History of Technology
Technological advances that could very well change the society we live in as we live in the early part of the 21st century are occurring rapidly in the industrialized nations of the world. These advances do more than simply raise the levels of existing discrete technologies; they also involve changes that are altering our conception of technology. Such changes are occurring in a variety of fields, and, more importantly, at a very rapid pace. The progress that has been made since 1970 is so striking that many industrial historians believe that we are now in the midst of a Third Industrial Revolution. Many of the new technologies are already responding to society’s newest needs. Computers and satellite communication systems are just a few examples of the new technologies that have become essential to support today’s society. More importantly, many of the elemental technologies that are being developed today have so much potential that we simply cannot predict where they will take us. This is the common denominator of the new technologies to which we commonly refer collectively as “high technology.”
Historically speaking, and briefly stated, the modern era has already witnessed two major technological leaps. It is generally accepted that the First Industrial Revolution was triggered by the invention of the steam engine in 1776 by James Watt. The key to the accomplishments of this period is steel, as people gained the ability to manipulate this material. In other words, the First Industrial Revolution was based on innovations in materials technology.
The Second Industrial Revolution occurred about 100 years later. Specifically, it began during the 1870s, when we learned how to use electricity, we learned how to convert it into many different types of energy, including heat, light, locomotive power, magnetic power and sound. The Second Industrial Revolution, therefore, was based on innovations in energy technology.