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Technology Types & Uses | What is Technology?

Types of Technology

There are many different types of technology, differing in historical invention and application, as well as by the type of problem they solve. Types of technology include mechanical technology, medical technology, communications technology, electronic technology, and industrial and manufacturing technologies. Though these different types of technology all serve different purposes, range in design, and are applied in different ways, they all have one thing in common: they all solve a problem.

Mechanical Technology:

Mechanical technology is one of the simplest forms of technology, both in its application and in its design. Mechanical technology is the use of simple machines to solve problems. This includes the use of pulleys, levers, wheels and axles, wedges, inclined planes, and even cogs and gears. Mechanical technology is used for any task that involves doing mechanical work, which is primarily the motion of objects. Any machine, generator, or tool used to do work uses mechanical technology.

A shaduf is an ancient lever and fulcrum used to retrieve water from dug wells.

Though mechanical technology is simple, it has allowed for extremely important advancements in the human experience. Early humans using the wheel allowed for the transportation of heavy material to be faster and easier. The first wheel was found in ancient Mesopotamia, and is thought to be used as a potter’s wheel to throw clay pots. Ancient Egypt and India saw the invention of the shaduf, a hand-operated lever and fulcrum used to lift water to irrigate crops. Ancient Greek philosopher Archimedes was the first to record simple machines, including pulleys, levers, and inclined planes, all used as machines to lessen the work needed to accomplish a task. During the Industrial Revolution, mechanical principles were used in the invention of engines, which use a system of pistons to generate large amounts of force needed to move trains and power factories. In modern times, mechanical technology is employed to accomplish all sorts of engineering tasks, such as running our cars, lifting heavy objects, and transporting goods.

Medical Technology:

Medical technology is defined as the application of scientific principles to develop solutions to problems regarding health, prevent or delay the onset of disease, and promote the overall health of humans. Medical technology is used to prevent, diagnose, treat, and monitor symptoms and diseases. This includes the production of drugs and medications, and the use of x-rays, MRIs, and ultrasounds which are tools used to look in the body for ailments. Ventilators are another type of medical technology, and are used to assist people in breathing. Medical technology can also include the equipment invented and used specifically for medical practices, from stethoscopes to scalpels.

An MRI scans the internal organs of a person, and helps doctors diagnose ailments.

Communications Technology:

Communications technology is the application of scientific knowledge to communicate. This includes everything from telegrams to landlines to cell phones. The internet is considered a communications technology, because it is a system that communicates information in infinite ways. Communications technology also includes systems that aid in the effectiveness and efficiency of communication, such as communication satellites.

Electronic Technology:

Electronic technology is the application of scientific understanding of electricity to do work and perform tasks. We think of electronic technology as the many electronic devices, known as electronics, used in our modern world, such as tablets, laptops, and phones, all with internal computers that run on electricity. However, electronic technology includes any machine that runs on electricity. This includes washing machines, lights, and toasters. Electronic technology uses a system of electrical circuits to achieve a goal. This system can be simple, like that of a light circuit, or can be very complex, like that of a computer. Regardless of the system’s complexity, if it uses electricity, it is considered electronic technology.

A Nintendo 64 controller circuit board shows the intricate ways electricity powers a computer.

Industrial and Manufacturing Technologies:

Industrial and manufacturing technologies is the application of scientific principles to make the production of objects faster, safer, and more efficient. It is a large field that includes many other forms of technology, including electrical and mechanical technologies. In the Industrial Revolution of the 1700s and 1800s, this type of technology revolutionized how humans travel, eat, and live. The invention of engines enabled factories to build machines that mass-produced objects. Engines also enabled those products to be shipped like never before, and a huge variety of products were available to people all over the world. The advancement of industrial and manufacturing technologies also revolutionized war, making the production of weapons faster and cheaper. Through the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, manufacturing technologies brought the world fast food, paper plates, and cheap and affordable housing.

A woman working in a 1914 British wartime factory.

Forms of Technology in the Pre-Medieval Period

Forms of technology have been developed and used as far back as humans have existed. Some of the earliest tools used by humans included sharpened stones used as arrowheads, axes, and cutting tools, which can be considered mechanical technology. With the invention of the wheel, early humans were able to make more sophisticated pottery, as well as lighten the load through the use of wheelbarrows. Boats, which were invented and used before the wheel, utilized all sorts of technologies, from navigational tools to pulley systems and wind power. Plumbing and irrigation technologies allowed for the transportation of water to vital systems needed for human life, such as watering crops and providing water for human consumption, to the disposal of waste. Building structures became easier as technology advanced, which lead to some of the most impressive structures ever built by humans, including Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids. As technologies advanced, so too could civilization. More technology meant more solutions, which meant bigger cities, more trade, and the expansion of civilization.

