most popular aphorism in the world relevant to
technology. But is it always true? Not
so much. Many of the greatest inventions
in history were not brought about in response to some
necessity but instead actually gave birth to a new
One might suggest that often there are different
forces at work in the invention process:
exploratory endeavors, human curiosities, offhand
observations -- even accidental discoveries. The
consequent invention then becomes something that
mankind cannot live without. Some say half of
the best inventions are in the latter category.
No reason to argue about it, though...
You are invited to decide for youself by scanning the names of 320 inventions listed by Encyclopedia Britannica as the "Greatest Inventions of All Time."...and put each invention in one of two categories  response to necessity or  resulting in new necessity. My guess is you will find an even split. Same for my portfolio, by the way.
aerosol can | air conditioning | airbag, automotive | airplane, engine-powered | airship | alphabet | American Sign Language | animation, motion-picture | answering machine, telephone | aspartame | aspirin | assembly line | astrolabe | AstroTurf | audiotape | automated teller machine (ATM) | automobile | baby food, prepared | bag, flat-bottomed paper | Bakelite | ball bearing | balloon, hot-air | bandage, adhesive | bar code | barbed wire | barometer | battery, electric storage | beer | bicycle | bifocal lens | bikini | blood bank | blow-dryer | bomb, atomic | bomb, thermonuclear (hydrogen) | boomerang | Braille system | brassiere (bra) | bread, sliced (bread-slicing machine) | button | buttonhole | calculator, electronic hand-held | calculus | calendar, modern (Gregorian) | camcorder | camera, motion picture | camera, portable photographic | can, metal beverage | can opener | candle | canning, food | carbon-14 dating | cardboard, corrugated | cards, playing | cash register | cat litter | catalog, mail-order | cellophane | celluloid | cement, portland | cereal flakes, breakfast | chewing gum (modern) | chocolate | chronometer | clock, pendulum | clock, quartz | cloning, animal | coffee, drip | coffee, decaffeinated | coins | compact disc (CD) | compass, magnetic | computed tomography (CT scan, CAT scan) | computer, electronic digital | computer, laptop | computer, personal | concrete, reinforced | condom, latex | contact lenses | contraceptives, oral | corn, hybrid | correction fluid, white | cotton gin | coupon, grocery | crayons, children's wax | cream separator (dairy processing) | credit card | crossword puzzles | DDT | defibrillator | dentures | detector, metal | detector, home smoke | diamond, artificial | diapers, disposable | digital videodisc (DVD) | dishwasher | DNA fingerprinting | doughnut (ring) or donut | door, revolving | drinking fountain | dry cleaning | dynamite | elastic, fabric | electric chair | electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) | electroencephalogram (EEG) | electronic mail (e-mail) | elevator, passenger | encyclopedia | engine, internal-combustion | engine, jet | engine, liquid-fueled rocket | engine, steam | escalator | eyeglasses | facsimile (fax) | fiber optics | fiberglass | film, photographic | flashlight, battery-operated portable | flask, vacuum (Thermos) | food processor | foods, freeze-dried | foods, frozen | Fresnel lens | fuel cell | genetic engineering | Geiger counter | glass | glass, safety | greeting card, Christmas | guillotine | guitar, electric | gunpowder | hanger, wire coat | helicopter | holography | hypodermic syringe | in vitro fertilization (IVF), human | ink | insulin, extraction and preparation of | integrated circuit | Internet | iron, electric | irradiation, food | jeans | JELL-O (gelatin dessert) | jukebox | Kevlar | Kool-Aid (fruit drink mix) | laser | laundromat | lawn mower, gasoline-powered | Lego | light bulb, incandescent | light bulb, fluorescent | light-emitting diode (LED) | linoleum | lipstick, tube | liquid crystal display (LCD) | lock and key | locomotive | longbow | loudspeaker | magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) | margarine | matches, friction | metric system of measurement | microphone | microscope, compound optical | microscope, electron | microwave oven | miniature golf | mirror, glass | missile, guided | mobile home | money, paper | Monopoly (board game) | Morse code | motor, electric | motor, outboard | motorcycle | mouse, computer | Muzak | nail, construction | necktie | neon lighting | nuclear reactor | nylon | oil lamp | oil well | pacemaker, cardiac | paper | paper clip | paper towel | parachute, modern | parking meter | particle accelerator | pasteurization | pen, ballpoint | pencil | periodic table | personal watercraft, motorized | petroleum jelly | phonograph | photocopying (xerography) | photography | photography, instant | Play-Doh | plow, steel | pocket watch | polyethylene | polygraph (lie detector) | polyvinyl chloride (PVC) | Post-it Notes | potato chips | printing press, movable type | Prozac | radar | radio | radio, car | rayon | razor, electric | razor, safety | reaper, mechanical | record, long-playing (LP) | refrigerator | remote control, television | respirator | revolver | Richter scale | rifle, assault | roller coaster | rubber, vulcanized | rubber band | saccharin | saddle (riding) | safety pin | satellite, successful artificial earth | satellite, communications | saxophone | Scotch tape | scuba gear | seat belt, automotive shoulder | sewing machine | shoelaces | silicone | skateboard | skates, ice | skates, roller | ski, snow | skyscraper, steel-frame | slot machine | snowmobile | soap | soft drinks, carbonated | sonar | stamps, postage | stapler | steamboat, successful | steel, mass-production | steel, stainless | stereo, personal | stereophonic sound recording | stethoscope | stock ticker | stove, electric | stove, gas | straw, drinking | submarine | sunglasses | sunscreen | supermarket | synthesizer, music | synthetic skin | tampon, cotton | tank, military | tea bag | teddy bear | Teflon | telegraph | telephone, wired-line | telephone, mobile | telescope, optical | television | thermometer | thermostat | threshing machine | tire, pneumatic | tissue, disposable facial | tissue, toilet | toaster, electric | toilet, flush | toothbrush | tractor | traffic lights, automatic | transistor | typewriter | ultrasound imaging, obstetric | vaccination | vacuum cleaner, electric | Velcro | vending machine | Viagra | video games | videocassette recorder | videotape | virtual reality | vision correction, laser | washing machine, electric | wheel | wheelbarrow | wheelchair | windmill | wine | World Wide Web | wristwatch, digital | X-ray imaging | Zamboni (ice resurfacing machine) | zipper
The Greatest Inventions of All Time
Since the publication of Mother of Necesity, several readers have observed the absence in the Britannica list of things that they consider to be among "the greatest inventions of all time"...
aeronautical instruments, gyroscopic | baguette | computer generated imagery (CGI) | ...| motion pictures, live-action | ... | rollers on luggage | ... | zero, the cypher | zipcodeSeems like an opportunity for crowd-sourcing, to me. If you agree, send your recommendations here and watch this space.