iPhone: How Did We Get There? [Technology History Infographic]

People of the digital era take the latest smartphone technology for granted. They rarely think that an iPhone in their pocket is the crown of the world’s engineering thought that led the human race from the primitive cave life to the digital age. But in fact an iPhone, however small it might be, is a concentration of centuries of scientific and engineering work. Mathematicians, chemists, inventors along with all kinds of engineers and scientists have dedicated their entire lives just to make another small step towards the technology level where creation of the today’s so popular smartphone would be possible. People of different calibers and talents, from unknown students to scientific legends, from all over the world, made their small and big contributions to the smartphone idea. Even a few wars had to break out to boost technologies that would eventually bring us to the iPhone.

iPhone technology history infographic
Click for the full-size infographic
Tweet: Technology evolution that led us to iPhone http://ctt.ec/Q9D31+ via @QuartSoft

Working for an IT outsourcing company, I have always being amazed at the modern devices and gadgets our employees work with. How small and compact they are while being so powerful and advanced. I’ve been wondering how much time and efforts it took for mankind to come up with something like iPhone and other modern smartphones. So I started reading the history of smartphones and their parts such as camera, LCD display, touch-screen, battery etc. It was an interesting read. I could not help asking one of our graphic designers to create an infographic for me and others who think it would be cool to see the entire evolution of the human thought from the Stone Age to the digital age in one place.

It’s really interesting to observe how today’s ordinary things such as smartphones are linked with hundreds of inventions, innovations and sometimes seemingly unrelated events. This chain of links stretches throughout the entire human history. The odds are that if even the smallest link of this chain was missing we would probably have no iPhone today.

When working on the infographic I tried to take into consideration even the most unexpected historical events such as America discovery, for example, which however are important milestones in the global evolution and progress that led us to the latest technologies.

In the course of gathering information for this iPhone infographic I've made a few timelines of technology advances. So I’d like to share those timelines here for those who might have interest in the history of science and engineering.

The major groundbreaking discovery for any today’s gadgets was electricity. The discovery of electromagnetism made it possible to invent such vital things as telegraph (the basis for the Internet), telephone and radio (the basis for today’s wireless technologies). So here is my timeline of important electricity inventions and events:

Electricity Timeline

  • Thales of Miletus: discovery of static electricity, Greece, 600 BCE
  • William Gilbert: establishment of electrochemistry and electrical engineering, the term "electricity", UK, 1600
  • Otto von Guericke: electrostatic generator, Germany, ca. 1650
  • Stephen Gray: discovery of insulators and conductors, UK, 1720
  • Pieter van Musschenbroek, Leyden jar (capacitor), Netherlands, 1746
  • Benjamin Franklin: discovery of electrical potentials, USA, 1752
  • Luigi Galvani: "animal electricity" (a bridge between chemical reactions and electricity), Italy, 1780
  • Alessandro Volta: invention of the voltaic pile (zinc, copper disks), Italy, 1800
  • Hans Christian Ørsted: electromagnetism discovery, Denmark, 1820 [also in Internet and Radio timelines]
  • André-Marie Ampère: theory of electrodynamics, France, 1821
  • Georg Ohm: Ohm's law (the concept of electrical resistance), Germany, 1827
  • Michael Faraday, law of induction, UK, 1831
  • Hippolyte Pixii: prototype DC generator (an early form of dynamo), France, 1832
  • Nicholas Callan: induction coil (transformer), 1836, Ireland
  • Floris Nollet: a practical AC generator, Belgium, 1850
  • Heinrich Daniel Ruhmkorff: Ruhmkorff coil, Germany, 1851
  • James Clerk Maxwell: Maxwell's equations (the foundation of classical electrodynamics and electric circuits), prediction of the existence of radio waves, UK, 1862
  • William Armstrong: the world's first power station, UK, 1868
  • Lucien Gaulard and John Dixon Gibbs: device for the transmission of alternating current electrical energy, France/UK, 1881
  • Thomas Edison: Pearl Street Station (the first public steam-driven power distribution system), USA, 1882
  • H.J. Rogers: Vulcan Street Plant (the world's first Edison hydroelectric central station), USA, 1882

After Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile it became possible to develop a battery. However it took almost two centuries for scientists to come up with the modern lithium-ion battery technology used in iPhones and other smartphones. Here is my li-ion battery timeline of important discoveries and events which branches off from the electricity timeline at the moment of Volta's discovery:

Battery timeline

See the electricity timeline for other relevant dates

The discovery of electromagnetism and methods of electricity production led to one of the most important inventions of all times – the electrical telegraph. The history of the telegraph had started before the crucial developments in the sphere of electricity but electricity gave scientists a push towards the electrical telegraph which in its turn let to the Internet and World Wide Web invention. Therefore my Internet and World Wide Web timeline starts with the birth of the telegraph.

