Technology works by slowly building on top of the technology that was previously in place and improving upon it along the way. The Internet was only possible with computers, which depended upon telephones, which were built on the telegraph, which used elements of basic electricity. It is all based on a few building blocks which everything else gets put on top of.
The wheel is one of these building blocks. It’s funny to think about it this way, but someone had to invent the wheel and realize its potential to change how nearly everything is done. This is how hindsight works – everything looks simpler once it’s been done or thought of.
The cool thing to realize about the wheel is that it doesn’t exist anywhere in nature. No animal uses anything similar to it, and it is completely unique in its ability to move things around. There is no such thing as an organism with wheels, and unlike flight, it wasn’t invented to ape the actions of birds.
Something that I was surprised by was how many other things were invented before the wheel. There were ropes, cloth, and boats before anyone ever thought of evolving the use of logs or cylinders to an actual wheel on an axle.
The first known example of the wheel dates back to around 3,500 BC, which is now referred to as the Bronze Age. The reason why it took so long to be invented is because the wheel required the use of metal working in order to shape it. Even something as simple as this required other prerequisite technology.
The effect of the wheel has been felt everywhere in our daily life. We used to only be able to transport things using our own two legs or the backs of animals. The wheel gave us a whole new medium of transport, and created the possibility of true mobility.
Another thing about the wheel that is extremely important to keep in mind is how it changes third world countries. Unlike the Internet or other recent inventions, the wheel is very cheap to make and use and can greatly enhance people’s quality of life.
So take a look around and observe all the ways wheels have been used to change the way things are done. From wheelchairs to elevators, nearly everything we do owes some debt to the wheel as a building block of later inventions.