5 key innovations in heavy machinery history



Nothing has done more to shape the world's landscape than heavy machinery. It's converted seasides into cities and prairies into places to live. It's cleared the way for roads.

Yes, heavy machinery has shaped landscapes, and in the process it has shaped countless lives.

It is hard to imagine a time before bulldozers, backhoes and bucket trucks. But there was a time when men moved the earth with nothing more than simple shovels. Thankfully, these five key innovations in heavy machinery's history changed the world forever:

Steam Engine
Prior to the invention of the steam engine, there was no heavy equipment for moving earth or building. All of the heavy lifting was literally done by man. Sure, they had tools--shovels, hoes, picks and axes--but they didn't have a giant piece of equipment that could move large amounts of dirt quickly and efficiently.

In the early 1700s, the steam engine was invented. It allowed for the invention of tools that could accomplish in mere seconds what it would take a man with a shovel hours or even days to do.

Internal Combustion
While steam engines gave men the ability to develop large pieces of equipment, the internal combustion engine let them maximize the use of force to get the most out of their equipment. Not only were internal combustion engines more efficient, allowing for even more work to be completed in shorter periods of time, but they were also lighter and more mobile. The meant men could take their heavy machine to even more remote areas to clear and build.

The Continuous Track
Even if internal combustion engines were lighter than the steam engines they replaced, they were still extremely heavy and difficult to haul. That's why the continuous track was such an important invention.

The continuous track took heavy machinery to the next level, making it truly mobile. Because it could traverse all types of land--flat, hilly, brush or downed-tree covered--it allowed builders to get to places they otherwise would have never been able to develop.

Diesel Fuel
The nice thing about diesel fuel is that it's cost efficient. Before it was invented and used for heavy machinery, equipment could not run for long periods of time and it often broke down. Diesel fuel changed all that.

It costs a lot less to run heavy machinery on diesel fuel than on steam. And the wear and tear on the equipment's engines is greatly reduced. This means companies can afford even more equipment, resulting in even more development.

Computers
Imagine a world where mapping and planning for construction was all done by hand. Well, that's the way it was before computers. Everything took longer and everything was much less efficient.

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