Discussion Topic

Technologies in "The Veldt"

Summary:

In "The Veldt," key technologies include the automated Happylife Home and the nursery, which creates realistic virtual environments based on the children's thoughts. These technologies are designed to provide comfort and entertainment but ultimately reveal the dangers of over-reliance on technology and the loss of parental control.

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In "The Veldt," what technologies are available to the family?

The house that the Hadley family lives in is a technological achievement in itself. Called a "Happy-life Home," the house does nearly everything for them. Lights come on automatically when they enter a room. The Happy-life Home "which clothed and fed and rocked them to sleep and played and sang and was good to them." However, George and Lydia begin to think the house does too much; they feel useless, certainly with respect to being parents. Lydia comments to George: 

I feel like I don't belong here. The house is wife and mother now, and nursemaid. Can I compete with an African veldt? Can I give a bath and scrub the children as efficiently or quickly as the automatic scrub bath can? I cannot. And it isn't just me. It's you. 

The children "televise" rather than telephone to their parents to say they'll be late. The family's dining room table produces foot itself. 

The most technologically advanced instrument is the nursery which can create virtual worlds (so realistic they border on the real). These worlds are created by connecting with the family's minds. 

Remarkable how the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the children's minds and created life to fill their every desire. The children thought lions, and there were lions. The children thought zebras, and there were zebras. Sun—sun. Giraffes—giraffes. Death and death. 

A problem arises when George can't change the nursery to something other than the African veldt. After consulting with a psychologist, David McClean, George decides to turn everything off, to learn how to do things for themselves: 

And he marched about the house turning off the voice clocks, the stoves, the heaters, the shoe shiners, the shoe lacers, the body scrubbers and swabbers and massagers, and every other machine he could put his hand to. The house was full of dead bodies, it seemed. It felt like a mechanical cemetery. So silent. None of the humming hidden energy of machines waiting to function at the tap of a button. 

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What technology in "The Veldt" resembles a modern device?

To some extent, you could say that computers are similar to some of the devices in the story.  Of course, computers cannot do the kind of virtual reality that will make a whole room seem like the veldt in Africa, but the can do some of the things that the house does in the story.

For example, computers can sing to us now.  If you have enough of a computer set up (though most of us don't) it can turn lights on an off for you.

I suppose you can also argue that the nursery is a metaphor for TVs.  The Hadleys, and some parents today, just put their kids in front of the TV and let the TV babysit them.

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What gadgets are mentioned in Bradbury's "The Veldt"?

The Hadleys' house is filled with technical advancements and contrivances.

In the house, there are sound and smell effects initiated by mechanical devices. For instance, as George and Lydia Hadley walk through the halls of their home, lights go on and off automatically. (This was a new concept at the time of Bradbury's writing of the story.) When the Hadleys enter the nursery, sound effects are engaged as the walls "purr" and seem to disappear. Then an African veldt appears in three dimensions, along with sound effects. "And again George Hadley was filled with admiration for the mechanical genius who had conceived this room."

However, the Hadley house is so mechanized that Lydia feels that she is no longer needed. There is an automatic scrub bath for the children, so she does not bathe them or interact with them in any other way; she does not cook for them or wash and put out their clothes for school. Later, George and Lydia sit down for dinner alone because Peter and Wendy are at "a special plastic carnival" on the other side of town. Then, as George realizes the ketchup is not on the table, he asks about it. "'Sorry,' said a small voice within the table, and ketchup appeared."

Unfortunately, the mechanization of the Happylife Home has left it sterile and impersonal. As a result of all the gadgets and special effects generated by electronic contrivances, George and Lydia have little interaction with their children. This mechanization has caused the Hadleys to lose the warmth of a real home.

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What unusual technological devices are featured in "The Veldt"?

Most of the technological innovations in "The Veldt" sound great at first. But once you realize that they're replacing human relationships and actually reducing adults to the level of helpless children, then they don't seem like such a good idea all of a sudden. A kitchen table that actually cuts your bread for you sounds like the ultimate labor-saving device, the kind of thing you'd see on an infomercial. But the problem is that, if something goes wrong with the technology—and technology always breaks down at some point—then you're in big trouble. It's no exaggeration to say that if all the appliances in their super-deluxe kitchen that do everything for them end up on the fritz, then the Hadleys could practically starve to death.

In some ways, then, the children's nursery, with its ultra-realistic lions, is simply the ultimate example of the many dangers inherent in all the various technological devices arrayed around this bright, shiny Happylife Home. Even if the Hadleys had not ended up as breakfast for the ferocious beasts of the veldt, it's likely that, sooner or later, they would've met their unfortunate ends at the robotic hands of one of their labor-saving devices. If the bread-slicing table had gone haywire, for example, the consequences simply don't bear thinking about.

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What unusual technological devices are featured in "The Veldt"?

Ray Bradbury's "The Veldt" is centered around technological advancement and wild inventions. The story's two most obvious unusual technological devices would be the nursery and the HappyLife Home.

The nursery can turn itself into any setting the children can imagine. The nursery can recreate the sounds, smells, and sights of whatever things the children choose to imagine. As George and Lydia note many times throughout the story, the nursery and its scenes feel very real. Unfortunately, the nursery can also be dangerous and eventually takes over as the parent of the children. 

The HappyLife Home is composed of a variety of strange - and very cool - technological devices. Inside the HappyLife Home is a table that makes food for the homeowners, a machine that ties people's shoes, machines for cleaning the house, machines for giving people baths, etc. The HappyLife Home ensures that homeowners never have to lift a finger or complete a domestic task without assistance. The HappyLife Home sounds great in theory, but in actuality it makes the homeowners feel useless and unneeded. 

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What technologies does the automated house in "The Veldt" possess?

As your question presupposes, one of the defining elements of the house's technology is its extraordinary degree of automation, so that domestic tasks that have traditionally required human work are now carried out by the house itself. The stove cooks dinner for the family by itself, the lights switch on and off automatically based on the movements of the residents within the house, and this degree of automation carries over even to the most banal and simple of tasks. Peter complains when George voices the possibility of switching off the house:

That sounds dreadful! Would I have to tie my own shoes instead of letting the shoe tier do it? And brush my own teeth and comb my hair and give myself a bath?

Even excluding the technology of the nursery itself, the impression Bradbury gives of this house is one by which over-reliance on technology has resulted in a passive and infantile existence.

All this being said, the most important piece of technology (within the context of the story itself) lies with the nursery. To a certain degree, it is difficult to ascertain the specifics as to how this technology actually functions. (Bradbury, after all, is aligned with the tradition of soft science fiction, and, in contrast to writers such as Asimov or Clarke, was never particularly interested in exploring the details, nuances, and technicalities of technology.) Even so, the technology certainly contains holographic technology so advanced as to be lifelike.

However, what truly sets this imagined technology apart (in a way that remains inconceivable even by modern technology) is the degree to which the playroom contains a telepathic component, reading the thought patterns of the people using it. Bradbury writes,

Remarkable how the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the children's minds and created life to fill their every desire.

In fact, as one character within the story, McClean, notes,

One of the original uses of these nurseries was so that we could study the patterns left on the walls by the child's mind, study at our leisure, and help the child.

The specific, technical details as to how this technological telepathy actually functions, however, remain unelaborated upon (which is in keeping with Bradbury's soft science fiction leanings).

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