Useful inventions

For our March meeting the Welwyn NWR group met at the North Star, a pub just outside Welwyn. It was good to see some new faces, so we all introduced ourselves before starting the main discussion topic of the evening: What do you think has been the most useful invention and why?

As to be expected at Welwyn NWR meetings, there was a variety of choices and the discussion veered off at different tangents, which made for an interesting and jolly evening.

The first invention we heard about was by Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr, who, along with her friend, composer and pianist George Antheil, invented a frequency-hopping signal that would prevent a radio-controlled torpedo from being set off course by an enemy jamming its guidance system. The principles of her work are incorporated into Bluetooth and GPS technology as well as Wi-Fi.

The printing press proved a popular topic, having been invented in Germany in the early 1400s. It led to information being shared more widely, accelerating the rediscovery and sharing of knowledge in the Renaissance, news pamphlets spread around the world and enabled protest and revolution through the distribution of pamphlets.

Other great inventions discussed were MRI and ultrasounds, which are much safer to use than X-rays, light bulbs (which were first invented in 1802 but it wasn’t until the 1870s that they had been developed into a viable product) and the impact the internet has on modern lives and how today’s mobile phones have more power than the computers that first took man to the moon. We talked about the impact of the contraceptive pill on women’s lives.

It was commented that the speed and frequency of inventions is faster and their development time shorter than ever before. Could this be due to the internet facilitating increased communication and sharing of knowledge, just like what the printing press did for the renaissance?

Following our discussion, we had plenty of time to chat and get to know each other. We look forward to another lively discussion next month.