- Period of Use: 1700s to late 1800s
- Made Obsolete By: Electric and Internal Combustion Engines
The Steam Engine was a miracle of technology when it first arrived in the 16th Century. We used steam to power things as early as the 1st Century AD. Yet to do this with larger objects like trains or ships, a true engine needed to be made that could handle all the moving parts those things came with. Thomas Newcomen was the original inventor of the steam engine in the early 1700s but James Watt’s critical improvements in the late 1700s led to steam engine use being widespread.
In fact, Watt’s invention is considered to be one of the catalysts to the Industrial Revolution taking off in Europe. Yet the steam engine, while useful, was no match for electric and internal combustion engines. Gas and Diesel were easy to come by for many years and lasted longer than steam. That allowed traveling longer distances and was MUCH cheaper to use. It would also become essential to the first automobiles too. Thus, putting the steam engine in the realm of obsolete tech products.