Technology and Society in the Twentieth Century

Technology is the collective term for a number of human activities and endeavors, which have an impact on how people live their lives. In laymen’s terms, the technology can be defined as anything that can be measured, used, or altered by the use of technology. Technology is generally viewed to be something that develops in an incremental way over time. Often, new technology is developed for one purpose or another, resulting in the integration of previously existing technologies or practices. While technology is evolving, it is also developing more quickly than its components, creating new possibilities and opening up unknown doors.

The term technology was first used in discussing the relations between technology and society, specifically between technology and science. It has since then become a general term referring to any sort of technological process, idea, or object. Some of the things which fall under the heading of technology are computer systems, machines, software, communications, electricity, engineering, mechanics, military strategies, and knowledge. Technological change is the gradual transformation of one type of technology into another. Technological change can be a result of research and development, but sometimes it comes about because of the simple improvement of a process already in existence. Some of the examples of technological objects or processes include: electrical machines, appliances, mobile phones, personal computers, and the Internet.

During the twentieth century, the term technology began to take on a new role, with the invention of many new scientific terms. One of these, which came from Jules Schatzberg, was apparatus engineering, which became an important branch of applied science in the twentieth century. Another name given to apparatus engineering was microelectronics, which focused on designing electronic systems. In the late twentieth century, a new field emerged to replace the older science of mechanics known as algebraic equations: complex math. This later became known as information technology.

A technologist is someone who is highly knowledgeable about any specific aspect of technological change and how it affects society. An example of a highly skilled technologist is Jobs, who used his knowledge in business to create a more progressive culture at Apple. Schatzberg distinguished between two types of technologists: creative technologists and prescienturial technologists. Creative technologists are those whose interests drive their techno-savvy; technologists who are interested primarily in making things, using their knowledge to do so.

The twentieth century saw two major trends in technological growth and development. One was the development of what was called the generalized machine, which made possible the widespread use of large-scale industry and had a profound impact on economic development. The other was the development of what was then called the technical art, with its emphasis on the design and manufacture of particular pieces of equipment. This growing tendency toward specialization prompted the first tendencies toward intellectual property in the twentieth century. Albert Einstein’s theories on relativity and James Clerk Maxwell’s electro-magnetic theory, both of which formed the foundations for the modern discipline of science, were both products of schatzberg’s concern with specialization and intellectual property.


Technology in the twenty-first century continues to grow, driven by such factors as globalization, digitization, and mobile computing. In a broad perspective, technology continues to be defined by the combination of culture, science, and technology that makes specific tools or products ready for use. The twenty-first century has seen some major changes in this conception of technology, particularly with the advent of new computer applications and networking technologies, the internet, cellular telephony, video, and other forms of technological transfer, and more general trends toward decreased cost and increased convenience. Some elements of the Schatzberg theory of technology are still relevant in current debates, including the value of creativity, the value of the industrial arts, and the value of specialization.