In almost 250 years of history, the U.S. has been responsible for many inventions that have made a considerable impact on the world.
Everyone knows about the big ones, like the internet, the airplane, or the credit card, but there are literally thousands of other interesting inventions that fly under the radar. These advancements in technology have come from every corner of the country, and it’s worth knowing some of the more important ones.
Today’s infographic comes from MNU and it breaks down the most impactful inventions from each state, along with the year and inventor associated with each advancement.
It’s pretty hard to argue against the importance of inventions like the iPhone, the television, or the helicopter. However, as with any list like this, many of the choices are still quite arbitrary and subjective.
With that in mind, let’s look at the contributions from the biggest states, as well as important advancements in technology made in other parts of the country.
The “Big” States
To begin, here are the inventions from the “big” states – the three that dominate the country in terms of GDP and population.
California: The iPhone, finally released in 2007, is credited to Steve Jobs and the Apple engineers that made it possible. It’s worth noting that you can also thank the folks in the Golden State for inventing the popsicle, WD-40, hula hoops, and of course, many of the digital goodies coming out of Silicon Valley.
New York: The credit card is credited to Frank McNamara, a founder of Diners Club International. The story behind the first Diners Club card is famous. The gist of it is: McNamara was in a restaurant with clients in NYC, but forgot his wallet. His wife had to drive to the restaurant to pay the tab for him, and in that moment he conceived of a multipurpose charge card that could be used with just a signature.
Other famous inventions from the Empire State? Jell-O, toilet paper, potato chips, and air conditioning.
Texas: From the Lone Star State comes the electric typewriter, which is also an obvious precursor to the PC. You can also thank Texans for a variety of food innovations. Corndogs, chili, frozen margaritas, and even fajitas are all allegedly from Texas.
Contributions like the iPhone and credit card are pretty impressive – but other states have also made incredible contributions to the modern economy.
The first gas-powered automobile was made in Ohio, and then Michigan took autos another step forward with the invention of the assembly line. In nearby Indiana, the gas pump was invented to put fuel in cars.
People in other states built on what Texas did with the electric typewriter. The first digital computer was built in 1937 in Illinois, the first computer mouse was built in Oregon, and the first IBM PC was made in Florida in 1981. The good folks at MIT in Massachusetts also helped create the World Wide Web, which prompted the information revolution we live and breathe today.
Mapping the Spread of Words Along Trade Routes
When goods traveled to new regions, their native names sometimes hitchhiked along with them. This map shows the spread of loanwords around the world.
Mapping the Spread of Words Along Trade Routes
In the early history of international trade, when exotic goods traveled to new regions, their native names sometimes hitchhiked along with them.
Naturally, the Germans have a term – Wanderwörter – for these extraordinary loanwords that journey around the globe, mutating subtly along the way.
Today’s map, produced by Haisam Hussein for Lapham’s Quarterly, charts the flow of Wanderwörter along global trade routes.
China’s export dominance over tea influenced how people around the world refer to their steeped beverages.
The spread of tea along the Silk Road from Mandarin-speaking Northern China resulted in much of Asia and Africa having similar sounding words for tea. Chá evolved into the chai widely consumed in India and surrounding areas today.
Tea’s other major trade route, through Min-speaking Southern China, spread the pronunciation that became the standard around Europe. This is why we see such striking similarities between thé (French), thee (Dutch), tee (German), té (Spanish), and tè (Italian).
Sometimes, a word’s journey isn’t completely linear.
In the case of tomatoes, the Italians’ decision to dub the red fruit pomodoro, or golden apple, led to a linguistic fork in the road. This is the reason the English name for tomatoes is still similar to the Aztec term tomatl, but in Russian, pomidor can be traced back to Italian.
Many people in North America would be surprised to learn that “cotton” is a direct link to the Arabic word al-qutn.
When the Spanish brought coca from South America and spread it into the global market, its easy-to-pronounce name tagged along for the entire journey. Though its spelling may differ across cultures, say the word “coca” in many countries and people will likely know what you’re referring to.
A Small World After All
Most of us are vaguely aware that parts of our langauge consist of loanwords from other regions and cultures, but seeing the spread of language in map form is a powerful reminder that the globalization as we know it is a continuation of centuries of commercial and cultural exchange.
Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions
The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the landmark agreement reach critical mass to move forward.
Visualizing Africa’s Free Trade Ambitions
A united African continent working towards common goals would be a major force on the global economic stage.
To this end, nations in the region have been working towards an ambitious plan to create the world’s largest trade area. The Gambia recently became the latest country to ratify the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), helping the agreement reach critical mass to move forward.
Today’s graphic helps put the region – and the status of AfCFTA – into perspective.
The Patchwork Problem
One key to unlocking the region’s economic potential is making it easier for Africa’s 55 countries to trade with one another.
Currently, Africa is a patchwork of regulations and tariffs, and trade between countries has suffered as a result. For example, only 10% of Nigeria’s annual trade activity is with other African countries. This is a surprising given the country’s dominant economic standing and location firmly in the center of the continent.
As a whole, Africa’s intra-continental trade level hovers at just around 20%, while nations in Europe and Asia are at 69% and 59%, respectively. Clearly, there is a lot of room for growth.
What is AfCFTA?
AfCFTA is the biggest free trade agreement since the establishment of the World Trade Organization.
The objective of the agreement is to create a single continental market for goods and services, with free movement of business people and investments.
Last year, 44 African leaders signed an agreement to ratify AfCFTA, with half that number needed to move the agreement forward. Earlier this week, The Gambia was the 22nd country to announce that its government has ratified the agreement, meeting the threshold to officially put the wheels in motion.
We have witnessed a historic moment for the African Continent. AfCFTA is now set to become operational within
the month, creating a single continental market for goods
– Mark-Anthony Johnson, CEO, JIC Holdings
The good news for the agreement is that many of Africa’s largest economies – including Egypt and South Africa – are already on board. There is, however, one significant holdout.
The Elephant in the Room
Even though the threshold for pushing AfCFTA forward has been reached, Nigeria’s lack of commitment is still a major blow to the strength and credibility of the agreement.
Nigeria’s situation is complicated. The country’s economic prospects are bright, and Lagos is on a trajectory to become the world’s largest city over the next few decades. On the other hand, there is fierce opposition from labor unions, and the country is home to largest concentration of people living in extreme poverty in the world.
[AfCFTA is] an extremely dangerous and radioactive
neo-liberal policy initiative.
– Ayuba Wabba, President of NLC, Nigeria’s largest labor union
While the majority of African nations appear to be on board with the plan to enact AfCFTA, it remains to be seen whether Nigeria comes along for the ride or decides to go it alone.
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