Electricity and Communication:
Reflections and Conclusions
we have looked at only a small portion of the story
here. A couple of samples of other stories:
- the invention
of the telephone was a case
where the hardest part was realizing that there would be a demand for
such a device.
- A lot has been written about the social
history of the telephone because the psychological impact of that
easier communication was great.
- People could talk more, and at the same
time the telephone gave fewer clues about the other person's reactions.
- This leads to the question of would you
want a picture telephone?
- Once electric service was provided to
people's houses it gave the potential for other uses besides electric
- Some utility companies in California gave
out free electric irons to increase consumer use of electricity.
- Electric stoves, washing machines and
made a big difference, particularly in the context of a declining
- Utilities found it not profitable to connect
rural areas, and the government finally stepped in in the Depression
with the Rural
Electrification Administration, which supported rural
electrical cooperatives, and with the TVA.
- Industry also changed as a result of
electrical power--obviously it makes your factory simpler if each
machine has its own electric motor instead of being dependent on a
central water wheel or steam engine. Gives more flexibility,
though that was used in fairly limited ways.
- Related to radio and TV there are also the
stories of motion picture technology, and of the phonograph and the
of the VCR--Betamax vs. VHS
technology --saving labor and rising standards
- the different talents necessary to be a
- don't necessarily have science education
- extreme determination
- creativity and business sense
- generations of inventions--one need leads to
growing out of existing technologies
- we are always imagining improvements, want more
- inventing new markets (eg. point-to-point
- how do we think about the impact of
technology on society?
- the need for a complete system
- how people use the new opportunities
does the consumer want?
- spread of ideas through society
- the importance of advertising
- unintended consequences--spread of
decline of regional accents, playing music becomes less something
- we are much more informed about the world, this changes
views in various ways
- changes in how we experience the
world--cultural homoginization, new ways of thinking
- Can you draw conclusions from these past
technologies about future ones?
- The internet certainly changes how certain
groups communicate with each other. Many of the same issues as
the telephone--people feel more closely connected than is really there
(because you loose the
ability to read tone of voice).
- getting consumer excitement isn't
easy--consider the failure of technologies that have hoped to replace
the CD or the videotape.
- look at Worlds Fairs and Epcot:
Futurama at 1939 Worlds Fair
Worlds Fair predictions--cheap power through fusion, picture
this page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
last updated 11/2/2005