10 Everyday Items Invented Much Longer Ago Than You Might Think | Max Swahn

Today, more than ever before, people take their technology for granted, whether it be their smartphone cameras, batteries or the very methods of transport they use to get around. While it’s often easy to assume that almost all modern technology sprouted up in the last century or, at earliest, in the Industrial Revolution, some of the items you use everyday can actually trace their roots back hundreds or even thousands of years. Following are some of the most important technological marvels in our lives today that were invented much longer ago than you might think:

#1. Aircraft

While the planes you take to go on holiday might be a relatively modern invention, aviation in some form has been around for more than two millennia. Although you can attribute the first functioning airplane to the Wright brothers’ invention in 1903, airships have been around for far longer. Although hot air balloons and the earliest hydrogen-filled airships could not be controlled, and were entirely at the mercy of the winds, the first engine-powered flight took place in 1852. Invented by French engineer Henry Giffard, the steam-powered airship flew 17 miles. The invention eventually heralded in a Golden Age of airships in the early twentieth century.

#2. Batteries

Electricity has been known and, to a degree, understood, for centuries. Who precisely can be credited with the invention of the battery is controversial, although Italian inventor Alessandro Volta (after whom the word ‘volt’ comes from) is considered the father of the modern battery in thanks to his invention in 1800. Benjamin Franklin of the US also experimented extensively with electricity in 1749. However, the battery may have been around for over 2,000 years: the world of science remains undecided as to whether or not the mysterious so-called Baghdad battery was actually an ancient electrical device or something entirely different.

#3. Photography

Today’s cameras use much the same technology as they have for almost 200 years. The first permanent photograph was taken by French inventor Nicéphore Niépce in 1825 and, by the middle of the nineteenth century, monochrome photography was already widely known. Colour photography, of course, came much later. Nonetheless, the first colour photograph was taken in 1861 and, by the very early twentieth century, Russian photographer Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii was taking colour photos from across Tsarist Russia that are probably at least as high in quality as anything your smartphone is capable of.

#4. Steam Engines

Although they’re long gone from use in trains, steam turbines are responsible for generating much of the world’s electricity in the form of hydroelectric dams. Although the invention of the steam engine is typically credited for jumpstarting the Industrial Revolution in the late eighteenth century, the underlying technology is almost two millennia old, dating back to when Hero of Alexandria invented the rudimentary aeolipile, although it appears unlikely that the device was ever used for practical purposes. The modern steam engine traces its roots back to Thomas Savery’s design in 1698, when he built the first practical steam engine.

#5. Bicycles

German inventor Karl Drais is usually credited with the invention of the bicycle in 1817, and the following decades saw the rise of all manner of similar human-powered inventions, such as the bizarre penny-farthing. Nonetheless, sketches of bicycles date back much further, with the first schematics often being attributed to Giacomo Caprotti, a pupil of genius Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci. However, experts are not unanimously agreed on the claim, although others have successfully reconstructed the bicycle drawn up by Caprotti and found that it does indeed work just like a modern design.

#6. Contact Lenses

Although best known for his works of art, Leonardo Da Vinci was also a great inventor, and one of the many inventions that may be verifiably attributed to him is the contact lens in 1508 when he first introduced the concept in his Codex of the Eye publication. However, although his designs were sound, they had no practical purpose during his time, since the technology required to make them was unavailable. The first usable contact lens wasn’t invented until centuries later in 1888 by German ophthalmologist Adolf Fick. All early contact lenses were made from glass.

#7. Central Heating

Central heating is another invention dating back to the ancient world, although it usually took on a very different form to what you might be used to today. The ancient Greeks originally invented central heating and, during the Roman times, it came into wide use in various public buildings and homes of the wealthy. The first systems were powered by furnaces that would heat air and circulate it through voids under floors and pipes up the walls. The collapse of the Roman Empire, however, saw the disappearance of central heating for some 1,000 years until its reinvention in the nineteenth century.

#8. Running Water

While the Romans were famous for their sewers and aqueducts, their plumbing technology was far more sophisticated to the extent that you probably wouldn’t feel particularly out of place in a luxury Roman villa to this day. However, running water is much older than the Romans, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that wealthy Egyptians and Mesopotamians were having showers in their own homes over 3,000 years ago. Unfortunately, with the fall of the Roman Empire, however, showers didn’t see the light of day again until the first mechanical one was invented in 1767.

