Talk:History of technology

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How should this article be organized?[edit]

While this article is still a COTW candidate, some thought on a good way to organize the material should probably be made. This way a basic structure can be put into place so that contributors can add material with a minimum of structural problems when this article becomes a COTW.

The biggest problem I see is that early technology is best grouped based on geographic proximity of the developing civilization. Some possible groupings are the Western world (Europe, North africa, and Middle East), Eastern World (China, Japan, and South East Asia), Southern Asia (India and Persia), Native American (Mississipian, Aztec, Inca, ...), and Oceania ( Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Australia). Modern technology is better grouped by field of application (computers, jet and rocket engines, agriculture, ...). A reasonable dividing line between the two eras may be the Age of Exploration with the resulting global links. --Allen3 talk 13:42, Apr 11, 2005 (UTC)

  • I see a problem in the lack of discussion of causes, both encouraging technological advancements and resisting them. Acemoglu and Robinson 2011 (Why Nations Fail) sound the recurrent theme that technological advances are the cause of rising productivity and hence prosperity and standard of living in the economies that encorporate them. Yet such advances are uniformly suppressed by political and economic institutions that stand to lose from the "creative destruction" that ensues following the introduction of new technologies. It seems to me this would be a relevant thing to address in this article. Tomgear (talk) 02:27, 8 March 2016 (UTC)
I haven't read Acemoglu and Robinson 2011, but in both the Great Divergence and the history of China and Chinese technology there are lessons on the role of thought and institutions and their effects on technological progress.Phmoreno (talk) 04:04, 9 March 2016 (UTC)

  • Are saying that the dividing line should be from the C17 [17th century -Ed.] onwards, which is how I read the Age of Exploration article, or do you mean a later date? Apwoolrich 18:22, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC)
    • Basically that is what I am suggesting. The problem is there is no good single date where different cultures start to interact and exchange ideas. Roman envoyes travelled the Silk road to China in the 1st Century BC and the hajj has brought people from all over the Islamic world together since the 7th Century. If a layout that involves a change from technology by culture to technology by field is used however, some dividing line needs to be choosen. If someone else has a way to organize things, please let us know. --Allen3 talk 20:02, Apr 11, 2005 (UTC)
  • One possibility is to find the date of the discovery of some enabling technology, magic, as it were. The sailing ship (I just added a picture) is one of those integrating technologies, which brings together a host of innovations - the compass, the hourglass and chronometer, the sextant and astrolabe, cannon, the concept of the profit-taking enterprise (not merely conquest). Thus as the populace of the nation-states discovered the possibilities for profit-taking, they invested in the technologies (the date of lift-off) of a certain mode of transportation (railway, air, rocket), or power source (steam, electricity), or information source (punch card, magnetic core memory, integrated circuit, Internet) or entertainment source, etc. Ancheta Wis 09:41, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I notice that wikipedia is asking for some prose on the "By type" section of this page, and I have a a basic definition of technology with a breakdown of some of the parts of the definition. I was hoping to get some feedback on it. Technology


The use of things, techniques, organizations, and systems[1] which incorporate the knowledge used to conceptualize them[2]. This is done with the objective to make advancements, improve society, increase profits or save labor[3]. Technology is created to seek convenience, speed, and efficiency in everyday activities, ranging from simple and tedious tasks to time consuming and difficult activities[4].


Examples of technology come under the four categories as stated in its definition:

1)Things- Things take the form of various tools and instruments. Things are technology themselves and are also used to help guide the other three areas. Many techniques, organizations and systems involve the use of tools and instruments.

2)Techniques- A technique is the procedure needed to complete a task[6]. Techniques are combined and collected to form various forms of sciences including all forms of engineering as well as information and communications technology[5].

3)Organizations- Government: technologies are a social structure and should therefore be regulated, and guided to support the governing system. In this aspect technologies can be viewed similarly to legislation as being a part of the government.

4)Systems- Systems are combinations of tools, techniques and/or organizations. An example of this is energy conservation and management[5].


[1] Woodhouse, Edward. Science, Technology, and Society. University Readers. 2013. Print.

[2] "Technology." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.

[3] "Social Technology." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.

Web. 24 Feb. 2015.

[4] Carr, Nicholas "All Can Be Lost: The Risk of Putting Our Knowledge in the Hands of Machines" The Atlantic. November 2013. Print

[5] Restivo, Sal. “Introduction: Technology and Society.” Science, Technology, And Society. New York City: Oxford University Press, 2005. XVIII. Print.

