Which Technology Came First?


By: John Miller

5 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

Can you imagine civilization without bridges, railroads ... or the Internet? Human society is forever changed by various important technologies, but can you name which tech came first?

Which fundamental concept did humans master first?

Our early ancestors may have learned to control fire one million years ago. The wheel? We've only been using it since around 3500 B.C.


Which sizzling technology came first?

We're really, really hoping that you didn't miss this one, because you can't have electric light bulbs (1878) without electricity. Electricity can't be invented because it's a natural phenomenon, but in 1800 an Italian physicist named Alessandro Volta created some of the earliest batteries.


Which of these transformative inventions came first?

In the 1430s, the printing press revolutionized the way humans shared ideas and beliefs. Penicillin-based antibiotics didn't arrive en masse until 1928, making them virtual infants in the history of groundbreaking inventions.


Which of these amazing technologies arrived first?

Cars have been around since the first one-cylinder version made in 1879 by Carl Benz. In 1816, a man named Nicephore Niepce created the first photograph using a piece of paper coated in silver chloride.


Which basic invention came first?

Gunpowder changed societies everywhere starting around 1000. Clothes have been around since perhaps 25,000 years ago, and thank goodness, cover up that stuff.


Which of these technologies shook human society first?

Semiconductor electronics are at the heart of all of our digital marvels, but they didn't arrive until the mid-20th century. Samuel Morse demonstrated the telegraph all the way back in 1838.


Which watery technology came first?

Boats, of course, are much simpler and much older than submarines. The first boats floated in about 10,000 B.C., and the first sub may have made its maiden journey in the 1570s in Greece.


Which food-critical technology arrived first?

In 1918, a German chemist created a new class of nitrogen-based fertilizers that greatly expanded humanity's crop yields. The first refrigeration systems were invented in the mid-1800s and transformed the way we eat.


Which industrial technology came first?

In the early 20th century, Henry Ford's assembly line altered the way humans build products. First made in the 1880s, steam turbines became a vital new way for people to generate energy.


Which technological marvel came first?

The first personal computers of the 1970s brought number-crunching to the masses. They helped to enable communications technologies like Bluetooth, which saw its first patent in 1997.


Which major 20th-century tech came first?

The first TVs began turning people into couch potatoes in the early 20th century. Commercial airlines didn't come along until the World War I era.


Which of these useful technologies arrived first?

The piano isn't really all that old. It was first made back around 1700. The electric motor altered many aspects of life starting in the 1830s.


Which amazing high-speed technology first revved up humanity?

In 1939, just before the start of World War II, a German scientist developed the first jet airplane engine. The Internet didn't come along until the 1960s.


Which sky-centric technology soared first?

Airplanes made their historic debut in 1903, when the Wright Brothers sent their rickety contraption into the air above North Carolina. The Germans created the first rocket-powered missiles in the '30's, just in time to terrify the world during World War II.


Which major agricultural innovation arrived first?

As part of the Green Revolution of the '30s, combines made it much easier for people to harvest crops. The cotton gin was created in the 1790s and simplified the separation of cotton fibers from detritus like seeds.


Toilets and cell phones go together like ham and cheese, but which came first?

The first real sanitation systems (thankfully) began spreading in the mid-1800s, and they immediately had a positive effect on human longevity. That gives you more time to play Flappy Bird on your cell phone (1970s).


Which fundamental construction material first changed civilization?

Versions of concrete and cement have been used for thousands of years, perhaps dating to 6500 B.C. Humans have only been making steel in large quantities since the mid-19th century.


Which of these transformative technologies was first?

In 1839, Charles Goodyear made the first truly durable (vulcanized) rubber. But it wasn't until the 1880s that the first car hit the scene.


Which amazing invention came first?

In 1939, humans began harnessing nuclear fission, both for power generation and later for weapons of mass destruction. Kevlar vests, which can protect against shrapnel and bullets, were invented in 1965.


Which critical metal did humans first master?

Humans began making stuff with iron back in 2000 B.C,, and the Iron Age changed a multitude of technologies. Mass-produced steel, which is much harder, didn't alter the metalworking landscape until the mid-19th century.


Which technology began alleviating hardship first?

In the 1840s, anesthesia changed the way humans perceive physical suffering, helping to alleviate pain. Air conditioning relieved some of the suffering of humidity and heat, but that wasn't until the early 20th century.


Which basic technology arrived first to human society?

Paper currency wasn't introduced until the 11th century. Nails, however, arrived in the second millennium, and they provided a fantastic new way for people to build basic shelter.


Which miraculous medicine came first?

In the late 1790s, a British doctor named Edward Jenner used the concept of vaccination to protect people against dreaded smallpox, but it took another century for the idea to really grab the medical community. Penicillin wasn't a thing until the 1920s, too late to help soldiers in World War I.


Which iconic communications tech first hit human society?

The first telephone came about in 1876, thanks in large part to a patent filed by a guy named Alexander Graham Bell. Radio was invented in 1906 and immediately altered many aspects of human civilization.


Which health invention first changed medicine?

In the 1960s, birth control pills altered the social landscape of the planet. Lipitor was introduced in the 1990s and simply allowed you to keep stuffing your face with cheese pizza without immediately collapsing from a heart attack.


Which major technology was first invented?

The moldboard plow (1797) not only dug up hard soil, it also turned it over, allowing humans to spread agriculture to many new areas. Mechanized clocks were invented centuries earlier, in the 1400s.


Both of these relatively new inventions altered the course of humanity. Which came first?

Invented in the 1830s, the telegraph made it much easier to communicate over long distances. But the first railroad was built in 1804 and used to transport iron in England.


Which transformative technology first altered humanity?

The first cameras appeared in the early 1800s. Radio and its transcendent communications capabilities weren't introduced until about a century later.


Which type of engine first altered the mechanization of mankind?

Internal combustion engines combine air with fuel for maximum power, but they didn't emerge until the late 1800s. Steam engines, which were at the heart of the Industrial Revolution, were invented in the 1700s.


Which amazing technology-driven era happened first?

In the 1760s, technologies like steam engines propelled the Industrial Revolution, which increased the efficiency of many processes while reducing hard labor. The Green Revolution of the '30s and '40s starred fertilizers and chemicals that helped humans get much more food from their crops.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!