#9. Telephones

Numerous inventors and scientists experimented with the concept of an electrically powered method of communication across large distances, although Alexander Graham Bell is usually credited with the invention of the telephone in 1876. Nonetheless, the first telegraphic message was sent in 1816 by English inventor Francis Ronalds. However, mechanical telecommunications devices were around far longer than their electrically powered successors. These acoustic devices typically came in the form of speaking tubes, particularly in large buildings and aboard ships, and they’re still in use today on ships as a backup in the event of electrical failure.

#10. Computers

To understand the history of the computer, it is important to first agree on the very definition of the word. After all, there’s not much in common between a 4,500-year-old abacus and the computing powerhouse in your tiny smartphone. However, while the first programmable computer was invented by German engineer Konrad Zuse in 1941, the history of computers is far longer. All early computers featured analogue designs, the invention of which is indisputably attributed to English engineer Charles Babbage. Babbage first drew up plans for his so-called difference engine in 1822, and you can see his second model today in the London Science Museum.

Final Words

It’s often hard to imagine that, despite modern technology bringing in an entirely new age of human progress, that many of the things people take for granted can actually trace their roots back to ancient times. With a few important exceptions, such as the invention of printing in the thirteenth century, technological advancement was relatively stagnant during the centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire and the early days of the Industrial Revolution. As such, many postulate an alternative history scenario whereby the Dark Ages never occurred. Perhaps, after all, had technological progress continued unabated, humanity would have been sending rockets to the moon centuries ago!

Thinking About an Engineering Degree? Which Branch is Right for You? | Max Swahn

Although there are a handful of well-known core engineering branches such as Industrial, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, Chemical and Computer, there are scores more of other branches and sub-branches.  Regardless of which discipline you choose as an undergraduate, you will likely obtain a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (BSE). Each University has its own offering of degrees, programs, specialties and curriculums.  To be able to determine what is right for you, you must first understand what the different branches entail; the industry trends and needs, salary and growth potential, and most importantly – what interests you.  Earning an Engineering degree is not an easy task.  Typically taking 4-5 years of intensive coursework in math, science and technology; it will be less overwhelming if you choose a field that genuinely excites you.

As a 2018 graduate of  The University of Pittsburgh, Swanson School of Engineering, I will touch on some of the core options offered within their undergraduate Engineering program.  This is far from a complete list, but it will give you a good idea of the differences of the varied branches.  Further research will be needed to help you narrow down which University and program best suits your individual passions.

Industrial Engineering

As stated on the University’s website, “Industrial engineering (IE) is about choices – it is the engineering discipline that offers the most wide-ranging array of opportunities in terms of employment, and it is distinguished by its flexibility. While other engineering disciplines tend to apply skills to very specific areas, Industrial Engineers may be found working everywhere: from traditional manufacturing companies to airlines, from distribution companies to financial institutions, from major medical establishments to consulting companies, from high-tech corporations to companies in the food industry.”

Industrial engineering may also overlap with numerous other sub-disciplines such as: operations researchsystems engineeringmanufacturing engineeringproduction engineeringsupply chain engineeringmanagement sciencemanagement engineeringfinancial engineeringergonomics or human factors engineeringsafety engineering, or others, depending on the viewpoint or motives of the user.


According to Wikipedia, “Mechanical engineering is the discipline that applies engineering physics, engineering mathematics, and materials science principles to design, analyze, manufacture, and maintain mechanical systems.”

It is one of the oldest and broadest types of engineering.  Mechanical Engineers work in fields including engines and control systems for automobiles and aircraft, medical devices, consumer products like computers and athletic equipment, and electrical power plants.

If you like fiddling with mechanical devices, this could be the field for you!


Civil engineering is the professional practice of designing and developing infrastructure projects. This can be on a huge scale, such as the development of nationwide transport systems or water supply networks, or on a smaller scale, such as the development of single roads or buildings. Civil engineers conceive, design, build, supervise, operate, construct, and maintain infrastructure projects and systems in the public and private sector, including roads, buildings, airports, tunnels, dams, bridges, and systems for water supply and sewage treatment.

