Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (2023)

One could argue that the world today is full of innovative products that have literally changed lives. We regularly see new services and products being launched, but sometimes we overlook products that were innovative beyond recognition at the time. Our list of the 10 Most Innovative Products may seem like a blast from the past, but if you study these products at the time of their creation, you'll see that they stand head and shoulders above what we consider innovative products today. You may have opened this article and expected it to be about theDyson supersonicor the Apple Watch. Yes - they are certainly innovative products, but listed below are ten of the truly most innovative products of all time.

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (1)

washing machine

How many of us take the humble washing machine for granted? This is a product for which the first English patent was granted as early as 1791, although washing machine designs of various shapes and forms began to appear from 1752 onwards. In 1782, Henry Sidgier patented the first rotating drum washing machine that used ribs and grooves to scrape dirt from clothes, but this was a manual device. It wasn't until the 19th century that steam was used to power washing machines with the first "coin in the slot" laundromat system introduced in 1934 in Fort Worth, Texas. The first automatic washing machine was made by Bendix Home Appliances in 1937 and as they say the rest is history!

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (2)

The light bulb

While Thomas Edison is often credited with creating the first lightbulb on October 14, 1878, the history of lightbulbs stretches back many years. We know that Humphry Davy began the long road to the modern lightbulb with the creation of his "electric arc lamp," which was effectively electricity flowing through a piece of carbon to create a warming glow. The challenge of developing a commercially viable lightbulb continued for many years until British scientist Warren de la Rue developed his own version, which was a coiled platinum filament inside a vacuum tube through which an electric current was passed. While it was groundbreaking in its day, it was the cost of platinum that made this particular product unviable from a commercial perspective.

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Various prototypes came and went before Canadian electricians Henry Woodward and Mathew Evans came up with the idea of ​​keeping rods of carbon in glass cylinders and then filling them with nitrogen through which electricity could be passed. Although they tried and failed to commercialize their "bulb," they eventually sold their patent to Thomas Edison in 1879. Edison tested different filaments and finally created a carbonized bamboo filament lightbulb with a lifespan of 1200 hours. In 1880, the Edison Electric Light Company was formed to commercialize the world's first viable mass-market light bulb.

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (3)


We often take cell phones and landlines for granted, even though the telephone remains one of the most innovative products of all time. The mechanical "tin can telephone" can be traced back to 1667 when British physicist Robert Hooke unveiled the most basic of telephones. The inventor of the electric telephone has been a matter of debate for centuries, although Alexander Graham Bell appears to have had the first telephone patent, granted as early as 1876. There is speculation that he "stole" the idea from Elisha Gray, but decades of lawsuits, allegations, and rumors have done nothing to clarify the situation.

The original electric telephone was based on the same concept as the electric telegraph, which was available many years before Alexander Graham Bell's "discovery". The device only became truly commercially viable after the invention of commercial telephone exchanges. US inventor George W. Coy is believed to have built the world's first commercial switchboard, which went into service on January 28, 1878, beating Alexander Graham Bell by a mile.

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (4)


The television we see today traces its roots back to 1897 when the English physicist J.J Thomson began investigating the use of cathode rays, which eventually led to the development of the cathode ray tube. The first working cathode ray tube was developed by German physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun in 1897 and became known as the Braun tube. Much has been said about how cathode ray tubes could be used as both transmitting and receiving devices. However, it was not until December 25, 1926 that Kenjiro Takayanagi was able to demonstrate the first working television set with a resolution of 40 lines. Unfortunately, Takayanagi failed to apply for a patent, leaving the field wide open for competitors around the world.


The first "television transmission" took place in 1929 when Philo Farnsworth transmitted live pictures of his wife to a receiving television. Although the image was relatively small and not of perfect resolution, it was still a breakthrough due to the bright lighting required. Over the years there has been much confusion, debate and controversy surrounding the first patent for television. This proved particularly costly for US media giant RCA, which acquired an invalid patent from Westinghouse Electric and questioned the broad nature of Farnsworth's patent application. After various legal challenges, RCA lost the case in 1939, although the company reached an agreement with Farnsworth to pay $1 million over ten years along with various royalties. The age of television had now dawned!

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (5)The home computer

While companies like IBM and Microsoft dominated the computer industry for many years, they weren't the firstHeimcomputerto the market. Although the concept of a "home computer" was discussed as early as 1965, it wasn't until 1975 that Altair released the MITS Altair 8800. This immediately led to the release of the IMSAI 8080, which was effectively a clone, and the home computer market was up and running. These systems revolved around the Intel 8080 CPU and saw the emergence of Bill Gates and Paul Allen - who founded Microsoft after producing a BASIC compiler for Altair. In 1976, under the direction of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple launched the first Apple computer. Then came the electric pen, word processors, and the old-style floppy disk drive.

Sir Clive Sinclair is considered by many to be the father of the home computer, having introduced the Sinclair ZX80 in 1980. Such was the popularity of this machine that initially there was a waiting list of several months. The ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari 800XL and BBC microcomputers followed very quickly, with the BBC computer being particularly popular in schools. In August 1981, IBM released the IBM Personal Computer, which was the start of a very lucrative but volatile journey for the company.