Internet and World Wide Web

Of course the Internet and the very smartphone would not be possible without computing hardware and software. The history of computing is closely connected with the history of the Internet and the modern mobile phone although it started in prehistoric times. So here is my computing timeline and it's really long as you can see:

Computing Timeline

  • Tally stick, ca. 35,000 BCE
  • Abacus, Iraq, ca. 2400 BCE
  • Using a zero in calculations, India, ca. 500 BCE
  • Pāṇini: the idea of describing the structure of language using rewriting rules (the world's first formal system), India, ca. 500 BCE
  • Pingala: the first description of the binary number system, India, ca. 300 BCE
  • Antikythera mechanism (a clockwork considered to be the first analog computer), Greece, ca. 125 BCE
  • Heron of Alexandria: “Sequence control” (the first program), Egypt, ca. 60 AD
  • Brahmagupta: description of the modern place-value numeral system, first rules to compute with zero, India, ca. 600 AD
  • Liang Lingzan: the world's first fully mechanical clock (future computers would be based on the technology), China, 724 AD
  • Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi: spreading the Indian system of numeration throughout the Middle East and Europe, the word 'algorithm', Uzbekistan, 820 AD
  • Abu Rayhan Al-Biruni: the first geared mechanical astrolabe, ca. 996, Uzbekistan
  • al-Jazari: astronomical clock (the earliest programmable analog computer), Turkey, 1206
  • Ramon Llull: Lullian Circle (a notional machine for calculating answers to philosophical questions via logical combinatorics), 1300, Spain
  • Joost Buerghi: natural logarithms, Switzerland, 1588
  • John Napier: logarithm reinvention and Napier's bones, UK, 1614
  • Blaise Pascal: Pascaline (mechanical calculator), France, 1642
  • Gottfried Leibniz: Stepped Reckoner (multiplying machine), Germany, 1671
  • Gottfried Leibniz: the modern binary number system, Germany, 1679
  • Basile Bouchon: the first attempt to use punched paper stored program for a loom (continuous punched roll), France, 1725
  • Jean-Baptiste Falcon: Falcon Loom (programmable loom using a deck of durable punched cards) France, 1728
  • Joseph Marie Jacquard: the first workable programmable loom (punched cards tied together to form a long loop) France, 1801
  • J. H. Müller: the idea of a difference engine, Germany, 1786
  • Thomas de Colmar: Arithmometer (the first commercially successful mechanical calculator), France, 1820
  • Charles Babbage: design of the first prototype of the decimal difference engine, UK, 1822
  • Semen Korsakov: the first usage of punch cards for information storage, Russian Empire, 1832
  • Ada Lovelace: the world's first computer program, UK, 1842
  • George Boole: binary algebra (Boolean algebra), UK, 1848
  • Karl Ferdinand Braun: the first written description of a semiconductor diode, Germany, 1874
  • Dorr E. Felt: Comptometer (the first commercially successful key-driven mechanical calculator), USA, 1884
  • Herman Hollerith: punched card processing patent (recording of data on a medium that could then be read by a machine), USA, 1889
  • Lee De Forest: vacuum tube (triode tube), USA, 1906
  • Herman Hollerith: plugboard, USA, 1906
  • William Henry Eccles and F. W. Jordan: flip-flop circuit design, UK, 1919
  • Walther Bothe: logic gate, Germany, 1924
  • Kurt Gödel: work on universal formal languages and the limits of proof and computation, Germany, 1931
  • IBM 601 Multiplying Punch, USA, 1931
  • Gustav Tauschek: drum memory, Austria, 1932
  • Alan Turing: the principle of the modern computer (Turing machines), UK, 1936
  • Konrad Zuse: Z1 (the first mechanical binary programmable computer), Germany, 1938
  • George Stibitz: 1-bit binary adder using relays, USA, 1940
  • Tommy Flowers: Colossus (the first programmable electronic computer), UK, 1943
  • Howard H. Aiken: IBM's Harvard Mark I computer (the Harvard computer architecture), USA, 1944 [Harvard University]
  • Konrad Zuse: Plankalkül (the first higher-level programming language), Germany, 1945
  • John von Neumann: computer architecture description (Vcomon Neumann architecture), Hungary/USA, 1945
  • John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert: ENIAC (the first general-purpose electronic digital computer), USA, 1946
  • Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn: Williams–Kilburn tube (the first RAM device), UK, 1946
