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What would the world be like without Electronics?
When the pressures of modern life become too much, it’s tempting to hark back to simpler times. To imagine the idyllic lifestyles of our ancestors as they frolicked in fields, free from the technological stresses of our fast-moving world. With no electronic gadgets to distract them, no texts or email to overload with information, it must have been a truly utopic time.
But how realistic is that? Electronics have influenced every walk of life from cars and toys to art and fashion. Can we really live without electronic devices? Steampunk is a vision of a modern era without electricity, where sturdy Victorian mechanics and steam power fills the void with inventive uses of tried and trusted technology. It certainly makes for some striking visuals and intriguing possibilities but could we realistically live without electronics in the modern age?
Let’s examine the impact on four important areas of life.
COMMUNICATION AND ELECTRONICS
Electronics revolutionized communication. From the invention of telegraphy to the discovery of radio and the rise of the internet, the ease of communication has had arguably the biggest impact on our society – both for good and bad.
Before the advent of electronics, long distance messaging systems were slow-moving and unreliable. We tried it all – smoke signals and beacons, flags and semaphore, horse relays and messages tied to the feet of birds. The ancient Greeks even invented a hydraulic telegraph system that could send predetermined messages to close-by outposts almost instantaneously.
Without electronics there would be no mobile phones, no computers, no internet and no television. All of these devices have connected the world in a way that was previously unthinkable. With the press of a button we can communicate with people all around the globe as if they were in the same room. We can maintain family, friend and work relationships through direct contact and social media, leaving us a mere click away from contact with other human beings.
The benefits of increased connectivity are many, but it comes with a price. Pressures arising from a constant online presence can have a negative impact on a person’s wellbeing. Studies have shown that online bullying, public shaming, work place harassment and out-of-hours work emails can adversely affect the mental health of young and old alike. Digital stress is a relatively recent phenomenon, the effects of which we are only beginning to understand.
It’s not just the speed of communication that improved with the application of electronics – we gained the ability to travel faster and further than ever before. Electricity provides the spark that fires combustion engines and jet engines. Though steam trains gave us high-speed travel along a pre-set path, the car and jet allow unparalleled freedom of personal movement. Radar and sonar give us in-depth knowledge of the environments we travel through, while infrared satellites and GPS tracking pinpoint our exact location to within a few meters.
When it comes to travel, we would be truly lost without electronics. Envisage a time without cheap air travel, where taking a trip to visit relatives could take days, weeks or even months to arrive.
Alongside diet and information about healthy living, modern medicine is a key factor that has lengthened the lives of all those who have access to it. Electronics play a key role in both the diagnosing and treatment of many conditions. Modern day scanners can spot early symptoms of disease, greatly increasing chances of survival. Defibrillators can restart a person’s heart, literally shocking them back to life. Surgical cameras give unprecedented access to internal organs, allowing surgeons to make pinhole incisions, safe in the knowledge they know exactly where to cut and excavate. Without these and countless other innovations, many lives would be unnecessarily lost.
From art and music to education and fashion, electronics have had a big influence on the way we produce and discover artistic expression as a society. TV and film have overtaken books as the foremost way to deliver stories, allowing ideas and entertainment to spread around the globe at a rapid rate.
Music irrevocably changed with the introduction of electronics leading to a major change on society. Electric guitars were at the forefront of music during the fifties and sixties. Increases in volume led to large crowds of like-minded youth gathering together to listen and exchange ideas as their social revolution gathered pace.
The rise of cheap, affordable electronic sewing machines has fuelled the high-street fashion explosion with a glut of cheap clothing available to western markets – though not without cost to those who make them. Even the cutting edge of fashion incorporates electronic devices, from computer design to high-tech clothes that change appearance at a whim.