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What Is Technology? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:00 What Is Technology?
  • 0:46 Types of Technology
  • 3:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

What is technology? In this lesson, you'll learn the answer to that question and discover the many types of technology that we use, from the simple to the complex. When you are through, take a short quiz to test your understanding.

What is Technology?

When you think of the word 'technology', what comes to mind? It might sound like something from a sci-fi show, or something that has to run on electricity. Technology makes us think of the very complex, but energy doesn't have to be complex.

Technology is the use of scientific knowledge for practical purposes or applications, whether in industry or in our everyday lives. So, basically, whenever we use our scientific knowledge to achieve some specific purpose, we're using technology. Well, there is slightly more to it than that. Technology usually involves a specific piece of equipment, but that equipment can be incredibly simple or dazzlingly complex. It can be anything from the discovery of the wheel, all the way up to computers and MP3 players.

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.

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