WHAT IS TECHNOLOGY
The word technology describes all the ways that human beings develop new ideas, machines, and techniques for making everything we need. You see the technology in action every time someone invents a better way of doing something. Technology can be applied to clothing, weapons, computers, cars, toys, books, food, sport—just about anything.
Technology can be large scale. People have always looked up at the sky at night, seen the Moon and wondered how they could get there. After a lot of hard work by scientists, who built spacecraft, designed space suits, and devised flight plans, people eventually succeeded in landing on the moon. The technology was what got them there.
TECHNOLOGY IN EVERYDAY LIFE
Technology can also be small scale. At one time all milk came in glass bottles. Then Swedish inventors devised Tetra Pak cardboard packaging. Since the 1970s most milk has come in cardboard cartons. This technical breakthrough had advantages: cardboard did not shatter when you dropped your milk, it did not weigh as much when you carried it home, and shopkeepers could store it more easily because the cartoons were a regular square. However, there were drawbacks too. People complained that the cartons were difficult to open, which meant that they often spilled the milk.
So, the latest container for milk is made of thin plastic. It has a screw-top lid that most people can open easily. Also, it is almost transparent, so you can see when you are going to run out of milk (not possible with the cardboard cartons). There is also a handle on the side that makes it easier to pour out the milk.
Who knows what technology might bring next to the packaging? Maybe an electronic gadget that beeps when you are about to run out of milk, or an integrated device that keeps the milk chilled. What we do know is that if there is a drawback with the current packaging, then the technologists of the future will work hard to improve it.
New technology is not always better in every way. The good thing about glass milk bottles is that they can be recycled easily. The new cartons and plastic bottles are much more difficult to recycle.
THE WHEEL, AN EARLY BREAKTHROUGH
One of the earliest examples of technology is the wheel. Early people needed to move their possessions, goods, and family around. They solved the problem by inventing the wheel. The first wheels were solid, but this made them heavy. So they were improved by cutting away a lot of the heavy wood, leaving spokes and a rim. This is technology in action: people using their imaginations, technical skills, tools, science and knowledge of the world to make their lives easier and better.
Wheels must have been a good idea because they are still around today, but used for different purposes on trains, cars, and bikes. There are wheels in the mechanisms of clocks. They were once used in water mills and windmills to grind corn. Spinning wheels spun yarn for making cloth. The wheel was one simple idea that has been used by technologists throughout history as the basis for newer and more useful items.