As we look back and reflect on the last 50 years, it is astounding to note not just the sheer number of new engineering breakthroughs, but also the quantum of advancements on existing technologies. Even 20 to 30 years back, these advancements would have been unimaginable.
While I am not an engineer, engineering and technology fascinates me. Here, I pick my favourite engineering marvels and how they have evolved in the last 50 years.
1. The telephone
I am an ardent believer of communication so it gladdens me to see that the space of communication technology has arguably seen the most visible and tangible evolution. The humble landline telephone has metamorphosed into mobile connectivity with the most amazing capabilities. History of sorts was made when the first portable cell phone call was made in 1973. Today, 42 years later, we are talking to people across oceans on mobile video, taking photographs and WhatsApping them over a handheld device. In just about 40 years, the mobile phone has become the undisputed multi-purpose device - one that lets us talk, message, take and edit photographs, draw, calculate, bank, book movie tickets, read, watch videos, find places, make notes, listen to music and much, much more. All we need to do is buy a smart phone and the power is in our hands.
2. Aviation technology
Aviation engineering is another area that fills me with wonderment. In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright completed their first sustained flight with a powered, controlled airplane. In 1947, 44 years on, the sound barrier was broken. Another 40 years later, in 1976, Concorde's commercial airline carrying 100 passengers at twice the speed of sound was introduced. Today aviation technology is being used in the BLOODHOUND SSC car to break land speed records at 1000 mph.
3. Electrical engineering
Countless times a day we flip a switch on - whether to light up a room, start a car, use an appliance or turn on life-saving equipment in a hospital. Electrical engineering - whether from coal, the sun, wind or water, gives power for life to go on, while remaining imperceptible to the naked eye. After the first light bulb in late 19th century and the invention of the flashlight in the early 20th century, the advancements in electrical engineering have given us the power to work or play uninterrupted, day or night. Enjoying floodlit matches is one such benefit.
Today, the world is focusing on renewable energy as a means to conserve, sustain and meet the growing needs of the modern world. I recently read that 1.1 billion people still do not have access to electric power. While electricity has been among the greatest engineering advancements of the 20th century, I guess it will be most apt to say - "More Power to electrical engineering in the 21st century".
4. Rocket science
From the time Sputnik was launched in 1957 and from when the first human (Yuri Gagarin) stepped into space in 1961, spacecraft engineering has witnessed a rapid evolution in the last 50 years. Satellite and spacecraft engineering offer remarkable benefits to civilians, although we are rarely conscious of the staggering complexities of these innovations.
One of the most visible benefits to the common man is the GPS (Global Positioning System) that is enabled by satellites circling the globe at an altitude of about 12,000 miles.
The marvel of engineering and science cannot be captured in a single article. The evolution of the Internet, of computers, health technologies, nuclear engineering, automobile and civil engineering in the last 50 years have made gigantic contributions to the progress of mankind.
Let us hope and ensure that a scientific temper pervades the consciousness of humankind across the globe and that curiosity and passion will drive us to achieve ever greater marvels in the 21st century.