It’s easy to take innovative products for granted. You likely use more than one daily, and you’re using one now to read this article.

You don’t have to struggle to see the innovative quality of certain inventions and technologies, whether the product was invented 100 years ago or if it’s still in development. The following sections look at some examples of products that alter daily life and the people behind them.

A Glance at Innovative Products

Here are a just a few innovative products:

  • Personal Computers

    Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden ranks the personal computer No. 4 on her list of history’s top 10 innovations, behind the printing press, light bulb and airplane. Computing originated in the mid-1900s, but according to ZDNet, microcomputers were mass marketed in 1977 and the personal computer label first appeared six years later with Hewlett Packard’s 9100A personal computer. More than 70 percent of American adults now own a desktop or laptop computer, according to the Pew Research Center.

  • Home Gaming Consoles

    The first video game console was the Magnavox Odyssey, which was released in 1972 and could be connected to a TV. Major successes came in the form of the Atari 5200 in 1982 and the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1983. Later innovations include two Top 20 items in Time’s 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time – the Sony PlayStation (1994) and the Nintendo Wii (2006). Features like high-resolution (4K) graphics, motion control and now virtual reality are common on modern gaming consoles. Forty percent of American adults own a game console.

  • Smartphones

    Early smartphones in the 1990s could send and receive faxes and emails, in addition to placing and receiving calls. Technology has developed to the point where smartphones can function relatively well to the two previous entries on this list: personal computers and gaming consoles. Current and future technology for smartphones includes fingerprint sensors, virtual reality, 3D and/or high-resolution (4K) graphics and foldable screens. Sixty-eight percent of American adults own a smartphone.

  • Televisions

    Experimental TVs were available in the 1920s, but it was closer to 1940 before TVs were widely available in the United States. Major breakthroughs came in the form of color TV sets (widely available in the 1970s) and digital television (1990s). Modern TVs have smart functionality and 3D and high-resolution (4K+) graphics. Nielson estimates that 5 percent of U.S. homes have at least one operable TV.

  • Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

    Launched in 1973, GPS provides geolocation and time information features. Fully operational in 1995, GPS has since become modernized in applications like agriculture, disaster relief, clock synchronization, navigation and robotics.

  • Nanorobots

    Nanorobots are still in research and development, but some have been used to deliver drugs to a specific part of the body in terminal cancer patients. With a size of a nanometer, or one billionth of a meter, nanorobots could be used for different medical purposes. According to researchers, nanorobots could be inserted into the bloodstream to deliver medicine in a non-invasive way. This next generation of nanorobots could be in the clinical trial stage in five to 10 years.

  • Solar Cells

    Solar cells convert light to energy. In 1839, French physicist Edmond Becquerel, 19, discovered the photovoltaic effect by building the first photovoltaic cell in his father’s laboratory. Practical cells were demonstrated in the 1950s, and are becoming more popular for home consumers to power their house.

Innovative Products Start with Innovative People

From the 19-year-old Edmond Becquerel developing a photovoltaic cell to the 14-year-old farm boy who came up with the idea of a fully electronic TV, there are plenty of inspirational stories behind some of the history’s most innovative products. The same can be said for the people who took these products and helped refine, distribute and market them.

What do these people have in common? Learn about the proven traits of innovation leaders to see what it takes.

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