Presenter Steven Johnson, in this six-part DVD series, takes the viewer on an exploration through the beginning of ideas and the innovators (mostly never heard of) that shaped and created the modern world. Each single titled episode – Clean, Time, Glass, Light, Cold, Sound – focuses on the birth of a distinct technology and brings it forward to the present day.
For example, in the episode, Glass, Johnson relates how the evolution of this substance created a domino of innovations including the invention of print, reading glasses, the microscope, and telescope. Then there is the tale of an obscure French inventor who, in the episode Sound, invented the first known machine for recording it in the 1850s. The episode, Clean, presents the fascinating story of how Chicago’s buildings were lifted from the ground to create a sewage system. One of the features of the Cold episode includes refrigerated railway cars that allowed beef to be shipped from the plain States to Chicago and on to the rest of the vast country.
With the emphasis of the series being on how many innovations are the result of long evolutionary processes that involve a group of inventors and entrepreneurs, it is highly entertaining and informative with many surprises along the way.