We often wonder what would happen if we could go back in time and change things. Will the world be a better place if we change things around? What if, for example, weapons were not invented? Would we live in a peaceful world? What if writing was never developed? What could we be doing today? Below are 11 innovations and inventions which were given credit for significantly altering the course of history–whether for the better or worse, is up to you to determine.



If you are familiar with Moore’s law, where it is stated that the number of transistors in an integrated circuit doubles every year, then you are familiar with the relevance of this small component. The transistor was invented in 1947 by Bell Laboratories and has since then been used in radios, TVs, and in almost every piece of electronic gadgets we know today.


Paper Money

Before the invention of paper-based currency, trade was done using silver, gold, metals, coins, and even produce. Paper money was first used in China in the ninth century and slowly made its way into Europe in the late 1600s. Banks now issue paper currency as a promise of payment. Thanks to this invention, there is no need to carry a sack of gold ingots to pay for that monthly mortgage.


The Electric Bulb

A power outage is a reminder that we enjoy the convenience of electricity and the electric bulb today. Thomas Alva Edison and Joseph Wilson Swan were the first to patent the electric bulb in 1879, though the development of the technology has been long in the making. Humphry Davy and other inventors contributed as well to the wealth of knowledge related to the electric bulb.

Magnifying Lenses

The invention of lenses and the magnifying glass was critical to allowing humankind to look at things, from the smallest of objects to the farthest of stars in the galaxy. Johannes Kepler was given credit for using a telescope to take a peek at the stars. On the other hand, the microscope has proven helpful in medicine, biology, optometry, and even surgery.


Domesticating the Horse

Horses were once wild animals, but with a great degree of effort, humankind was able to domesticate the horse and use them for transportation. With a fast animal at their disposal, mankind was able to travel great distances and trade with other communities. On the flip side, it also changed war dynamics.



Before the invention of GPS and satellites, the compass served as the navigator’s best friend. Prior to that, the stars were their main tool to find their way in unfamiliar terrain. While the compass is outdated now, it was critical to early navigators, especially during the Age of Discovery, when they went around the world to conquer various lands. In cases of loss of power, the compass could still come in handy.


The Steam Engine

If horses revolutionized travel, the invention of the steam engine revolutionized it even further. Cars, airplanes, trains, and spacecraft, which are powered by gas now, would not have been possible without the invention of the external combustion system present in the steam engine. The Industrial Revolution paved the way for exponential growth in agriculture, manufacturing, and transportation.



Without steel, we would still be using stone, iron, and bronze to construct our buildings. The Industrial Revolution would also not have happened. Evidence on the use of steel goes back about 4,000 years, but the alloy was not produced in massive quantities until the Bessemer process was invented. It was good that many made investments in this technique for creating steel using molten pig iron.


The Telegraph

We now have emails, phones, and other forms of instant communication, but all of them originated from the telegraph, which was pioneered by people like Samuel Morse in the 18th and 19th centuries. The 1850s saw transoceanic cables being laid out to facilitate worldwide communication. Whether the possibility of instant communication did bring us together is up for debate.


The Printing Press

Perhaps the greatest invention prior to the Internet, the printing press revolutionized how knowledge was created, stored, accessed, and consumed. Before this, writing was a tedious process and the mass production of literary works was nearly impossible. The printing press can take credit for sparking the Age of Enlightenment as the words of the sages of the time became more accessible to the masses.


The Antibiotic

Needless to say, many would have died unnecessarily had penicillin not been discovered. Due to the discovery of its antibacterial property in 1928, penicillin was used to treat a variety of diseases that would have otherwise caused whole populations to pass away. Human lifespan has also increased as a result of the discovery of antibiotics.