[6] Technique. 9 March 2015. In Wikipedia.Retrieved March 20, 2009 — Preceding unsigned comment added by Hayesz2 (talkcontribs) 19:48, 10 April 2015 (UTC)


Is there a view on how references should be handled? I favour having them grouped with each section instead of at the end of the article, though there might be a case for an end reference which is cross-referenced from the earlier sections. Individual chapters in Pacey's The Maze of Ingenuity might be treated in this way Apwoolrich 18:12, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Also, References noted in date order of first publication. If a later edition is used this should be noted at the end of the citation. Any comments, please? Apwoolrich 07:38, 12 Apr 2005 (UTC)

National technologies[edit]

I am not happy with the section of British technologies we have here. In fact technical development is international in scope and crosses many boundaries. I feel this article ought to reflect this, though accepting that the British Industrial Revolution might have a separate section. Any comments? Apwoolrich 18:16, 11 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I was going to add this very comment. As I was writing, my concentration on Britain alone kept oozing out to other countries. Please feel free to refactor the writing. Ancheta Wis 09:17, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Maybe 'European technology' instead? Much innovation in mining and metallurgy took place in Germany and nearby countries from the C15 [15th century. -Ed.] onwards. Developments in textile technology such as silk manufacture took place first in Italy, for example. Indeed the history of technology is the only pan-European history we have, All others are nationalApwoolrich 09:47, 21 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Air Conditioning[edit]

Only an American could put AC into the list of 20th century most important inventions... I mean, it is nice-to-have, but hardly necessary. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:31, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

Tens of thousands of Europeans died in the 2003 heatwave because that "nice to have" AC was so scarce. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:43, 25 January 2014 (UTC)

Old intro[edit]

The history of technology is intertwined with the culture of its civilization; power, wealth, hope, health, conquests, and concepts. Frequently, these factors are implicitly expressed, although they inform the developments of that culture. When there is no hope for further increase, that culture may well seek other avenues of expression. But if some advantage is available to them, the peoples and cultures of the globe have sought it, sometimes for ill-understood reasons:

Any technology which is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.
Columbus' Santa Maria, by Eertvelt

Other motivations can be more easily divined -- the search for fame and fortune. Thus Francis Bacon's New Atlantis could recognize discoverers and innovators:

  • Columbus, that discovered the West Indies, also
  • the inventor of ships,
  • your monk that was the inventor of ordnance and of gunpowder,
  • the inventor of music,
  • the inventor of letters,
  • the inventor of printing,
  • the inventor of observations of astronomy,
  • the inventor of works in metal,
  • the inventor of glass,
  • the inventor of silk of the worm,
  • the inventor of wine,
  • the inventor of corn and bread,
  • the inventor of sugars;
    • and all these by more certain tradition than you have. Then we have divers inventors of our own, of excellent works; which, since you have not seen, it were too long to make descriptions of them; and besides, in the right understanding of those descriptions you might easily err. For upon every invention of value we erect a statue to the inventor, and give him a liberal and honorable reward.

I'm not sure why someone thought this extended quote would be a good introduction to the history of technology. I don't particularly like the implied emphasis on military technology, and I find the extended quote to a very odd choice. It might be more relevant to a dicussion about the sociological process of invention itself. I wrote a new introduction which needs improvement as well, but which I hope does a better job of setting context for the reader. -- Beland 06:27, 29 August 2005 (UTC)

Looking for a new lead picture now. -- Beland 06:30, 29 August 2005 (UTC)
Ah. Yes. -- Beland 07:07, 29 August 2005 (UTC)

Singularity graph[edit]


I removed the Kurzweil image (right) from the section on 'Measuring technological progress'. The graph clearly does not belong either in the article or in the section, as the majority of the events plotted concern biological evolution, and not "measuring technological progress". The only connection to the graph in the text is a minor comment discussing science fiction.

For other reasons why the graph is absurd, pseudo-scientific, and being pasted on as many unrelated articles as possible by a singularity adherent, see discussions at Talk:History_of_the_world#Graph_of_Singularity and Talk:History_of_the_world#Graph_straw_poll. — Asbestos | Talk (RFC) 17:27, 18 January 2006 (UTC)

Transcendent Man's Ray Kurzweil ... maybe in Predictions made by Ray Kurzweil? (talk) 23:53, 8 September 2011 (UTC)


The article seems to be 95% about prehistoric technology, and then suddenly jumps with a short mention of 1800 and 1900. Was this intended? Even Ancient Greece is missing. Perhaps a clearer division between Prehistoric / Ancient / Mideaval / Modern might be in order?DanielDemaret 13:09, 30 March 2006 (UTC)

Poor grammar[edit]

In the section on Ancient India the following sentence needs a major grammar fix:

"Indian construction and architecture called 'Vaastu Shastra' offered details and plans based on scientific principles like Strength of Materials, ideal height of construction, presence of adequate sources of water, light hence preserving hygiene. It is one of the first building science to be so all-inclusive."