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (6)The toilet

While the simplest "toilets" date back to 2800 B.C. Dating back to 1700 BC and the first quasi-toilets can still be found in Roman ruins across Britain, the flush toilet as we know it today did not emerge until 1775. This was the year that Scottish mechanic Alexander Cumming patented the crucial S -Strap that used standing water in the toilet bowl as a barrier between the fumes from the sewers. In 1778 Joseph Bramah optimized Alexander Cumming's original design and also introduced the Ballcock system.

However, flushing toilets only became popular in the mid-19th century with greater awareness of disease and infection and the introduction of London's sewage system. In fact, George Jennings founded his own company to manufacture water closets in the 1940s and presented his system to the general public at The Great Exhibition in 1951, one cent for each use of the first public pay toilets.

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Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (7)Auto

While the invention ofthe carclosely related to that of the internal combustion engine, there were actually steam-powered vehicles on the road as early as 1769. That year, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot brought the first full-size self-propelled vehicle in the form of a steam-powered tricycle. WhileKarl Benz is widely regarded as the inventor of the modern car, the French inventor Gustave Trouve presented his electrically powered vehicle in 1881. That was a full four years before Karl Benz built his first vehicle (a three-wheeled vehicle) in 1885, having been granted the first patent for an internal combustion engine in 1879.

While only 25 of these vehicles were sold between 1888 and 1893, Benz launched the first four-wheeler and also launched various modified engines along the way. There are a number of dates closely tied to the birth of the modern automobile, but for many people August 1888 was when it all began - the month when Karl Benz famously set out on the first "motorway trip" with his wife Bertha Benz .

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (8)Refrigerator

Like so many everyday objects, we take the refrigerator for granted, even though it was a major technological advance at the time. Before the use of artificial chillers, ice houses and other similar storage facilities served a purpose. In 1755, Scottish professor William Cullen designed a refrigerator that boiled diethyl ether in a partial vacuum and then absorbed all the heat from the surrounding air. This created a cool environment and it was said that a small amount of ice was visible. However, it was ahead of its time and it wasn't practical to mass produce this cooling system - but it was certainly a step forward.

By 1805, American inventor Oliver Evans was working on a closed vapor compression refrigeration cycle that produced ice. In 1820, British scientist Michael Faraday liquefied a range of gases, including ammonia, by creating a high-pressure, low-temperature environment. It wasn't until 1834, however, when British expatriate Jacob Perkins made the first working vapor-compression refrigeration system. Since it was a "closed system", it could be operated continuously and leak-free.

We then saw various attempts at commercially viable refrigeration systems, but it wasn't until 1913 that the first domestic refrigerators were invented by Fred W. Wolf. Other improvements followed, including automatic controls, absorption refrigerators, standalone systems, and then the hugely popular General Electric "monitor top" that really broke the market. Over the years we've seen potentially toxic gases removed, more eco-friendly refrigerators added, and a whole host of gadgets like automatic defrost and ice-making compartments.

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Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (9)Kettle

Who would have thought that the simple kettle was already around 3500 BC. was used? These bronze vessels were used as a means of holding water while it was being heated from below, a particular concept that lasted until the late 19th century. It is difficult to name one inventor who created the "Kettle" as a number of companies and individuals attempted to gain credit. We led Compton and co. to develop what many believe to be the first electric kettle to use an under-vessel radiant heater concept.

It wasn't until 1922 that The Swan Company produced the first kettle with a built-in heating element. These were the early runners of the kettles we see today and they were groundbreaking back then. Over the years electric kettles have become much more efficient, with Russell Hobbs making the first automatic electric kettle in the early 1950s. One of the main issues over the years has been the "run dry" issue, leaving the kettle on until the water had boiled off. Russell Hobbs' invention used a bimetallic strip that tripped when steam escaped through the spout, shutting off the kettle. This improved the efficiency and safety aspect of the kettle to no end and although various features have been added over the years Russell Hobbs quite rightly claims the mantle of the inventor of the automatic kettle.

Top 10 Most Innovative Products Of All Time - Which Are Yours? - EngineeringClicks (10)Vacuum cleaner

While such asDysonTo make headlines in the UK vacuum cleaner market, we can trace the original development back to the 1860's when hand vacuum cleaners were invented. Based on the concept of a carpet sweeper, they used rotating brushes and bellows to create suction. While they were groundbreaking in their day, they were bulky, difficult to use, and never really caught on. Fast forward to the late 19th century and we saw John S. Thurman of Missouri patent a "pneumatic carpet restorer" that blew dust into a container. Powered by an internal combustion engine, this was the first powered vacuum cleaner in every respect.

Many inventors around the world were working on their own version of a powered vacuum cleaner, with British engineer Herbert Cecil Booth bringing his machine to market in 1901. The "portable" machine used suction to pull air through a cloth filter, although the original machines were huge and difficult to market. US inventor David T. Kenney created his own version, but this was a 4000-pound stationary steam engine vacuum with telescoping pipes and hoses. While William Henry Hoover is synonymous with vacuum cleaners, it was actually the department store's caretaker, James Murray Spangler, who received the successful patent in 1908 - which Hoover later acquired after Spangler ran out of money. His patent for a portable electric vacuum cleaner that used the suction power generated by an electric fan formed the basis of the highly successful Hoover Company. Then we saw the introduction of steel bodied machines, track rollers and a range of attachments that allow users to get into every nook and cranny. As they say, the rest is history!

What are YOUR top 10 innovative products?

Everyone has a different opinion, so let them have yours! Please leave your comments below and list what you think are the 10 most innovative products of all time.

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