June 25, 2014 8:00 am

Earlier this year, we shared a number of inventions as famous for what you didn’t know about them as what you did. This month we share with you more inventions and the myths surrounding their creation, many of which prove the theory that history’s greatest inventions have been a culmination of smart thinkers improving on a basic idea.

Personal Computer

The name Steve Jobs is familiar to many of you. An entrepreneur, marketer, and inventor, Jobs co-founded Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak and is often credited with birthing the first Personal Computer (PC). While Jobs may be the granddaddy of the Personal Computer revolution, he was not the man who first invented the PC. The credit for this belongs to a Briton named Charles Babbage, a mathematician and inventor who first developed a programmable mechanical computer as “Difference and Analytical Engines.” Seymour Cray designed the supercomputer in 1958, and the first desktop model was introduced in the United States in 1975 by a company called Altair. It wasn’t until 1977 that Jobs and Wozniak introduced the Apple II, followed shortly thereafter in 1981 by IBM’s first desktop.

The Airplane

In December 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright took flight from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve controlled and sustained piloted flight. The brothers revolutionized air transportation with the Wright Flyer, but it was another man, New Zealander Richard Pearse, who first took flight in March of that same year. His flying machine, in fact, bore a much closer resemblance to modern airplanes than the Flyer, with its tractor propeller, back-end stabilizers and elevators, and aileron-controlled baking in a monoplane package.  The Wright brothers excelled in their approach to data gathering, testing, and refinement, an essential tool in aerospace Research and Development.

Radio Transmission

Guglielmo Marconi, 1st Marquis of Marconi and winner of the 1909 Nobel Prize for Physics in recognition of his development of “wireless telegraphy,” is often credited as the inventor of radio. An entrepreneur, businessman, inventor, and founder of Britain’s The Wireless Telegraph & Signal Company, Marconi’s real skill came in innovating and building upon the work of others, including the great Nikola Tesla. Tesla first sent a wireless transmission 25 miles across New York City in 1897 (and would have done so two years earlier if it were not for a tragic fire that decimated his laboratory). Tesla invented radio antennas, tuners, and everything else associated with the first radios but was beaten to the patent punch by Marconi. It was not until 1943 that the United States Supreme Court decided that Tesla’s patent had primacy.

Light Bulbs

Though credited as the inventor of the light bulb, it was not Thomas Edison who provided us with our first “ah ha!” moment. The first electric light was invented on or about 1800 by Englishman Humphrey Davy, who followed up his innovation of the basic electronic battery with electric light through connection of carbon to the battery. In 1860, Joseph Swan worked on the development of longer-lasting carbon paper filaments, and American Charles Francis Brush took the technology to another level in 1877 through development of a series of carbon arcs able to light a public square in Ohio. Edison’s contributions cannot be disregarded, though, as in 1879 Edison placed the carbon filament into an oxygen free bulb, developing a blub with 40-hour illumination. He later was able to expand that time to more than 1,500 hours.

What other famous inventions in history do you think you may have wrong? Or want to prove right?

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