  • William B. Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain: invention of transistor, USA, 1947 [Bell Laboratories]
  • IBM: SSEC (the first computer to modify a stored program), USA, 1948
  • Freddie Williams, Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill: Small-Scale Experimental Machine (aka “Baby”) (the first stored-program computer), UK, 1948 [University of Manchester]
  • Maurice Wilkes: the first stored program on the EDSAC computer using paper tape input-output (birthday of modern computing), UK, 1949 [University of Cambridge]
  • J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly: UNIVAC (the first commercially successful electronic computer), USA, 1951
  • Jay Forrester: Whirlwind (the first real-time computer), USA, 1951 [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
  • John Mauchly, J. Presper Eckert, John von Neumann: EDVAC (the first computer to use magnetic tape), USA, 1951
  • An Wang, Jay Forrester, Jan A. Rajchman: magnetic core memory development, USA, 1953
  • John Backus: FORTRAN (high-level programming language), USA, 1954 [IBM]
  • John McCarthy: LISP (programming language), USA, 1958 [Massachusetts Institute of Technology]
  • Jack Kilby, Robert Noyce: integrated circuit (microchip), USA, 1958 [Texas Instruments, Fairchild Semiconductor]
  • Grace Hopper: COBOL (computer programming language designed for business use) USA, 1959
  • ALGOL (the first structured, procedural, programming language), USA/Germany/Netherlands/Denmark/Switzerland/France/UK, 1960
  • Tom Kilburn: Atlas (supercomputer with many modern architectural concepts) UK, 1962 [University of Manchester, Ferranti, Plessey]
  • IBM: System/360 mainframe computer, USA, 1964
  • [used to created the Merit Network]
  • John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz: BASIC (programming language), USA, 1964
  • James T. Russell: the concept of optical digital recording and playback (CD/DVD technology), USA, 1965
  • Douglas Engelbart: interactive computing, USA, 1968
  • Alan Kay: Dynabook (the concept of portable computer), USA, 1968
  • Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie: UNIX operating system, USA, 1970 [Bell Laboratories]
  • Niklaus Wirth: Pascal (programming language), Switzerland, 1970
  • Ted Hoff, Federico Faggin, and Stanley Mazor: Intel 4004 (the first commercial microprocessor), USA, 1971 [Intel]
  • Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie: the C programming language, USA, 1972 [Bell Laboratories]
  • IBM: IBM 3340 Direct Access Storage Facility, aka Winchester (today's standard HDD design), USA, 1973
  • Ed Roberts: Altair 8800 (the first commercially successful hobby computer), USA, 1975 [Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems]
  • Chuck Peddle and Bill Mensch: MOS Technology 6502 (inexpensive 8-bit microprocessor), USA, 1975
  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen: the first microcomputer implementation of BASIC, USA, 1975
  • IBM, IBM 5100 (the first commercial portable microcomputer), USA, 1975
  • Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs: the Apple I single-board computer, USA, 1976
  • Stephen P. Morse: the 16-bit Intel 8086 chip (the first x86 microprocessor), USA, 1978 [Intel Corporation]
  • Sony Corp. and Philips: compact disc, Japan/Netherlands, 1979
  • Motorola, Inc.: Motorola 68000 microprocessor, USA, 1979
  • IBM: IBM PC with MS-DOS (a perconal computer that became the industry standard), USA, 1981
  • Borland Software Corporation: Turbo Pascal (software development system), USA, 1983
  • David Patterson and Carlo H. Sequin: the Berkeley RISC project (optimized processor design), USA, 1984
  • Jef Raskin: Apple Macintosh computer, USA, 1984 [Apple Inc.]
  • Steve Furber, Sophie Wilson: ARM processor architecture, UK, 1985 [ARM Holdings]
  • Bill Gates: Windows 1.0, USA, 1985 [Microsoft]
  • Apple Inc.: Macintosh Portable, USA, 1989
  • Atari Corporation: Atari Portfolio (the world's first palmtop computer), USA, 1989
  • Apple Inc.: PowerBook (Macintosh laptop), USA, 1991
  • Apple Inc.: Newton (touch-capable personal digital assistant), USA, 1993
  • Nokia: Nokia 9000 Communicator, Finland, 1996
  • Ericsson Mobile aCommunications: Ericsson R380 (mobile phone + PDA, the first device marketed as a 'smartphone') Sweden, 2000
  • Apple Inc.: iPod (a device that truly ushered in the era of portable digital consumer electronics), USA, 2007
  • Apple Inc.: iPhone and iOS (iPhone operation system), USA, 2007