Often times, a Civil engineer will specialize in Structural engineering.  Drones are one of the latest technologies used by Structural engineers.


Electrical engineers focus on applications of electrical power and learn to design devices and systems used in applications including communications, power generation and distribution, computers, sensing and measurement and automatic control.  Employment opportunities include research and development, system design, testing, manufacturing, and sales, while others continue to graduate studies.

As an electrical engineer, you could specialize in power generation and supply, communications and media, computer systems and robotic systems.


This type of engineering concerns the use of chemical and biological processes to produce useful materials or substances. It’s a multidisciplinary subject, combining natural and experimental sciences (such as chemistry and physics), along with life sciences (such as biology, microbiology and biochemistry), plus mathematics and economics.

Chemical engineers work in diverse sectors including petroleum, polymer, biochemistry, the environment, and even food industries.


Computer engineering concerns the design and prototyping of computing hardware and software. This subject merges electrical engineering with computer_science.

You may find yourself as a software developer or a computer engineer with this brand of engineering!

Regardless of which path you pursue, to be successful you will no doubt need to possess strong analytical, technical, communication, critical thinking and leadership skills.  Although an Engineering degree sounds ‘singular’, the range of opportunity is endless.  From processes to chemistry, computers to mechanics, electrical to infrastructure – engineering runs the gamut.

If any of these branches intrigue you, dig deeper.  The perfect fit is out there.

Petroleum Engineer to Body Engineer:  Meet Bhuwan Chauhan

Petroleum Engineer to Body Engineer:  Meet Bhuwan Chauhan

By Max Swahn

Born in Delhi, India on January 7, 1994, Bhuwan Chauhan is the first Indian International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Pro and the youngest Canadian Men’s Physique Pro.  But he wasn’t always set out to become a championship bodybuilder.

Raised in India, Bhuwan moved to Canada in 2011 to attend the University of Alberta.  With an academic, leadership and sports scholarship in-hand, he pursued a degree in Engineering.  While still in school, through hard work and dedication, he was able to land a job at Encana, an oil and gas company.  In 2015, Bhuwan graduated from University of Alberta as a First Class Distinction student with a 3.7 GPA and a degree in Petroleum Engineering.  He continued working for the oil and gas company following graduation.

While Petroleum Engineering was his profession, bodybuilding quickly became his passion.  Although he started working out while at University, Bhuwan didn’t begin competing until 2016.  That year he competed in and won both the Southern Alberta Championship and the Alberta Provincials Championship.  And then in 2017 he competed and won the Ben Weider Cup and obtained his pro card.

With his pro card in-hand, Bhuwan officially turned his bodybuilding passion into his profession.  He quit his engineering job in May 2018 to pursue his bodybuilding goals full time as a sponsored athlete and started his coaching company Bhuwan Chauhan Fitness.

Was it an easy decision?  Not necessarily.  In an interview with MensXP he shared his thoughts:

“I have unmatched discipline and work ethic and I am willing to suffer and struggle as much it takes. At the end of the day you really need to suffer in this sport to get better and become successful.”  “Anybody who wants to follow their dreams, the number one thing is to rise above your fear. You must also make sure that you are not blindly following your passion. Have a good understanding of all the possibilities. That’s what I did, I made sure I am educated so in case I fail I can go back to my job but if I succeed, I get to make my passion my profession.”

Well that he did.  As a world class bodybuilder, he has competed and won numerous competitions since that first win in 2016.  He has his own fitness coaching business called Team Bhuwan.  His latest win was the Vancouver Pro Show July 14, 2019.  On top of that, in 2019 he achieved one of his biggest goals when he qualified for Olympia 2019!

You can follow Bhuwan Chauhan on his Instagram.

Bodybuilding, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership – by Max Swahn

When comparing the life of a bodybuilder to that of an entrepreneur, it may not seem as though the two would have a lot in common.  However that is simply not true.  A bodybuilding lifestyle requires many of the same skills as an entrepreneur and leader.  It is not surprising that an entrepreneur would be disciplined, organized, motivated, dedicated and have a competitive nature.  But to reach the body’s full potential; a bodybuilder must possess and apply all these same skills.

