Gordon Moore to found Intel. At Intel he oversaw Ted Hoff’s invention of the microprocessor.
The first TV remote control, called Lazy Bones, was developed in 1950 by Zenith Electronics Corp. Lazy Bones used a cable that ran from the TV set to the viewer. In 1956, Zenith’s Dr. Robert Adler suggested using ultrasonics, that is, high-frequency sound, beyond the range of human hearing. He was assigned to lead a team of engineers to work on the first use of ultrasonics technology in the home as a new approach for a remote control.
Robert Metcalfe needed something that was fast, and could connect hundreds of computers and span the whole building — something like a local area network, which he developed in a rudimentary form in 1973 and dubbed Ethernet. The original Ethernet sent roughly a paragraph of data over thick coaxial cable at a distance of one kilometer. Metcalfe shares four patents for Ethernet.
Vinton Cerf is credited with inventing the Internet, a worldwide network of thousands of computers and computer networks. It is a public, voluntary, and cooperative effort between the connected institutions and is not owned or operated by any single organization. The Internet and Transmission Control Protocols were initially developed in 1973 by Cerf as part of a project sponsored by the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Douglas Carl Engelbart
Douglas Carl Engelbart was an American engineer and inventor, and an early computer and Internet pioneer. He is best known for his work on human–computer interaction, particularly at SRI International’s Augmentation Research Center Lab where he developed the computer mouse, hypertext, networked computers, and precursors to graphical user interfaces.
Sid Meier — known as the Father of Computer Gaming — is a Canadian-American programmer, designer, and producer of several popular strategy video games and simulation video games, most notably Civilization. Meier co-founded MicroProse in 1982 with Bill Stealey and is the director of creative development of Firaxis Games, which he co-founded with Jeff Briggs and Brian Reynolds in 1996.
The World Wide Web was developed in 1989 by English computer scientist Timothy Berners-Lee to enable information to be shared among internationally dispersed teams of researchers at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics near Geneva, Switzerland. It subsequently became a platform for related software development, and the numbers of linked computers and users grew rapidly to support a variety of endeavors, including a large business marketplace.