How Electrical Engineering Has Shaped the Modern World

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From light bulbs and television to cell phones and GPS, modern advances in electrical engineering have illuminated, informed, and connected the world. But did you know electrical engineering can be traced back to long before Thomas Edison? Discover the many ways electrical engineering has been shaping society for thousands of years.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Ohio University’s Online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program.

How Electrical Engineering Has Shaped the Modern World infographic

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The dynamo

The invention of the crude electric generator known as the electrical dynamo in 1831 by Michael Faraday made it possible for the industrial use of electricity. Faraday’s electrical dynamo was able to generate stable eclectic current, which was a major problem by then. The dynamo also enabled the invention of other conversion devices that were powered by electricity.

The light bulb

Two scientists, Thomas Edison, an American, and a British scientist Joseph Swan invented the light bulb in 1878. The duo developed incandescent light bulbs in their respective nations, which saw the electric lighting of houses and later streets. In 1882, Edison further improved the light bulb by relying on his previous direct current system to illuminate the first electric street lamp in the New York.


The Faraday’s Direct current system was improved by the discovery of the alternating currents by Nikola Tulsa in 1887. Nikola is also credited with the discovery of the polyphase distribution system that proved useful in the transmission of power to the electric AC motors. Tesla’s discovery got the attentions of industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse who was greatly impressed and formed a partnership with Tesla. This collaboration was as crucial as it led to the nationwide use of electricity in America.


The now most famous and important Philo Farnsworth invented household electronic gadget in 1928. Farnsworth made the first public demonstration of an electric television in this year. The public display led to a few countries making televised broadcasts in the early 1930′s. However, the end of the First World War saw a rapid rise in the televised broadcast subscription throughout the world.

Radiolocation and radars

The First World War saw an increase in the risk of aerial attack. Nations were more concerned and took deliberate measures to develop technologies that would identify the aerial attacks. Through the radar technology, nations would simulate the aerial attacks. The breaking out of the Second World War saw the radar and radiolocation become the most important priority, as it was a competitive edge over the enemy forces. The military poured their resources into the development of this technology. At the time of USA entry in the Second World War in 1941, it had already two systems ready for use in the war. These were the 105-MHz SCR-270 and the 205-MHz SCR-268.


It was not until 1941 when Konrad Zuse developed the world’s first programmable computer dubbed the Z3. These developments were vital as they saw the development of other land breaking technologies including the NASA Apollo mission. Scientists relied on the great arithmetical prowess of the Z3 to make their inventions.

Transistors and microprocessors

The compact devices rely on these transistors to perform. A trio of William B. Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain brought the transistors to life in 1947. The breakthrough of the transistors led to the development of the integrated circuit by Jack Kilby in 1959. The personal computers we used in the modern day are attributed to the development of the microprocessors, which were invented in 1968 by Marcian Hoff at Intel.


The modern day long distance telephone services were made possible by the invention of satellites in 1979. The modern-day satellite advances enhanced the establishment of the satellite communication launched in Tokyo in the 1990′s. This era saw a great drop in the prices of the commercial satellite transponders channels that saw a drastic rise in satellite communications including the mobile satellite phones, satellite radios, television, and the satellite internet.

Internet protocol

In 1981, the RFC 791 introduced version 4 of the internet protocol (IP) while RFC 793 introduced the Transmission Control protocol (TCP). These two enabled the creation of the TCP/IP that is heavily relied upon by the current day internet.

Fiber optic

The late 1990′s and early 21st century saw a rapid increase in demand for the internet. Consequently, demand for higher communication bandwidth increased. The internet protocol traffic saw an unprecedented rate of increase than that of the integrated circuit in Moore’s law. The optical fiber cables saw an increasing usage, as they are able to carry up to 100 times more information than the conventional cables suited electronic amplifiers. The fiber optic cables have seen an increase in internet access to billions of people across the world.

Smartphones and Wi-Fi

The early years of the 21st century saw a rise in the development and use of smartphones. These phones were first used in Japan in 1999 but saw a global penetration in mid-2000 to become the standard type of mobile phones today. The development of portable internet access and the Wi-Fi continues to supply users with access to the flow of information.

Space exploration

Between 2004 and 2012 scientist have been studying the environmental condition of the hostile Planet mars. This is possible through the invention of modern day engineering marvel Mars opportunity and the Curiosity rovers.

Future of electronic engineering

Continuing advances in electronic engineering is poised to develop flexible smartphones with holographic displays. This will allow the viewing of the 3D images by several users from different sides of the gadget without using 3-D glasses. Currently, drones are used in military, photography and in reconnaissance. However, advances in drones’ technology will allow a new series of wall climbing drones that can overcome any obstacle using the perching mechanism. The future smart watches will not have to be touched on their screen as they will contain special ring and sensitive receivers converting tactile contacts into signals. Future electrical engineers have to collaborate across industries.