Discoveries that shaped the digital world

Today is Loomis Day, a day that celebrates the life of a humble American dentist, who set in motion ideas that would eventually pave the way for everything from radio to wireless internet.

Unfortunately, as so often happens during the passage of time, Mahlon Loomis’ name has faded into relative obscurity – despite how significant his findings were in the world around us today.

Today, with this in mind, we will take a look back at some of the key discoveries that were instrumental in creating our digital world.

The computer

At this exact moment I am writing a blog on a MacBook, and though it would be all too easy to sing praise about Steve Jobs and Apple, the real success is found further back in the early 19th century. Mechanical engineer Charles Babbage has long been considered to be the ‘father of the computer’ after he invented the first ever mechanical computer.

Thank goodness for Babbage, and computers, for creating a platform for people around the world to catch up on the latest news about the Kardashians.

The smartphone

Though the Android V.s. iPhone battle may continue to rage (at least it does in our office) the title of the first smartphone is held by IBM – Simon Personal Communicator. Simon was the first phone to blend the functions of a mobile phone and PDA and had a number of features, including the ability to send emails and faxes. It could also run third-party applications, which marked it as far beyond its time.

It may not have been as user-friendly or widely-loved as this generation’s iPhones (though it carried a similar if not greater price tag!), but we think it still deserves a place in our nerdy hearts.

The digital camera

Where would our Facebook and Instagram feeds be without the advent of the digital camera? Whilst scanning in polaroids does have some sort of hipster appeal to it, it certainly isn’t as convenient.

The first digital camera was created back in December 1975 by an engineer named Steve Sasson who worked at Kodak. The blocky device was able to record 0.01-megapixel photos and could only capture in black and white. Photos were saved to a cassette tape which could then be displayed on a television. All kinds of retro.

The internet and the World Wide Web

The internet has no single creator and was instead started in the US in the 1950s – rapidly evolved by contributors around the world over time. For many people, the internet and world wide web are synonymous, but this is not the case.

The difference is that internet is a networking infrastructure, whereas the World Wide Web refers to the platform used to access information over the internet. This was invented by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who introduced it to the public in 1991. The interconnectivity and ability to share information kick-started the mass popularity of the internet, and lead to the interconnected world we live in today. All hail the World Wide Web!

Radio signals

This brings us right back to Loomis himself, whose discovery of radio signals was actually somewhat of an accident. All the best discoveries are though, it would seem.

Loomis believed that the Earth’s upper atmosphere was separated into discrete concentric layers and that you could transport electrical current through the air. Though many of his original theories ended up being wrong, the results he achieved through his tests lead to the creation of the ‘wireless telegraph’ – and countless digital innovations since.

In summary…

These are just a few of the stories behind some of the beloved tech tools we take for granted today. Hopefully, you learnt something new, and if you know an interesting origin for a digital tool that we didn’t feature, make sure to share them with us by messaging us on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #LoomisDay.



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