Managing and adhering to a strict diet of healthy proteins and fats requires tremendous discipline.  A bodybuilder must be very organized when scheduling time for meal prep and workouts within the confines of daily life.  It takes great motivation to constantly push to achieve the best version of him/her self.  There is always something that can be improved.  Goals are set and constantly evolving, but the ‘finish line’ is never truly achieved.  The constant need to maintain or build something better is always on the horizon.

A bodybuilder is dedicated to being the best.  Whether that means constantly working to achieve the best version of him/her self or competing against others in a formal competition – the goal is to be better.  Better than you are now.  Better than your competition.

As you can see, bodybuilders possess many of the same essential skills as entrepreneurs.  But it doesn’t stop with just fitness.  These skills can be applied to all facets of life. Not only do bodybuilders possess these skills and apply them to their fitness lifestyle, many carry that beyond fitness and apply these skills as successful entrepreneurs and leaders.  Discipline, organization, motivation, dedication and a competitive nature are indispensible skills whether you are a bodybuilder, entrepreneur or both.

This article was originally posted on Max Swahn’s Thrive Global account. 


The Arnold Sports Festival

The Arnold Sports Festival

Founded in 1989 in Columbus, Ohio as a 1 day bodybuilding competition named The Arnold Classic, the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Arnold Sports Festival (ASF) has grown to become the largest 4-day multi-sport event in the world.  Held not only in the United States, the ASF is also currently held in Australia, Europe, Brazil and Africa.

According to PCMA, the Professional Convention Management Association,  “In 1989, after winning the Mr. Olympia contest in Columbus every year between 1970-1975, bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger, along with sports promoter Jim Lorimer, launched the very first Arnold Sports Festival. What began as a small, one-day professional bodybuilding competition in Columbus, with just 24 competitors, is now an international four-day festival that features more than 80 sports and events and draws more athletes than the Olympics!.”

Featuring over 22,000 athletes from around the world, it now encompasses not only bodybuilding (the Arnold Classic), but strongman (the Arnold Strongman Classic), fitness, figure and bikini competitions (professional and amateur), and so much more.

These athletes will compete in more than 80 different events including a record 16 Olympic events. The ASF website lists the 16 Olympic events as: “archery, boxing, fencing, futsal, gymnastics, handball, judo, karate, a 5K run, soccer, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon and weightlifting.”  In addition to the 22,000 athletes, it is expected that more than 200,000 sports and fitness fans will descend upon the Columbus Ohio area to cheer on their favorite athletes.  Events will be held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, the Ohio Expo Center and various other central Ohio venues.

Major events include the 32nd annual Arnold Classic, the Arnold Strongman Classic, the Arnold Amateur Strongman and World Championships, and the Arnold Amateur NPC Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure, Bikini and Physique Championships.   The Arnold Fitness EXPO, featuring more than 1,000 booths and exhibitors, is the nation’s largest health and fitness exposition.  Showcasing leading industry businesses and featuring the latest in sports equipment, apparel and nutrition; there will be four stages hosting unique, non-stop competitions and entertainment.

In addition to the traditional events, the Arnold Sports Festival (ASF) will debut a new amateur “wellness division” and Arnold Education in 2020.  According to the NPC News online website, the wellness division is “for females with athletic physiques that showcase more body mass in the hips, glutes and thigh areas. The upper body is developed but not to the same degree as the lower body.”  Other new events in 2020 will include WPO Powerlifting, Medieval Fighting, Teen Strongman, Cup Stacking, ROGUE World Weightlifting Challenge and more.

If you are interested in learning the methods and science behind the athletics, Arnold Education may be for you.  ASF has teamed up with the training company Dominate Your Game!.  The ASF website explains:  “With top speakers from strength & conditioning, sports nutrition, rehabilitation, fitness & health, and the sport sciences, you will have the opportunity to be exposed to the best research in the industry, and also learn how to apply it in the real world, for yourself and your clients.”

From an expanded kids and teens EXPO, to the new wellness division and Arnold Education, to the Arnold Classic and Strongman competitions – there is something for everyone.  No matter your age, whether you are a professional, amateur or fan you won’t be disappointed.  The festival will be held in Columbus, Ohio March 5th – 8th 2020.

