10 Baby Boomer Inventions That Rocked the World
Generations Y and Z may not quite see it this way yet, but Baby Boomers have made the Earth a better place to live, thanks to many ground-breaking inventions. Those born between 1946 and 1965 has seen more meteoric changes than our parents could ever have conceived, even if flying cars aren’t an automotive staple yet.
In an effort to educate the younger set, here’s a list of the top 10 Baby Boomer inventions that rocked our world — in no particular order.
1. DNA Fingerprinting
Where would CSI be without DNA fingerprinting, invented by Sir Alec Jeffreys (born 1950)? The Knight of the British Empire discovered sequences within strands of DNA that vary from one person to the next in a unique ridge pattern on fingertips.
2. The Jarvik 7
Dr. Robert Jarvik (born 1946) was inspired to create the implantable artificial heart after his fathered needed surgery for an ailing heart. The Jarvik 7 was the first such device to actually be implanted inside a human body. His work came long before surgical methods to transplant other human organs.
3. Apple II
Everyone knows about Steve Jobs (born 1955), but people tend to forget Steve Wozniak (born 1950) partnered with his more famous half to launch a technological revolution. Thirty-five years ago, the Baby Boomers created and marketed the Apple II personal computer. The milestone included a sound card, color graphics, expansion slots and other features that made it the earliest version of a PC. Read more details about “the MOST personal computer” from those who love it the most.
4. The WWW
What would Apple be without the World Wide Web? The software language that allowed for the creation of Web pages and the first browser was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee (born 1955). Interestingly, the mathematician parents worked on the Ferranti Mark 1, the first commercially sold computer.
5. Free Shipping
No inventive roundup is complete without a look at modern consumerism. Jeff Bezos (born 1964) revolutionized Internet e-retailing when he pioneered the concept of free shipping with Amazon. Today, consumers often abandon their online shopping carts if a merchant doesn’t offer this perk. The innovative marketing strategy led to the popular deal site FreeShipping.org which lists retailers who offer free shipping promotions and other online discounts.
6. The Universal Serial Bus port
Better known as a USB, the device invented by Ajay Bhatt (born 1957) allows you to plug peripherals into your computer as easily as you plug a lamp into the wall. Thus was born a vastly easier method of connecting your computer to everything from printers to digital cameras.
7. The Ethernet
You can thank Robert Metcalfe (born 1946) and his ubiquitous invention for your ability to share documents, printers and connections to the Internet. The system is so incredibly useful that roughly 250 million new Ethernet switch ports are shipping worldwide each year. See what Yale had to say about this invention back in 1995.
8. The Nanoscale Motor
A team led by Alex Zetti (born 1956) invented a motor that was just 500 nanometers across. That’s roughly 300 times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair. The invention set the stage for a future in which nanoscale machines will increase computer speeds, perform intricate surgeries, and generate solar energy more efficiently.
9. Synthetic Skin
Since the early 1980s, burn victims have sung the praises of Gail K. Naughton (born 1955). That’s when she invented a method of “tricking” cells into responding as if they were inside a human body. As a result, growing tissue can be stretched, resulting in the secreting of proteins that make for stronger tissue. Eventually, this discovery led to synthetic skin that temporarily covers burn wounds until the body is able to regenerate skin on its own. The field has grown tremendously since the 1980s and now encompasses synthetic skin spun from spider silk.
10. Flex Foot Prosthesis
Van Phillips (born 1954) was studying broadcasting when he lost his left leg in a waterskiing accident. Unhappy with the clumsy artificial leg with which he was fitted, Phillips switched majors and went on to invent a limb based on the C-shape of a cheetah’s rear leg. The result was a flexible and strong artificial leg made of carbon graphite that allows users to jump and run. Watch a fascinating video of sprinter Oscar Pistorius — known as “The Blade Runner” — who uses this ingenious device.
Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for Kinoli Inc. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, “ABC World News,” NBC’s “TODAY” show and many other media outlets.