March 23, 2015

Appropriate Technology

The simple radio had an up-take greater than almost any other innovation since the invention of fire.

In the era of high-tech everything it is easy to forget that low tech is sometimes the better way to go. The transistor radio is a case in point.

Since the introduction of radios in the 1920s there has never been a consumer up-take quite like it. Adoption in the US was near-instantaneous, and before long nearly every household had one.

While more recent innovations have garnered a quick consumer response, none have been as steep or as complete as the radio. In many parts of the world the radio is still the communication technology of choice.

Last summer when Linda and I crossed Canada we brought two pieces of electronics with us - one high tech (lap top computer), and one low tech (transistor radio). In our mobile situation the low tech option was more useful - we used the radio more.


The solar powered radio - every emergency kit should have one.


On our trip it was more practical to listen to our radio, and we enjoyed it every day for music, weather, and news. It runs on solar power, or a hand-cranked generator, or batteries. Usually all we had to do to keep it charged was set it in the windshield during the day.

Our computer was significantly more difficult to set up while on the move in our van. We had to buy a special electronic item that allowed us to use the vehicle electrical system to charge and use the high tech electronic computer. It was expensive and a hassle.

We recognized this situation as an example of appropriate technology use. Sometimes low tech is the way to go, and we should never use something more complicated when a simpler solution will suffice.

Advertisers in the age of New and Improved! everything will of course not agree.

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