Technology & Innovation

Today homes are full of technology that makes housework quicker and easier than it was in the past. Washing machines, tumble driers, microwaves and dishwashers were all invented in the 20th century. These inventions have given people more spare time to spend doing other things.

There have also been big changes in what people do at home in their spare time. Today people can watch television, listen to CDs or download MP3 files onto a player that fits in their pocket. In the past this technology did not exist. Radio broadcasting did not start until the 1920s, so if you wanted to listen to music at home 100 years ago, you would have had to play a musical instrument, or own a phonograph. Phonographs played back music that which been recorded onto a wax cylinder. A small needle called a stylus followed grooves which were cut into the cylinder, and sound came out of a horn.

New technology has also brought big changes to how people work. In the early 1980s, it was not common for office workers to use computers. People used typewriters to type letters and documents. The first typewriters were mechanical and worked by hand. As soon as you hit a letter on the keyboard it printed onto the paper, so correcting mistakes was not easy, and typists had to be very accurate in their work! Electric typewriters started to replace manual ones in the 1960s. They were easier to use. Computers then replaced typewriters in offices in the 1980s. Today, office computers are used for much more than just typing. As computers became cheaper people bought them to use at home to play games, do their shopping and e-mail their friends.

Gramaphone Typewriter

Activities

  1. Listen to these original phonograph recordings of The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and the Coral Choir. How do they compare to the music you listen to? How do you think your favourite music would sound if it had been recorded with this technology?
  2. Look at the camera and radio timelines. How do these compare with cameras and radios in the shops today? Do you think you get better pictures and sound quality from these or modern ones?
  3. Although new technology has lots of benefits, it means that many things that people used to do by hand are now done by machines, which use electricity. This has increased pollution and contributed to global warming. In the past people used items until the broke, and even then they would probably have tried to get them repaired. Today advances in technology encourage people to throw away things that still work because they can buy a newer, better version in the shops. Have you thrown away anything recently that still works?  Do you do think we should continue throwing away goods when this causes so much pollution?