The concept of the telephone is one of the greatest inventions of all times that has considerably boosted the industrial progress and evolution of people’s lives all over the world. And the history of traditional phones is no doubt a part of the iPhone history. Therefore here is my telephone history timeline reflecting the most important milestones:

Telephone Timeline

The transition from the landline telephone to the mobile phone was a huge step in giving humanity more freedom and endless opportunities for communications and business. However wireless communications would never be possible without the discovery of radio. Here are some key milestones in developing of wireless radio communication systems necessary for mobile phones to function as they do today:

Radio Timeline

The invention of radio was not only crucial for wireless telephony but also for wireless data exchange that makes it possible to access the Internet from your smartphone. Wi-Fi is one of the most popular such technologies. Here are a few important milestones and people behind the Wi-Fi history:

Wi-Fi Timeline

iPhone would not be that fun without a camera. In fact this is the modern small-size camera that has made smartphones so extremely popular and wide-used all around the globe. Therefore the history of camera can obviously be considered a part of the iPhone history. So here are some key dates and events of the camera history.

Photo Camera Timeline

  • The Nimrud lens (the oldest lens in the world), Assyria (modern Iraq), 750–710 BCE
  • Euclid: Euclid's Optics (work on the geometry of vision), Greece, 300 BCE
  • Lucius Annaeus Seneca: the earliest written record of magnification, 1st century AD, Roman Italy
  • Claudius Ptolemy: studies of reflection and refraction, c. AD 150 – c. AD 168, Greece/Egypt
  • Alhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham): the first pinhole camera (Camera Obscura) and the use of a convex lens, Iraq/Egypt, 1000 AD
  • Invention of spectacles (the start of the optical industry of grinding and polishing lenses), Italy, 1268
  • Daniele Barbaro: a book on perspective for artists and architects (usage of a lens with a camera obscura), Italy, 1568
  • Hans Lippershey: the earliest known working telescope, Germany, 1608
  • Johannes Kepler: the compound-lens system description, Germany, 1611
  • Robert Hooke: iris diaphragm, UK, ca. 1662
  • Leonhard Euler: works in optics (diaphragms on telescopes), Switzerland, 1762
  • Joseph Nicephore Niépce: the first successful photographic image with camera obscura, France, 1822
  • Louis Daguerre: daguerreotype (the first practical process of photography), France, 1839
  • Henry Fox Talbot: the Calotype process (the first negative/positive photographic process), UK, 1841
  • Frederick Scott Archer: the wet plate collodion process (shorter exposure time), UK, 1851
  • Edward Sonstadt: magnesium wire for flash, UK, 1862
  • Désiré van Monckhoven: the dry collodion process and one of the earliest books on photographic optics (distinction betweens stops and diaphragms in photography), Belgium, 1855/1867
  • Richard Leach Maddox: lightweight gelatin dry plate (small hand-held cameras), UK, 1871
  • Carl Zeiss and Ernst Abbe: the Abbe sine condition discovery (improved production of lenses), Germany, 1872
  • David Henderson Houston: patent for a roll film holder, USA , 1881
  • Adolf Miethe and Johannes Gaedicke: Blitzlicht flash powder, Germany, 1887
  • George Eastman: Kodak (the first commercially successful box camera for roll film), USA, 1888
  • Louis Boutan: magnesium flash lamp, France, 1890s
  • Hannibal Williston Goodwin: patent for celluloid photographic film, USA, 1898
  • Friedrich Otto Schott: borosilicate glass (glass with novel optical properties for lens manufacturing), Germany, 1893
  • Eastman Kodak Company: Brownie (the first mass-marketed camera), USA, 1900
  • Paul Vierkötter: electronically ignited magnesium flash bulb, Austria, 1925
  • Johann Ostermeyer: patent on a safety flash bulb using aluminum wire or foil in oxygen, Germany, 1929 [Hauser Company (Vacublitz)]
  • General Electric Company: the Sashalite (4-volt battery ignited photoflash bulb), USA, 1930
  • Harold Eugene Edgerton: the first electronic flash tube, USA, 1931
  • Ihagee Kamerawerk: Exakta (the first camera to implement a flash synchronizer), Germany, 1935
  • CIA: The Corona photographic surveillance satellite (the push to develop an electronic image capturing technology), USA, 1959
  • Willard Sterling Boyle and George E. Smith: charge-coupled device (CCD) (the first successful imaging technology using a digital sensor), Canada/USA, 1969
  • Michael Francis Tompsett: patent on charge transfer imaging devices (compact, low power, high performance and low cost solid-state infrared imager), USA/UK, 1972
  • Steven J. Sasson: the first digital camera, USA, 1975
  • The National Reconnaissance Office: KH-11 KENNAN surveillance satellite (the first electronic imaging satellite), USA, 1976
  • Sony Corporation: Sony Mavica (the first commercial electronic still camera, CDD development and mass production), Japan, 1981
  • Eric R. Fossum: CMOS active pixel image sensor ("camera-on-a-chip"), USA, 1992
  • Philippe Kahn: the first camera phone solution sharing pictures instantly on public networks, USA, 1997
  • Samsung Electronics: SCH-V200 (the first cell phone with a built-in camera), South Korea, June of 2000
  • Sharp Corporation and J-Phone: J-SH04 (the first CDD-based camera phone with the ability to send photos electronically), Japan, November of 2000

