What is Technology?
Technology means a lot of things these days. The word “technology” brings to mind various devices, such as laptops, phones, and tablets. Technology may also make you think of the internet, data, or advancements in the world of engineering. This may be a narrow scope though, as technology includes so many creative solutions to many everyday problems humans have faced all throughout history. So what is technology?
Technologies from around the world have been adopted to aid human life, from the most basic inventions, to complex systems that function entirely independently from the human experience. Technology has revolutionized society in countless ways; technology allowed early humans to grow their own food, navigate the open oceans, tell time, and connect society on a global scale. The transition from manual to technological methods of solving problems took place simply because relying on technology makes work easier. This lesson discusses these advancements in technology, and provides an overview of what technology is.
The definition of technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes or applications. Technology uses scientific principles, and applies them to change the environment in which humans live. Technology can also use scientific principles to advance industry or other human constructions. Problems exist in the human environment and have for all of history. The existence of problems is what creates technological advancement; where there is struggle and tension, there is ingenuity and creativity. From this environment comes technology: ways in which the human experience is improved by the invention of objects that solve a problem.
Types of Technology
There are many different types of technology, differing in historical invention and application, as well as by the type of problem they solve. Types of technology include mechanical technology, medical technology, communications technology, electronic technology, and industrial and manufacturing technologies. Though these different types of technology all serve different purposes, range in design, and are applied in different ways, they all have one thing in common: they all solve a problem.
Mechanical technology is one of the simplest forms of technology, both in its application and in its design. Mechanical technology is the use of simple machines to solve problems. This includes the use of pulleys, levers, wheels and axles, wedges, inclined planes, and even cogs and gears. Mechanical technology is used for any task that involves doing mechanical work, which is primarily the motion of objects. Any machine, generator, or tool used to do work uses mechanical technology.
Though mechanical technology is simple, it has allowed for extremely important advancements in the human experience. Early humans using the wheel allowed for the transportation of heavy material to be faster and easier. The first wheel was found in ancient Mesopotamia, and is thought to be used as a potter’s wheel to throw clay pots. Ancient Egypt and India saw the invention of the shaduf, a hand-operated lever and fulcrum used to lift water to irrigate crops. Ancient Greek philosopher Archimedes was the first to record simple machines, including pulleys, levers, and inclined planes, all used as machines to lessen the work needed to accomplish a task. During the Industrial Revolution, mechanical principles were used in the invention of engines, which use a system of pistons to generate large amounts of force needed to move trains and power factories. In modern times, mechanical technology is employed to accomplish all sorts of engineering tasks, such as running our cars, lifting heavy objects, and transporting goods.
Medical technology is defined as the application of scientific principles to develop solutions to problems regarding health, prevent or delay the onset of disease, and promote the overall health of humans. Medical technology is used to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor symptoms and diseases. This includes the production of drugs and medications, and the use of x-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds which are tools used to look in the body for ailments. Ventilators are another type of medical technology, and are used to assist people in breathing. Medical technology can also include the equipment invented and used specifically for medical practices, from stethoscopes to scalpels.
Communications technology is the application of scientific knowledge to communicate. This includes everything from telegrams to landlines to cell phones. The internet is considered a communications technology because it is a system that communicates information in infinite ways. Communications technology also includes systems that aid in the effectiveness and efficiency of communication, such as communication satellites.
Electronic technology is the application of scientific understanding of electricity to do work and perform tasks. We think of electronic technology as the many electronic devices, known as electronics, used in our modern world, such as tablets, laptops, and phones, all with internal computers that run on electricity. However, electronic technology includes any machine that runs on electricity. This includes washing machines, lights, and toasters. Electronic technology uses a system of electrical circuits to achieve a goal. This system can be simple, like that of a light circuit, or can be very complex, like that of a computer. Regardless of the system’s complexity, if it uses electricity, it is considered electronic technology.