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TV dinner served up as key invention

Lesson plan materials to accompany the August 2002 Newsletter

For a RTF version of  both the plan & the texts



TV dinner served up as key invention

Tania Branigan
Wednesday July 17, 2002
The Guardian

Leftover turkey, soggy peas and a flimsy plastic tray might not seem the stuff of scientific revolutions.

But the humble TV dinner - invented to use up scrap meat - has won itself a place in history, alongside space travel and cloning, as one of 50 innovations that have changed the world in the last half century.

An exhibition celebrating the greatest scientific, medical and technical advances will award ready meals as much prestige as the internet and IVF treatment when it opens at Thinktank, Birmingham's museum of science and technology, this Saturday.

Nominations from the public were filtered by a panel of six scientists, to draw up the final table for the show, Jet Age to Genome.

It marks the Queen's golden jubilee and includes one development from each year of her reign, with remote controls, Prozac, Dolly the sheep and DNA fingerprinting all reaching the shortlist.

"The past 50 years have been the most breathtaking in history in terms of technological breakthroughs that impact on all our lives," said Ruth Gill, the show's curator. "The first passenger jet flew in 1952 and now we have space tourists. The police first used identikits in 1959 and now we have DNA profiling. The first pacemaker was fitted in 1960 and now we have a Birmingham man with an artificial heart."

She added: "Of course, we have things like space travel and Dolly, first mammal cloned from an adult cell, in the list. But apparently trivial things can change our lives in enormous ways. TV dinners changed family life forever."

Richard Gregory, fellow of the Royal Society and a promoter of science education, said the list raised "an incredibly rich bunch of questions" about how science affected us. "The drama of these apparently mundane objects is amazing. Microwave was invented during the war as a secret weapon against the enemy. Now it's in your kitchen. But it's hard to predict what will turn out to be significant."

His point is proved by turkeys in the exhibition's hall of shame, like Betamax video format and the Sinclair C5.


Brainwaves that rocked the world

Wednesday July 17, 2002
The Guardian

Fifty innovations that changed the last 50 years:

1952 First fare paying passengers in a jet airliner

1953 CinemaScope

1954 TV dinner

1955 Non-stick saucepan

1956 TV remote control

1957 Sputnik carries the first living creature into space

1958 Ultrasonic image of unborn child

1959 Mini rolls off the production line

1960 Implanted pacemaker

1961 The Pill goes on the market in the UK

1962 TV satellite relays live pictures

1963 Cassette tape and birth of portable music machines

1964 Home kidney dialysis

1965 Packet switching - essential for the internet

1966 Satellite provides the first whole-earth viewing of the weather

1967 Breathalyser used on drivers

1968 First supersonic airliner, the Soviet T-144

1969 Moon landing

1970 Watches with liquid crystal displays go on sale

1971 CAT scan

1972 Pocket calculator

1973 Cars with airbags

1974 Barcodes on supermarket products

1975 Birth of the home computer

1976 VHS and Betamax

1977 Maiden voyage of space shuttle

1978 Birth of Louise Brown, baby conceived by IVF

1979 Graphical-user interface developed

1980 Ghetto blaster and Sony Walkman

1981 Compact discs on sale

1982 Video keyhole surgery

1983 Synthetic human insulin cleared for sale

1984 DNA fingerprint

1985 First registered dotcom

1986 Laptop computer

1987 Prozac goes on to market

1988 First internet worm unleashed, disabling 10% of computers on the fledgling network

1989 Toaster becomes the first machine to be controlled over the internet

1990 First gene therapy, on a four-year-old girl with an immune system disorder

1991 Internet browser developed

1992 Text messaging

1993 Global Positioning Satellites

1994 Genetically modified tomatoes

1995 Toy Story is the first entirely computer generated feature film

1996 'Deep field' photographs of our universe show how it looked 10 billion years ago

1997 Dolly the sheep is the first mammal cloned from an adult cell

1998 First section of the international space station launched

1999 Electronic, reusable paper invented

2000 Scientists discover how to remove genes from pigs, paving the way for xenotransplants

2001 Microchips inserted into the damaged retinas of three blind men to restore their sight

2002 Iris scanners installed at airports for security


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