Video Camera Timeline

Small size along with the ability to offer so much entertainment and practical benefits no other gadget seems to be able to provide is what makes a smartphone one of the most popular gadgets of all times. A multi-touch LCD screen is one of the main iPhone parts that enable its compactness and fun. Let’s see what the most important dates in this technology development are.

LCD Display Timeline

  • Friedrich Reinitzer: discovery of liquid crystal properties, Austria, 1888
  • Otto Lehmann: the "Flüssige Kristalle" article (the name “liquid crystals” coined), Germany, 1904
  • Vsevolod Frederiks: electrically switched light valve, USSR (Russia), 1927
  • Marconi Wireless Telegraph company: the liquid crystal light valve patent (the first practical application of the technology), UK, 1936
  • Richard Williams: “Williams domains” phenomenon, USA, 1962
  • George H. Heilmeier: the first operational liquid-crystal display, USA, 1968
  • Martin Schadt and Wolfgang Helfrich: twisted nematic effect (lower power consumption LCDs for portable devices), Switzerland/Germany, 1970
  • T. Peter Brody: first active-matrix liquid-crystal display panel, Hungary/UK, 1972
  • George William Gray: cyanobiphenyl liquid crystals (correct stability and temperature properties for LCDs), UK, 1973
  • Brown, Boveri & Cie: super-twisted nematic display, Switzerland, 1983
  • Guenter Baur et al.: In Plane Switching (IPS) technology patent, Germany, 1990

Touch Screen Timeline

  • E.A. Johnson: the first finger-driven touchscreen, UK, 1965, [Royal Radar Establishment]
  • University of Illinois: PLATO IV touchscreen terminal, USA, 1971
  • Bent Stumpe: transparent capacitive touch screen, Denmark, 1973 [CERN]
  • Dr. G. Samuel Hurst: resistive touchscreens, USA, 1975 [University of Kentucky]
  • Nimish Mehta: the first human-controlled multitouch device, Canada, 1982 [University of Toronto]
  • Hewlett-Packard: HP-150 (one of the world's earliest commercial touchscreen computers), USA, 1983
  • IBM: IBM Simon (the first touchscreen phone and smartphone), USA, 1994
  • Apple Inc.: Newton MessagePad (touch-capable personal digital assistant), USA, 1993

As you can see iPhone has a considerable historical and scientific background. I really hope that this QuartSoft’s infographic will help people look at the smartphone at another angle they never thought of before. And I also hope people viewing the infographic will learn new things about technology and feel more respect for science and scientists who spend their lives to contribute so something as cool as the iPhone.

Sources:

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By Dmytro Nesterov

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