Things We Take for Granted

Wednesday, April 10, 2013
posted by elizabeth @ 3:50 PM

How do you define technology? When you hear the word technology, you likely think of ethernet, internet, laptops, cell phones and microprocessors. We live in a world where we take for granted technology that provides us with comfortable and efficient life styles and business processes. This includes water infrastructure, transportation, clothing, books, communication, access to food, climate control and entertainment.

When I think of technology, I think of the Roman Empire’s Cloaca Maxima or Great Drain. The Romans gave us technology like aqueducts, drains, sewers and toilets. The Romans either invented or perfected these things. They were pioneers in developing an efficient water infrastructure that removed waste and distributed water to homes. Next time you flush your toilet, thank the Romans.

Another technology we can thank the Romans for is the road. They developed a system of roads which today we call highways. The complex system of roads allowed their military to move quickly which enabled the empire to grow. Furthermore, the roads were a key to the economic growth of the empire because they opened the door to trade and commerce. Next time you get in the car, thank the Romans for this technology. It allows us to move anywhere in no time at all, as well as deliver products and goods, in bulk, quickly.

Producing goods in bulk or mass production has been made possible through many forms of technology. The mass production of books was made possible by the technology of the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg changed the world with his printing press. Without the technology he invented and perfected where would we be? His mechanization of printing allowed for mass production of books. This enabled more people to read and be educated and informed. Just think if the Federalist Papers were not widely distributed. Would we have had the American Revolution?

Another technology that helped with mass production was Henry Ford’s development of the assembly line. Ford wanted to design, build and sell affordable cars that he could mass market. His technology grew into a multi-billion dollar industry that provides thousands of jobs. But, more importantly, we have a mode of transportation that is faster than a horse. Can you imagine not having your car? I do have to give a nod to Karl Benz and Gottleib Daimler. Both are credited with inventing the gasoline powered car. With our cars, we are free to roam about the country for pleasure and work.

The invention of barbed wire had the opposite effect on roaming about the country for cattle and farm animals. It was a pivotal technology in advancing farming and ranching. It was also a pivotal technology in helping settle the western frontier. It allowed settlers to define boundaries with some certainty, and it revolutionized the westward movement. Our economic success was built on farming and ranching. We were an agrarian society.

Just as barbed wire was a revolutionary technology, Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone was one of the greatest advancements in technology. It dramatically changed how people interacted for personal and business reasons. The telephone increased the speed of communicating information and ideas. The company that was named after the inventor, Bell Telephone, morphed into what is AT&T, one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world, which includes cell phone services. Can you imagine your life without your cell phone?

Although our phones are a vital form of technology, I believe the air conditioner was one of the greatest technological inventions ever. Willis Carrier is credited with developing the first modern air conditioner. Imagine the brutal heat that settlers experienced as they moved west and south. We would not have the economic engine we call Houston today if we did not have air conditioning. Imagine living here without air conditioning.

As you go about your daily life, take time to think about the older technologies that paved the way for the many conveniences we enjoy. Furthermore, think about how those technologies helped advance what has become the greatest economy in the world. These technologies might be old, but they laid the foundation for many more creative and innovative people to develop newer technologies that we cannot even imagine.

— Andrew Biar

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