What Does Technology Mean for the Future?

What does technology mean for the future? If the past is any indication, technology is the key to solving the world’s problems. Technology has revolutionized different ways of doing things, ways that improve the lives of humans, and advanced industries. The advancement of technology has also led to harmful effects on both people and the environment, particularly the invention and overuse of fossil fuels as an energy source to power so many of the technologies used in our modern life. Though technology has harmed the planet in our overuse of the planet’s resources, technology could be the answer to many of the climate problems we face today. Technology has the power to solve modern problems as well, and the problems humans have faced in the past. With the world’s greatest minds ever seeking solutions to the problems we face today, and an increasing number of people recognizing those problems, technology is sure to find ways of increasing the quality of life for humans, as well as the overall health of the planet and all who live here.

Lesson Summary

Technology has advanced human society for as long as our species has been in existence. Human life is full of problems that need solving, and technology provides innovative solutions to those problems that reduce effort and increase efficiency. Technology is the use of scientific knowledge for practical purposes that benefit our everyday lives, as well as the industries created by humans. There are several types of technologies. Mechanical technology includes the use of machines to do work, and utilizes many simple machines such as wheels, levers, pulleys, and even cogs and gears that all function together to accomplish a task. Machines that move are mechanical technology. Medical technology is another type, and includes ventilators, medication, and MRIs. Communication technology is the third type, and includes all types of tools used to communicate, from telegrams to telephones. Electronic technology includes technology that requires electricity, from dishwashers to blenders to various electronic devices. Finally, industrial and manufacturing technologies advance ways of producing objects used by people around the world.

Types of Technology

Since technology can be so simple or so complex, there are many types of technology. One type is mechanical technology, which includes wheels, cams, levers, gears, belts, and engines. Things that turn, or allow motion in one direction to cause a different kind of motion, are mechanical. The wheel is probably one of the most important technological advances in human history, and yet it’s super simple.

Perhaps the type of technology that we’re most familiar with in modern life is electronic technology, usually just called electronics, which is a complex form of technology that uses electric circuits to achieve a goal. Electric circuits can also vary in complexity. If you have a look at a circuit board with dozens of apparently random pathways mixed in with various components, you know how complex electronics can be. But, anything that runs on electricity is electronic. This includes computers, washing machines, dryers, MP3 players, car radios, televisions—anything you plug into the wall outlet. You can also split technology into types based on purpose. There’s industrial and manufacturing technology, medical technology, communications technology, and others.

Industrial and manufacturing technology is technology with the goal of either producing a product on a large scale, or performing another large-scale function where customers are not directly present. For example, you might be manufacturing cars or generating electricity. Cars are created using mechanical robots, which is very advanced technology.

Medical technology is technology that serves the purpose of diagnosing, treating, or preventing disease. This can include things like MRI scanners, which take images of the inside of the human body; ventilators, which breathe for people; or even simply drugs and medicines that people take to make them better.

Communications technology includes everything from the old-fashioned telegraph, through to telephones, cell phones, communication satellites, and the Internet. The Internet could be considered one of the biggest communications technology breakthroughs of the last 50 years.

Technology is the work of humans at its most ingenious. Practically everything that has changed the day-to-day lives of humans over the last 10,000 years is some form of technology.

Lesson Summary

Technology is the use of scientific knowledge for practical purposes or applications, whether in industry or in our everyday lives. It includes everything from the wheel to computers to medicines to zippers and buttons on clothes. We discussed many types of technology.

Mechanical technology includes wheels, cams, levers, gears, belts, and engines, while electronic technology is a complex form of technology that uses electric circuits to achieve a goal, with some examples being computers, MP3 players, and washing machines. We also talked about industrial and manufacturing technology, which is technology with the goal of either producing a product on a large scale or performing another large-scale function where customers are not directly present. Medical technology is technology that serves the purpose of diagnosing, treating, or preventing disease, whereas communications technology includes everything from the old-fashioned telegraph, through to telephones, cell phones, communication satellites, and the Internet

As we have seen in this lesson, technology is responsible for completely changing the way humans live their lives.

The Types of Technology

  • Mechanical
  • Electronic
  • Industrial and manufacturing
  • Medical
  • Communications

Learning Outcomes

When you are finished, you should be able to:

  • State the standard definition of technology
  • Discuss the types of technology


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