Forbes has a nice writeup on The 20 Most Important Tools Ever. Their list is fascinating, including:
- knife, abacus, compass, pencil, harness
- scythe, rifle, sword, eyeglasses, saw
- watch, lathe, needle, candle, scale
- pot, telescope, level, fishhook, chisel
In Forbes’s words, “these are the tools that have most impacted human civilization and helped move the course of history.”. Notice how simple the tools are, how they perfectly represent the GMC slogan “do one thing, do it well”.
Don’t look too hard at the list, however, because the methodology by which they chose these items is a little frustrating. They purposefully left out a huge number of tools, including social tools like language, simple machines like pulleys, sophisticated tools like computers, and for some reason the printing press. They make the case that the axe is not included in the list because it is simply a wedge, and then they don’t include the wedge but do include a chisel, which is also a wedge. But, as they say, the list is meant to be a idea-generator, not an end-all be-all list.
What I find interesting is how this list compares to software. Are there any tools that we can use software to replace or make better? Surely we use software to write, so we are replacing the pencil in a sense. Also, we use software maps to find our way, although that’s slightly different than using a compass because it’s still hard to use software to tell where we are in relation to north. But we do use GPS software for that…We share images with software, images that could have been taken with telescopes, or stood in for the need of one. And, of course, we use computers for telling time and for counting…does anybody use an abacus anymore?