How did world war 1 change everyday technology?

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hi1954's profile pic

hi1954 | Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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One technological advance which greatly impacted everyday life was the ability to transmit voice by radio instead of only coded messages, something which was made possible by the use of electron tubes as both oscillator and signal amplifier.  Although the basics of the technology were developed in the years before the war it was the necessities of the war which accelerated both the research and the actual use of this process on a continuous basis.

The thermionic valve, or vacuum tube, was invented in 1904 by John Ambrose Fleming, so called because heat controlled the flow of electrons just as a mechanical valve controlled the flow of water.  The device converted Alternating Current to Direct Current, and was incorporated into his radio wave detector.  Lee deForest in 1906 refined the device into the triode tube, which greatly amplified radio waves.  But it was in 1912 that Edwin H. Armstrong used triodes to create a regenerative wave which could amplify radio waves to such a gain state that received waves could be heard through a loudspeaker, instead of only through earphones.  This allowed voice transmission, which while actually used before the war came into its own through the use of radio for communications by the German and British Navies.  Eventually the use of radio for communications spread to armies, and after the war became the basis of most of what we think of as "entertainment" today.  Radio, television, talking movies and vocal and instrument amplifiers all come from the expansion of this technology during the Great War.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I'll assume you are talking about in the United States.  The factories in America's cities were churning out war materiel by the ton during the war, both before and after we were officially involved on the Allied side.  The specialized labor and assembly line manufacturing methods introduced by Henry Ford at that time were used for mass production of weapons, ambulances, planes.

The wealth this generated created an economic boom after the war where these factories would make new inventions such as washing machines, radios, record players, etc.  The industrial base created by the war led us to this wealth of consumer goods after it.

One could also say that World War I spurred advances in plane technology that would give birth to airline services and passenger planes by the late 1920's.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

I very much doubt that any of the technological inventions made during the World War I developed to aid the war effort had much impact on technologies used by people in everyday life. The closest we come to that is the development in Aviation technology. There were many improvement made in design of aeroplanes, and these development definitely had major impact on making air travel, faster, safer and more economical. At the beginning of the war maximum speed of planes was about 100 miles per hours. It increased to double by the end of the war.

Submarines called U-Boats were also developed as a part of war efforts. However this technology did not have any direct effect on everyday life.

Another important area of technological development impacting life after the war was development in petroleum technology and greater use of oil operated equipments.

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