I gave it a shot, but don't really know what the original author was trying to say. Perhaps someone with a better knowledge of the subject matter could improve it?

Help request or flag for help re: distructive edit.[edit]

"Stone Age

During the Stone Age, all humans were YO MAMA WAS HERE! "

Can someone revert this to the intended text please? I need to know what I'm doing before I go exprimenting so I won't try myself. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:33, 2 January 2008 (UTC)

New section[edit]

There needs to be an entire new section on how emerging technologies can effect the commercial market, society and other historical events. I'm not sure where this belongs. But I state why I found this page.

Blue lasers capable of reading at higher data compression where developed, and then as a result the media market shifts from dvd to blue ray. Record to tape, VHS to DVD. Ships and Railways to Airplanes. Bronze to Iron. I mean really important stuff. Where to put it all.

The history pages relate history, the history of technology pages just talk about the technology of the time. But there isn't any page which singles out, defines, or attempts to summarize events where technological advancement was the primary source of constructive or distruptive, commerical or social change. Where's that page?--Sparkygravity (talk) 14:17, 21 February 2008 (UTC)


What is this article is trying to accomplish? There's one sentence after another of uncited, unfounded, sometimes almost random statements, combined with platitudes such as "probe the nature of the universe", "significant inferences", "metals of choice", "all over Asia", etc. For those of us who have degrees in history, it sophomoric. For those who don't know history, it makes abstract statements which would lead a new student to believe there's some absolute received version of historical events. This is less information, than confusion. (talk) 13:01, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

Resource on Earliest Tool usage by humans[edit]

Earliest Signs of Advanced Tools Found by John Noble Wilford published August 31, 2011 NYT; excerpt

A new geological study, being reported Thursday in the journal Nature, showed that tools from a site near Lake Turkana in Kenya were made about 1.76 million years ago, the earliest of their ilk found so far. Previous dates were estimates ranging from 1.4 million to 1.6 million years ago.

A version of this article appeared in print on September 1, 2011, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Earliest Signs of Advanced Tools Found. (talk) 23:44, 8 September 2011 (UTC)

No Sumerians[edit]

I see nothing about the Sumerian culture here, no building with mudbricks (only stone counts here), no canal building and so on. Why? --Dlugacz (talk) 08:09, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Because nobody's written it yet. You know what to do. Cite it and write it! --Wtshymanski (talk) 15:04, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Needs to be broken up[edit]

Looking at a timeline of technology you will see that it runs many pages and contains hundreds of entries. The ones on the internet have tab dividers that group time periods. They begin with something like a couple millennium per tab up till year 0, then half millennium per tab, then couple of centuries, then couple of decades as the timeline gets more detailed and modern. The point I am trying to make is that the history of technology needs to be broken up into tab sized articles and not be one book sized article. Most readers, and editors, are only interested in certain periods or technologies. Hopefully someone will volunteer to do the brake-up and leave a preliminary outline. Just having a chronological outline with links to existing articles would be sufficient, and probably better, than trying to re-write the entire history of technology.Phmoreno (talk) 04:55, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

I despair that this article can ever be a reasonable overview, given the system we work with. But guaranteed it will have the correct em-dashes. People have written entire books about paper clips, light bulbs and screwdrivers...imagine how much gets left out in an encyclopedia article. But Wikipedia doesn't do overviews, instead we give pinouts of the cassette port on the IBM PC because "Wikipedia is for reference". Obsessive cataloging of minute trivia is what we do best; after all, it's verifiable, and easily referenced by a Google search. We'll have a list of every decimal point version of the XBox in here before we get a paragraph about agriculture, the scientific method and capitalism and how they promoted the growth of technology. --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:41, 11 January 2012 (UTC)
I would recommend we limit all entries to those in one of the leading encyclopedias of the history of technology. If it's not mentioned there, it doesn't belong here. Almost everything in the encyclopedia already has a Wikipedia article, so we only need an outline and links. Unfortunately most people do not have one of these encyclopedias because they are somewhat expensive, but they can be gotten from libraries. I have McNeil (1990), which I've read cover-to-cover.Phmoreno (talk) 15:17, 11 January 2012 (UTC)

Non-human technology[edit]