To see all 80+ sports, events and schedules and to get your tickets, check out the official Arnold Sports Festival website.

Who knows, maybe you will be lucky enough to see the man himself!


Remembering Body Building Legend Konstantins Konstantinovs

The bodybuilding world has suffered the loss of a legend. Konstantins Konstantinovs, a world record holder, passed on Sunday, October 28th at the age of 40. Those close to him have chosen not to make the cause of death public, but there are reports his bodybuilding and lifestyle was not the cause of death. His death was announced by bodybuilder Cailer Woolman with a heartfelt Instagram post.

Konstantinovs holds the world record for raw deadlift without a belt and was only beaten recently in the top deadlift with or without a belt. In 2009, the record was set when he lifted 939.2 pounds – all without a belt. The record was held up until 2016 when Eddie Hall lifted 1,102.3 pounds – but this time with a belt. Kontantinovs’ record still holds as the record for raw deadlift without a belt.

Konstantins started the athletic lifestyle early in his life with gymnastics and followed up with judo and strength training. He started around the age of 16 with powerlifting, as he stated in an interview from 2010. The first competition where Konstantins placed was in 2002 at the WPC Junior World Powerlifting Championships where he took home the 1st place medal. The next year he took home the 1st place spot in the GPC World Powerlifting Championships as well.

There is a quote from Konstantins from an interview where he said, “You should always keep in mind that this day may be the last for us. The ‘next competition’ will never happen, if you can lift the record today, never postpone it for tomorrow”. He was an avid reader of poetry and would read before a competition to get ready and in the right mindset. He said his favorite poet was Vladimir Mayakovsky from the Soviet Union.

Other bodybuilders around the world paid tribute to Konstantins with posts on Instagram. Bodybuilder Dan Green wrote about meeting Konstantinovs and his “gracious and warm” attitude he had. He recalled a time that his booming voice and his “lift or die” mentality at warm-ups would intimidate everyone around him. Konstantins made an impact on many bodybuilders’ lives and will live on in many powerlifting competitions for years to come.

Why An Engineering Background Sets Entrepreneurs Up For Success

Many people believe that going to school to study engineering means that the student is destined to do nothing more than work for a company as an engineer. According to recent data, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, an engineering background gives people the tools needed to be a successful entrepreneur. So how exactly does engineering set up business owners for success?

  • Always Maximizing Work Efficiency
  • The Ability to Adapt and Accept Change
  • Identifying and Utilizing Strengths and Weaknesses

Always Maximizing Work Efficiency

Engineers are constantly looking for the most efficient ways to design products and improve process flow. As new information demonstrates that these improvements are possible, they are more than willing to implement these new ideas for better efficiency results. This is the same tactic as is employed in the business world. Those who are willing to implement new ideas for the sake of efficiency are usually able to get more done in a shorter period of time.

The Ability to Adapt and Accept Change

Some more traditional managers and business leaders may find that they are stuck in their ways and ultimately end up holding the company back from the true potential. Those with an engineering background however realize that change is one of the biggest ways to progress forward. After all, engineering as a whole relies on change to better meet the needs of the world. By applying these same principles to the world of business, an engineer can provide a unique perspective on the company and continue to propel the business into the future while leaving outdated techniques in the past.

Identifying and Utilizing Strengths and Weaknesses

Much like an engineer, business leaders must identify a variety of problems in the workplace and come up with ways to solve them. This is often done by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each employee in the company. By better understanding who is best suited for what job and who should avoid certain areas of the business, the company workflow will be far more productive and will progress with fewer issues.  Even the weaknesses of particular employees can be turned into strengths when the right opportunities are identified.

Why Engineering Curriculums Need to Leverage the Role of Innovation

Engineering is a profession that encompasses a wide-range of services and vocations. No matter what type of engineer someone wants to become, they need  a good education in order to be successful, but this is where some schools are falling short. According to, there are several ways to bridge the gap between industry requirements and academic curriculums.


Any good infrastructure needs to start with the right tools. The proper technology will provide the methods needed to teach students at a professional level, which will lead to competent and well-educated engineers when they graduate. By having quality technology, students will be better equipped to handle engineering problems out in the real world.


