The 100 Year March of Technology & the Power of Venture Capital

April 23, 2012

via The Atlantic and NPR

Today, at least 90% of the country has a stove, electricity, car, fridge, clothes washer, air-conditioning, color TV, microwave, and cell phone. Take a moment to savor this graph from Visual Economics, which shows the adoption rate of new technologies across the century:

One way to parse it is to ignore everything at the top and trace your eye along the 10% line:

– In 1900, <10% of families owned a stove, or had access to electricity or phones

– In 1915, <10% of families owned a car

– In 1930, <10% of families owned a refrigerator or clothes washer

– In 1945, <10% of families owned a clothes dryer or air-conditioning

– In 1960, <10% of families owned a dishwasher or color TV

– In 1975, <10% of families owned a microwave

– In 1990, <10% of families had a cell phone or access to the Internet

In his final of 3 posts, Derek Thompson of The Atlantic notes: “In 1900, less than 10% of families owned a stove, or had access to electricity or phones, and the Model-T was still a full decade away.” His first installment of this series followed shifting family budgets between 1900 and 2003. The second explained why food seems so much cheaper at the dawn of the 21st century. The third is different because it goes beyond numbers, to include issues of quality of life and the question of progress: “It’s not just that life expectancy at birth has grown from 49 years in 1900 to 78 today, but also the quality of our lives has been improved by law (e.g.: new safety and anti-discrimination laws), by culture (e.g.: women’s ascent in college and the workplace) and by technology.” (Believe it or not, the boom box was the fastest-adopted gadget of the last 50 years.)

Another piece from NPR traces the Birth of Silicon Valley. Now a well-known hotbed of innovation stretching along the peninsula southwest of San Francisco Bay, the story that emerges from this timeline is the transformative power of venture capital, as well as the onward march of technology. Click on the image below to explore the timeline.

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