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The Role of Engineering Inventions in the Evolution of Communication

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“I never pick up an item without thinking of how I might improve it” – Thomas A. Edison. Thomas Edison, one of the most important engineering innovators, encompasses the idea of innovation in this very simple quote. The idea of improving everything and anything or creating something new to fill a need of humanity is the basis of all engineering. Engineers are responsible for or have been involved in almost every modern aspect of our lives. They are involved with almost everything in a modern household as well. Whether it is a car, the house itself, a television, a computer or a myriad of other things, and engineer’s work has impacted it. Even things one may assume are pretty rudimentary such as a pop can, have been engineered. Pop cans are designed to hold the pressure of the can while minimizing the amount of material used and maximizing packaging efficiency while staying comfortable to hold for the consumer. Almost all everyday items have been improved by an engineer. Some technologies have impacted our collective lives more than others. The impact of the Bessemer process, the assembly line and internet connection have impacted our way of life in the modern world to a great degree.

The Bessemer process is a steel manufacturing process that takes impurities out of molten iron and as a result impacted many different industries along the way. The process was invented in 1856 by Sir Henry Bessemer. The process works by putting impure iron into a large compartment where air is blown under the converter. The air is sent into a fire under the converter where it reaches one-thousand-eight-hundred degrees Celsius. This immense heat removes the impurities from the iron to a ninety-nine percent effectiveness. This removal of impurities makes the steel much stronger than it could be made previously. It also produced steel much faster and cheaper than previous methods. As a result of this method, the railroad industry in the United States became economically viable to build. This connected the entire country for the first time in history. It connected the country in terms of communication with mail, and consumerism with mail-order merchants such as Sears. It also improved the lives of millions of people who lived in cities. The railroads brought tonnes of food, fuel and building material for which steel was becoming a frontrunner. Steel is a much more versatile building material when put in comparison to wood. As a result of steel, and therefore the Bessemer process, the first skyscrapers could be built. Wooden buildings proved to be less safe in comparison to steel alternatives in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, New York. One-hundred-forty-six young women died in just eighteen minuets due to poor firefighting infrastructure, a lack of sprinkler systems, and a wooden building that was built too tall. Steel skyscrapers however, are more resistant to fire damage and can build much higher much safer. The first landmark skyscraper of New York City was the Chrysler Building, a former tallest building in the world. This building harnessed the steel frame architecture like no other at the time. The building was secretly topped by a near 40-meter tall steel spire, claiming the tallest building title from the Bank of Manhattan building. It was surpassed eleven months after completion buy the Empire State building, another world-famous steel structured skyscraper in New York City. Both these towers displayed beautiful early nineteen-thirties architecture and capability of steel framed buildings. Steel and steel alloys are still used today in many different industries. Our buildings are still primarily built using steel and our cars in their frames and bodywork. If not for the innovation by Sir Henry Bessemer, our world could look and travel very differently from how it does today. The world would be less connected by rail and

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An industry that uses the second most steel next to the construction industry is the transportation industry. The transportation industry is still ruled today by the automobile, with over one-billion cars in the world today a major shift in manufacturing had to have taken place. That turned out to be Henry Ford’s assembly line. The assembly line was a revolutionary way to manufacture goods much more efficiently. The first vehicle to be manufactured by Ford’s assembly line was the Model T. The Model T was first made in 1908 and was a relatively inexpensive rugged and reliable vehicle for the time. Ford however, wanted it even more affordable. He figured there must be a better way to manufacture his vehicles. Before the assembly line vehicle manufacturing was a skill and required one person to know many different steps. Ford figured if he could teach more people less steps the job would become much simpler. Ford split the Model T’s assembly into eighty-four steps. Each set of workers had one job instead of many. The car was brought to them on a moving-chassis assembly line, Ford’s legacy project completed in 1913. Previously only certain parts of the car were made on pully powered conveyor belts. This genius innovation brought the car to the masses just as Ford envisioned. The affordable automobile impacts the world in ways many take advantage of every day. Many people commute to work every day. In the past people had to live near their place of work. Thanks to Ford’s intuition, transportation of people and goods can be done inexpensively and quickly. Transport trucks, which are also made on assembly lines, transport billions of dollars of goods each year to consumers. Without trucks shipping would be extremely expensive and inefficient. The goods those trucks transport are likely also made on an assembly line. Assembly lines are used in almost every industry in the world nowadays and the world would be a lot smaller without them. Thanks to Ford’s engineering innovation the world is more physically interconnected, and manufacturing and shipping are way more efficient and economically viable.

In the same way vehicles connect us physically, the internet connects us socially and makes the world feel much smaller. The internet has allowed for national conflicts and issues to be broadcast globally and acts as a communication highway for the entire world.

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