Having the right instructor is also very important in any learning process. Studies show that people respond well to teachers who care. By introducing interactive classrooms and techniques, students can learn more effectively and feel comfortable providing feedback. Engaging in discussion groups, participating in role-play and having debates are all innovative ways students can learn. By including everyone in the process, nobody feels left out and the students end up helping each other.


Being too insular can be a bad thing, even in the most successful groups. Students should be able to collaborate on things like research studies, creating curriculums, and getting real-world experience, even visiting and attending rival universities. By having students and faculty working together, potential gaps in education can be filled, creating more well-rounded and experienced students. Getting students into internships is also key, since the real world is vastly different than the academic point of view one gets from sitting in a classroom.


The field of engineering is extremely data-driven, and it’s not especially entertaining or colorful, therefore it is always important to encourage innovation. Teaching students basic business skills is another great way to create well-rounded students because it helps them combine their engineering degree with the skills to handle business strategies and startups. Creating open minds is very important in the field of engineering because it helps students to think outside the box.

Finding Your Fit

Every individual has his or her own unique set of skills, and brings with them different competencies. It is important to help people find jobs that are a good fit – that focus on their strengths and career goals. Having a good understanding of the field, the companies involved in the industry and the aspirations of the individual will help provide the best outcomes for all involved.  Ultimately, the goal is to have the perfect fit between the individual and the company. If schools actively expose their students’ to a variety of companies through internships and co-ops, it’s a win-win after all. Higher graduate employment rates help schools attract the best talent. Exposure to real world career experience helps the most talented students secure their ideal job after graduation.

Robert Lang: Using Engineering to Bring Origami to Life

Robert Lang has worked as a physicist, engineer, and R&D manager. He has authored or co-authored over 80 technical publications and has 50 patents awarded/pending on semiconductor lasers, optics and integrated optoelectronics. He wrote his PhD thesis on semiconductor lasers, with a focus on laser geometries and spectral properties. He also worked as a physicist, researching lasers for NASA. In 2001 however, Robert Lang left all of that behind to pursue his lifelong passion of origami.

In the origami universe, Lang is highly renowned. He currently has a catalog of over 500 designs, but it’s not just his stunningly beautiful and highly detailed work that makes him famous. He is actually making a difference in the world. Some of his techniques have been applied towards fixing real-world engineering problems and complex medical procedures.

In addition to his own love for origami, he also enjoys helping others and has written books and created software to teach people how to implement designs. One of his programs, TreeMaker is able to construct a crease pattern from any simplistic “tree” (stick figure) drawing. His other program, ReferenceFinder, can take an existing pattern and provide a step-by-step computer-generated folding sequence. This folding program incorporates the seven truths about origami folding, known as the Huzita-Justin axioms. These are a set of mathematical rules related to the principles of paper folding.

While Lang was an artist-in-residence at MIT, he gave a lecture about origami and its relationship to mathematical notions. He also gave a highly-praised TED Talk entitled “The Math And Magic Of Origami”. During this lecture, he demonstrated how mathematics and the invention of an origami “language” have led to the industry-changing forms of origami that are starting to appear. We are no longer creating simple origami cranes. Based on its innate ability to fold and unfold at any time, the concept of origami has transformed how we design, manufacture, assemble and package many of today’s products. Origami is inspiring engineers to look beyond traditional designs to make “smart structures”. These new products are able to bend and stretch while providing incredible functionality. During his TED talk, he showed how engineers are basically using 7th-century Japanese art to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. His foldable glass telescope was one of the highlights.

Thanks to pioneers like Robert Lang, companies have been able to take this design concept even further, creating new and improved versions of automobile airbags and bulletproof police shields. The technology has also impacted space travel, lace-free shoes, foldable kayaks, and temporary “cardborigami” shelters to help homeless people. Scientists studying undersea life now have an underwater bot to safely capture sea creatures for research. Even home decor has been revolutionized by origami lighting. In the health industry, GE Healthcare joined with Brigham Young University to design an origami cover for the arm extension of an operating room X-ray machine, and we now have surgical items that can enter narrow openings in the human body and unfold after insertion, such as probes, forceps, and stents.