Glass and Technology Connection! Looking at technology that we take for granted now a days, you can trace back a surprising piece of our everyday lifestyle. Indeed, right back to the glass making Mesopotamian times! But which is it? No, not beer, although that is indeed one for which we have them to thank.

What is the connection with our Ancient Predecessors’ invention of glass and our regular technology?

The Tech Bit

Glass and Technology Connection. Let’s begin with the science Silicon dioxide is an odd thing indeed. At its core it shares a few qualities akin to water, in the sense that it changes state when heat is applied to it. Although it takes a much greater heat to create the change. Although unlike water, which returns to its former state when it cools, silicon dioxide doesn’t quite pull this off. When it’s cooled down from 500 degrees Fahrenheit it exists in a kind of limbo state – not fully in its original state and no longer melted. We call it glass.

Who Came Up With Glass?

Glass was first involved as a cutting-edge technology during the Roman times, (although it dates back to Mesopotamian times.) When advances of the day meant it didn’t look so cloudy and could be made a bit sturdier, and they picked up their techniques from the Hellenistic era. Windows were popular and the future had arrived! Lots of offshoot industries were created around now – many that we’d still recognise today. Glass being used more regularly as vessels for holding and consuming liquids, more windows etc.

Now glass is real slow burn technology (no pun intended.) It wasn’t really until the 1200’s that we see the next big leap for this global impacting technology. The glass makers were thought of as artists and as a highly skilled trade. The problem was that whilst modern glass makers could by then do some pretty cool stuff – like bend the glass, form shapes and more; due to the production techniques of burning materials at very highly temperatures, the industry came with a less desirable side effect of burning down wood based villages and towns.

A Closer Look

After years of trial and error, a super clear form of glass was created. And it didn’t take long for some bright spark to work out something amazing! If you bent a small disk of glass in the middle, then you had your first set of eyesight correcting glasses on your hands. The printing presses spread the written word in the 1400’s and made literacy accessible to the masses. And it also highlighted to a staggeringly large number of people that they had issues with their eyesight.

Within a hundred years, there were thousands of spectacle makers across Europe. Entire new industries had been born and were now thriving across entire continent.

What Glass Did For Scientists

Entrepreneurial spirit has been around since the dawn of trade. And it didn’t take long for new ideas about how to use these lenses and how to do cutting edge stuff with them. In the 1590’s the concept of placing lenses in front of each other created the early microscope. Hundreds of years of scientific progress were unleashed and discoveries in health and our collective understanding of how the World works were made.

Technology and Glass

Some time later, in the 19th and 20th centuries, innovations occurred that meant we could start to use glass to show things beyond the human eye. Notably focusing beams of light through special glass onto special paper gave birth to cameras. And in the 1940’s coating glass with phosphor and firing electrons at it gave us television.

In the 1970’s glass was made so transparent that you could have a piece the length of a bus. You could still have a see-through window despite its thickness. However, this really came into its own when researchers made a further discovery. When this technology was combined with lasers, that zeros and ones could be fired down cables now known as fibre optics.

And What Else?

Glass and Technology Connection. The mobile phone you hold in your hand each day, that you are likely taking for granted, depends very much on glass.

It is not overstating it when I say that entire global communication network and internet backbone owes its success to glass. And those progressions in the glass industry. Of course, the old saying that the things that are truly essential are invisible to the eye, is true here.

We have become so used to the awesome and globally changing pedigree of glass! And now, you may not  think of it as a cutting-edge technology, yet it is.

Although these days, many other technologies are standing on the shoulders of the giant that is glass.

I get really excited about new innovations in technology all the time. One of the reasons is not because of the short term impact these things, like selfies or a faster processor here or there. No, for me these are inconsequential applications of the more fundamental technologies that underpin these tools. What gets me engaged in the topics is the realisation that the long view of technology has been with us for thousands of years past. And it is with us now and will be in thousands of years from now.

Everything we do is both cutting edge, normal, old fashioned and primitive all at the same time. I love reflecting on where we’ve been with our tech, how it informs our behaviour and opportunities today and most importantly, what it means for where can choose to go tomorrow.

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