A Revolution in Your Hand
When you watch a movie or TV show that was produced several years ago, you may find yourself laughing, even if the film or show is not a comedy. Sometimes the technology being used looks old and silly.
In a movie from the 1970s, a character might be desperately looking for coins to use in a pay phone. In a movie from the 1980s, someone might be carrying around a “portable phone” as big as a brick. Even movies that are only a few years old look out of date if the characters are using out-of-date cell phones or are typing on typewriters instead of computers. Often futuristic films made only a decade ago include computer graphics that are already old-fashioned.
The reason that movies look out-of-date so quickly is that you live in an era, or period of time, of remarkable change. If someone told you that you are living in the middle of a revolution (a sudden and dramatic change), would you believe that? What if you were told that the tools and gadgets you use in your everyday life are the result of two revolutions? Or three? Or even four? You might find that hard to believe.
As you read about the revolutions that are changing your life, keep a smart phone in your hand or in your mind. You will soon see it as a revolutionary device
The Scientific Revolution
Most people understand that science has a lot to do with the many technologies available to us today. Without science, we would not have computers, telephones, music players-or all three of these pieces of equipment wrapped up in a smart phone.
Science is a method of learning about the natural world. Scientists 1) make careful observations, 2) use experiments to identify facts, and 3) organize facts into theories. A theory is a general statement that explains the facts observed by scientists. Theories are tested, often by many scientists in a variety of places. Scientists continue to observe, to analyze (or examine carefully), and to experiment-a process leading to new theories · that better explain the facts.
The Scientific Revolution is the name given to an era that lasted from the late 1500s to the early 1600s. During that time, scientists developed many new theories about how the world worked.
A good way to understand the Scientific Revolution is to think about the solar system:. For centuries, people had a fundamental, or basic, belief about the solar system: they thought the Sun and the other planets revolved around Earth. In 1543, however, the Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) proposed the theory that Earth and the other planets revolved in circular orbits around the Sun.
Later, other astronomers actually observed the orbit of planets. Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) carefully measured the movements of objects in the night sky. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), an Italian, observed the orbit of moons around Jupiter. Then the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) analyzed Brahe’s measurements to calculate that the planets’ orbits were not circular but oval in shape. The observations and experiments of these astronomers later led Englishman Isaac Newton (1642-1727) to propose the theory that the Sun and planets exert gravity on objects that orbit them.
Over the centuries, scientists have used scientific theory, observation, experimentation, measurement, and calculation to advance human knowledge. Through these scientific methods, scientists have achieved a long sequence, or series, of advances-not only in astronomy, but also in chemistry, geology, physics, meteorology, and biology. Such scientific advances eventually enabled inventors to create the smart phone and other modern marvels.
The Industrial Revolution
It is clear that a modern smart phone would not exist without the Scientific Revolution. The Scientific Revolution alone, however, did not put a smart phone in your hand. For that, you needed another revolution: the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution, which took place in the late 1700s and early 1800s, was a fundamental change in the way goods are made. Before the Industrial Revolution, most goods in Europe and North America were made by hand, in homes in rural settings. After the Industrial Revolution, most goods were made by machines, in factories in urban settings, using the power of water or steam. The Industrial Revolution began in Europe and spread to the United States. It has now reached all the developed countries in the world.
The Industrial Revolution started in Britain’s textile (cloth) industry. Inventors created spinning and weaving machines that made cloth much more quickly than people had been able to do by hand. At first, these new machines were powered by flowing water. The water in streams turned waterwheels, and the waterwheels turned the gears in the machines. Later the steam engine was invented. Steam-powered machinery could turn out miles of cloth in short periods of time. Textile company owners built mills to house the machines, and towns grew up around the mills.
The sequence of manufacturing changes in the textile industry was repeated in industry after industry in Britain and the United States. Improvements in iron- and steel-making industries provided a reliable source of metal for manufacturing factory machinery and new consumer goods. The population shift from rural areas to cities increased as thousands of men and women moved away from farms to work long hours in urban factories.
The Transportation Revolution
Steel and the steam engine combined to make steam locomotives and steamships possible. These mighty machines, along with the building of canals and railroads, led to the Transportation Revolution, which opened up new trade routes. Trains and steamboats carried the ever-increasing number of manufactured goods to a widespread network of markets. This led to the growth of cities such as Chicago. Soon railroads opened up the American West to settlement and industry.
The Digital Revolution
The Scientific Revolution led to a basic method of learning that enabled people to invent the smart phone. The Industrial Revolution led to methods of manufacturing that allow factories to produce lots of smartphones. The Transportation Revolution led to technologies that make it possible to ship smartphones all over the world. One final revolution, however, made the technology of smartphones possible.
The Digital Revolution refers to the ever-increasing number, types, and applications of digital devices found in business and in everyday life. The Digital Revolution began about 1980, and it is still going on today. The digital devices that make up this revolution are electronic instruments that use information cod~d in digits, or numbers.
Computers seem smart, but if you were to analyze a computer, you would find it is really just a collection of switches, each with an on and off position. When you use digits to represent these two positions, you use O and 1. Using lots of switches, computers record huge amounts of information, always using just the numbers O and 1. For example, to a computer the letter A is 01000001, where each O represents a switch in the off position and each 1 represents a switch in the on position. The switches are called transistors. Two million transistors could fit on the period at the end of this sentence.
Digital devices are everywhere today. Tiny computers are used in cars, kitchen appliances, satellites, TVs, electronic toys, all types of industrial machines-the list goes on and on. Your smart phone is a result of the Digital Revolution-and the other revolutions as well.