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5 Inventions I Thought I’d Never See In My Lifetime

1). Self-Cleaning Windows

Glass that uses a combination of sunlight and rainwater to clean itself? Are we in Star Trek?

Apparently not. UK based company Pilkington have invented a self-cleaning glass, which contains a microscopic coating that use the energy from sunlight to break down any form of organic dirt – and then automatically spreads rainwater into an even film to clear the dirt away ‘with reduced streaking. Sceptics might challenge that in the company’s home market of Britain, sunlight is in much shorter supply than rainwater – while the reverse is true in hot countries. But apparently after a week to ‘energize’ (Star Trek again), the glass works equally well in cloudy conditions. And if it doesn’t rain enough – if such a thing can ever to be true – one splash from the hose will get the broken-down dirt off.

Bad news for window cleaners, from the sound of things. But good news for everyone else.

2). The Bugatti Veyron

A car that goes from 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds, with a top speed of 253 mph – then runs out of fuel twelve minutes later. No, it’s not a Formula 1 car. You can buy it and drive on the road. And although it costs $1.2m dollars, that’s still only a fifth the amount it costs to build each one. The engineering is German – it’s built by Volkswagen. The logic isn’t. That’s why it’s got an Italian name, the Bugatti Veyron.

Why would any company do such a thing, least of all a company that started off making Beatles? Apparently it was because, not having a Formula 1 team, they needed another way to show off. And show off they have. Sixteen cylinders. Not one but four turbo chargers – one for each four cylinders. A thousand horsepower – the power of ten entry-level VW Golfs on only four wheels.

Now all you need to do is be nice to someone who’s got one.

3). MP3 Files

These you have already heard about. But given that most of us can remember marvelling at hearing our first CD, the invention of a system that lets you store thousands of CDs in your computer – and access any of them in an instant – is quite something.

It’s not all good news. Having spent most of the twentieth century trying to achieve ‘High Fidelity’ – which culminated in the CD – sound quality takes a dive with the MP3, which clips away the high and low frequencies. And there is the phenomenon of not being able to listen to a song the whole way through because you or someone else will already be putting something else on – especially annoying at parties. But if you can control that urge, the trade-off between slightly lower sound quality and instant access to all the music you could ever like is an easy one to make. For music lovers, it’s nothing short of a miracle.

4). Low-Cost Air Travel

If you can plan ahead and find the time off, you can visit other countries for less than the cost of a domestic train ticket.

When air travel was invented, it was a luxury experience for the rich. You dressed up and were given champagne in a glass. But since the 1950s, the airlines have steadily driven down the cost and the service – while still maintaining, and charging for, the mystique. Wrong! When Freddy Laker tried to set up a low-cost transatlantic service in the 1980s, the big airlines blew him out of the air by subsiding those of their own flights that he was competing with. When Stelios Haji-Ioannuo tried again on short-haul destinations in the 1990s, the big airlines tried the same response. But this time, they ended up in court – and lost. The cost of long haul air travel is now declining too. Bravo! What’s the point in globalisation if you can’t see the rest of the world?

5). The Internet

Let’s face it – it’s the biggest invention since telephones or television, if not bigger. You can only phone people whose number you’ve got, and you can only watch TV programs that broadcasting companies have decided to put there. But the Internet is tele-everything – information, instant mail, entertainment, self-publishing, discussion. You name it, it’s there.

The amazing thing is how long it took to take off. The basics of technology were first invented in 1974 in the US and a closed version for universities appeared in 1983. The World Wide Web itself – what people today call the Internet – was invented along with http and html in Europe in 1989. By 1996, 25 million computers were on the web – a good start, but only a fraction of the billion-plus online today. And with Web 2.0 – blogs and forums – any of those people can create content to be read by any other.

In my lifetime? Apparently so!

Submitted by:

Toby Guise

Having been in the glass industry for 180 years, Pilkington is recognised as the world's technological leader in glass. Out of all of their innovative products, Pilkington Activ™ (http://www.pilkingtonselfcleaningglass.co.uk) - the world's first self-cleaning glass is one of their greatest products




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