January 22, 2018

Keep It Simple, Low Tech

A solar powered, hand cranked radio should be in every home in case of emergencies,
or for every day low tech enjoyment.

Our current age of technological advances and gadgetry makes it seem like everyone is on board with purchasing and upgrading all the latest gadgets ad naseum. But as popular as cell phones and DVD players may be, there has never been a technological uptake like there was with the lowly radio.

At first no one had a radio. And then shortly after they became common consumer items in the 1920s, nearly everyone had one in their homes. Radios were simple enough that many people built their own. Try that with an iPhone or laptop.

Traditional, low-cost, proven technologies like radios are still the most effective tool for reaching end users in the developing world. Or the developed world.

In Kenya, for example, more than 85 percent of the population has access to radio broadcasts at home, while only 60 percent own a mobile phone. In Uganda, 96 percent of the population listens to the radio on a weekly basis, but only 39 percent has access to mobile phones.

Even in high tech America, over 90% of people listen to the radio every week. It may be ancient technology in comparison to today's whiz-bang gadgets, but the basic radio still has its place the world over.

Often, the simplest solution is the best option, and such solutions should always be the first to be considered. You can always make things more complicated if you have to, but you probably won't need to in most cases.

As much as possible, the solutions we come up with for our personal and global challenges should keep it simple and low tech. It is vain and wasteful to do with more, what can be done with less. That goes for any project, including how one conducts one's life.

You can't beat the elegance and efficiency of simplicity.


  1. Good post. I personally cannot think of much worse than living in a home where there are fancy high tech gadgets everywhere. It would give me the sh!ts on a major level. One of my family members spent an ABSURD sum of money on a wi fi connected fridge that tells him what he has in it. I asked him why he couldn't simply open the door and find out. I'm not sure he had a suitable response for that. He probably thought I was a low tech Luddite though, and he'd be right. I was chatting to my friend the other day about our power bill (which right now in summer is about $65- $70 a month). She couldn't get her head around how low it was and asked how we did it. I'm not entirely sure but what I do know is we don't own much that gets plugged in so perhaps that's it? LOL We have one tv, a washing machine, a (non talking) fridge and um lights. That's about it. I don't think we need anything else? Oh and a radio of course. That's plugged in too but can run on batteries. My 'smartphone'battery has died with less than 2 years use (planned obsolescence) and I refuse to buy a new one so am making do quite fine with an old skool style phone that makes phone calls and texts. There's not much smart about it but the battery is significantly better.
    I just wonder if people make life harder for themselves by surrounding themselves with so much high tech stuff. How hard is it to flip a switch, close your own curtains, look up your own question and open a fridge door?

    1. Karen,

      I hear about new "innovations", and think that people must have a lot of money to spend on things they don't really need. Pretty soon we will all be in pods with remote controls and a direct link to the internet, or "hive".

      Nefarious forces will use us as an energy source. Hold on, that story has been done already (the Matrix).

      The more I read about new technology, the more I feel like sitting under a tree for a while.

  2. My sister insists on getting me a christmas present. This year I asked for a solar powered, hand crank radio. It has weather bands, am/fm and shortwave. I've had fun picking up stations from around the world. All I can do is guess what country most are coming from, but it's fun.

    We are avid radio listeners in this house. Saturday is an all radio day, starting with quiz shows and on to A Prairie Home Companion.

    We also have some old time radio shows on cd that we listen to often. It's a fun remembrance for mom and fun for me to hear them for the first time.

    1. Marla,

      That is so much fun. It makes me remember being at my grandparents home when I was small. They had a spare bedroom upstairs that had a radio in it. My siblings and I would sleep in that room, and would lay awake till late in the night listening to radio stations from all over North America.

      The Internet Archive has old time radio shows. One Linda and I enjoyed was from the early days of Rock and Roll. This is a page with lots of choices on it:


  3. Anonymous1/23/2018

    I still find it miraculous that I can switch on the radio and have Classic FM beamed into my home - what a wonderful luxury! It's a simple but brilliant piece of technology - if only we had stopped at the radio!

    My Croatian uncle built his own radio as a teenager during the second world war so that he could catch the news and learn English. What a clever man, I doubt many teenagers could do that these days.


    1. Madeleine,

      Imagine the satisfaction of building your own radio. It would seem a bit like magic.

      Radio is indeed a hard technology to beat.

  4. Anonymous1/23/2018

    We have a crank radio/light just like the one pictured. We have it in a place we know where it is all winter in case we lose power. Very handy device. We also had a small transistor radio to listen to public radio. After more than 25 years it gave up and won't work. I agree that we do not need lots of bells and whistles on things - too darn confusing and distracting. I worry about all those screens/cameras in cars nowadays, seems like way too many things to look at other than the road! -- Mary

    1. Mary,

      My rule for driving is, "When driving, JUST DRIVE." If not done with care and attention, driving can be the most dangerous activity most of us will ever engage in, so extreme caution is required if we are to return home safely.

      A 25 year old radio is a beautiful and practical thing. Maybe some tinkering could revive it?

  5. Great article! The simpler, the better. As much as we all adore how technology is improving our lives, it doesn't come without its challenges. One of them is definitely the increase in numbers of internet outages. In other words, as much our content consuming experience is significantly improved, the chances for destroying that experience are bigger than ever before.


    1. Technology is like magic - there is always a cost to using it. Most never consider the cost, even though our stories, myths and tales have been warning us for a long, long, long time.


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