This article should include more about technology and tools developed by non-human species as well as human technology. There are a couple of non-human species mentioned in a list under the Early Technology section, but there should probably be a more extensive narrative about both humanoid and non-humanoid technology. Neanderthals should certainly be in the article. There may not be much literature on prehistoric, non-humanoid technology as those tools were generally made from material that would not survive as artifacts, and the discovery of non-humanoid tool-making was relatively recent. I'm not sure if there should be a separate section about non-human technology or if it is better to include it within the existing structure; or both. Sparkie82 (tc) 04:40, 23 October 2012 (UTC)

Non-human technology is a completely different subject. The article already contains too much irrelevant information.Phmoreno (talk) 19:30, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

Parachute's inventor[edit]

Hi everyone, The 'Ancient Technology' session states the Chinese invented the parachute. This article from the Smithsonian Museum states it was Leonardo Da Vinci: I believe this should be corrected. Thanks! Cheers, Zalunardo8 (talk) 15:17, 10 January 2013 (UTC)

what's happening with this article?[edit]

Is it even an article? Is it an outline? Huge problems with sourcing and original research, a disproportionate and messy list of areas, to-do list material in the article ("to be incorporated into article").

Is anybody currently working or planning to work on improvements? ...This might make a good class project over the summer. --— Rhododendrites talk |  12:49, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

This topic is too broad. Completing it would result in an encyclopedia of the history of technology. It is beyond the scope of an individual one even a small group to effectively edit. In reading the few areas I am familiar with, such as Industrial Revolution, it contains serious misrepresentations and omissions (steam power was not that important during the Industrial Revolution, it was mechanical inventions, particularly textiles, that drove it.) Perhaps we should turn this into a timeline with links to existing articles.Phmoreno (talk) 13:52, 4 April 2014 (UTC)

Phmoreno I second that. This article could reach hundreds of pages if each piece of technology was discussed in depth. I agree with you. This article needs to be taken apart, put into a timeline, and let each piece of technology have its own article. That way people can focus on specific pieces of technology instead of all of human history. PointsofNoReturn (talk) 00:52, 21 April 2014 (UTC)
Yes, under Wikipedia:Summary style the topic can grow to hundreds of distinct Wikipedia pages. Yes, that's a better idea than attempting to cover every detail in one page that must go far beyond the reasonable WP:SIZE guidelines. Yes, several topics here are excessively skeletonized. Sections without prose should be addressed with a modest summary paragraph, along with the links to detail articles. As for a timeline article similar to Timeline of French history, that can be a good thing. If so, it ought to be yet another distinct article. But only if someone will take the time to do it well. Jim.henderson (talk) 15:10, 8 March 2015 (UTC)


"Lenski takes a more modern approach" is a little bit of POV (WP:POV). The idea that information is better affiliated with modernity than energy itself can be disputed. Let us assume that the term "information" implicitly extends to "infocommunications" so that this illustrates modernity, still Lenski is rather considering information under its valuation relatively to knowledge, which is nothing very new except in words, relatively to energy. --Askedonty (talk) 09:50, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Yes. I know nothing of these scholars except by a brief skim of their Wikibiographies, but apparently the infotech notion is a later one. No need to do anything about that, however, beyond presenting these ideas in chronological order. Jim.henderson (talk) 22:33, 27 March 2015 (UTC)


On a quick ctrl-F I couldn't find anything in the article related to money, currency, or coinage and yet I'm sure this field has not remained untouched by technological progress. — MaxEnt 05:30, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

Sure. A Spanish dollar coin, a fifty-euro note, and a thousand Swiss francs in a bank account are all artifacts. They have been as much created and affected by innovations as bread and bridges. I hope nobody's planning to make a list here of every kind of artifact. Jim.henderson (talk) 13:39, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

Complex systems[edit]

Seems to me, this section is in the wrong article, as more recommending a future than reviewing the past. Jim.henderson (talk) 13:39, 25 July 2015 (UTC)

I agree. Thanks for your contribution! And I am thinking of adding a comment at the beginning of this article and also of the parental article "Technology” to clarify their distinct approaches but also their complementarities. --UtopianGardener (talk) 03:41, 27 July 2015 (UTC)
I was uncertain that I was improving the other article, until you moved the addition to the proper section. Now I think your headnotes are too long, but with other things happening this week I shan't put out the mental effort to improve them. And as this article becomes more historical, the other ought to become less so. Vague suggestions are always easier than actual thought. Jim.henderson (talk) 18:39, 28 July 2015 (UTC)

Proposed merge from Ancient technology[edit]

Prehistoric technology and History of technology are much better articles and cover this subject. This page was originally (I think) a dab page.Doug Weller (talk) 20:45, 20 December 2015 (UTC) Doug Weller (talk) 20:45, 20 December 2015 (UTC)