Thursday, March 15, 2012

1940s ~ Technological Advances

World War II brought about a spirit of community as businesses, government and individuals worked together to develop various products that would help to overcome needs and issues pertaining to this time in history and win the war.

Polaroid Camera: This was invented by Edwin Land and had the ability to have what was known as a one-step process for developing and printing photographs. In 1937, he formed the Polaroid Corporation to manufacture his cameras from his application of polorized light. He used his talents to help the military with developing infrared filters and special goggles that adaped in darkness. He released his first polaroid camera to the public in 1948 and the rest they say is history. Different versions of his full story is in a variety of places including Ideafinder and

Computer: The Atanasoff-Berry Computer was the first electronic-digital computer and built at Iowa State University between 1930 and 1942 by Professor John Atanasoff and a graduate student named Clifford Berry. At this point in history, it represented many innovations in computing. The ABC computer was built to solve linear equations. A US Army physicist, John Mauchly took this computer and developed it into an Electronic Numerical Integrator running on thousands of vaccuum tubes that computed artillery and bombing tables. John Mauchly and Presper Eckert were the first to patent a digital computing device, the ENIAC computer. There is much more to this interesting beginning of computers on Inventors website along with pictures of John Atanasoff and Clifford Barry and the ABC computer. shows a picture of the vacuum tube set up used for this first computer!

Microwave Oven: In working on radar technology, Dr. Percy Spencer accidentally stumbled on the fact that vaccum tubes of magnetrons could cook food quicker and went on to invent the microwave while working for the Raytheon Corporation in 1946. He constructed a box to trap the microwave energy which would cook food quicker than a traditional oven . Raytheon went on to produce the first commerical microwave oven in 1947 and called it a "Radarange".  The full story of this is available on Raytheon' provides a picture of Dr. Percy Spencer with additional information on his story.

Transistor: Vacuum tubes were inefficient as a signal switch and amplifier as well as bulky, Bell Telelphone Labortories had a team headed by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley who were all physicists exploring other devices that could do the job better. Together they came up with a transistor in 1947 which was used in radios, stereos and eventually in computers. This can be seen as a beginning towards the microprocessors that used silicon chips and had millions of tiny transistors within them. There is a great write-up of the history behind it at along with with a picture of this first transistor.

Atomic Bomb: A number of key elements came together beginning in 1939 and ending in 1945 as the testing of what was then known as "The Gadget" in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico successfully ushered in the invention of the atomic bomb under the guise of 'The Manhattan Project". There is a long list of scientist where were behind this invention with Robert Oppenheimer who oversaw the whole project from beginning to end. It was used two times in war, the first being at Hiroshima and dropped on 6 Aug, 1945 and on Nagasaki on 9 Aug., 1945 and bringing World War II to an end on 10 Aug., 1945. While there are many articles on this subject, Inventors article seemed to be the best.

There are other technological advances that happened during this time period that have grown into more modern devices that are in use today. As in decades past, during the 1940s, amazing individuals have pioneered inventions that continue to be improved upon resulting in making life easier each day!

Let's all join in and aid the indexing of the 1940s census to locate these amazing individuals as well as ones ancestors, just click 1940 Census Project!

Comments and Suggestions are always welcomed!

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Claire (*)
Timeless Genealogies
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  1. They sure did invent a lot of amazing things in the 1940s...even if some of them took a while to take hold and become common. I chose to write about technology too...something that took a long time to become useful: hypertext.