The term “technology” describes a lot of things, but perhaps none more than the application of scientific principles to solve problems. Technologists are involved in a wide variety of tasks, ranging from advising companies on how to improve their products to designing new products for clients. But often their most important project is helping to build the basic infrastructure necessary for the effective operation of modern day businesses. Technology plays an increasingly significant part in everyday operations, from marketing to customer service.
Technologists are usually called upon to explain what technology is, how it works, and why it is being used. In order to be successful in describing these technologies to the general public, they must be able to use a vocabulary independent of the specific technologies being discussed. The best way to do this is to describe technological systems as a set of procedures, a set of tools, or a combination of tools and procedures that can be organized into a comprehensive and coherent whole.
The discipline of applied science has developed several terms to describe the various technological processes that have taken place throughout the twentieth century. According to William Schatzberg in his landmark article Applied Science: An Introduction, the term “technological” was first used in connection with the first industrial revolution. He argued that it was necessary to distinguish between technologies which produce efficient results and those which make goods affordable. As technology developed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, new areas of practical application began to open up and specific techniques were developed for each discipline. These terms now form a foundation for the modern science of technology.
Applied science is intimately associated with technological change. This relationship became even more pronounced with the development of computers and the Industrial revolution, which brought a revolution in scientific research and discoveries. According to Schatzberg, Applied technology can be separated into two main categories: qualitative and quantitative. He further explained that there exists a distinction between the technological evaluation of a product or process as a qualitative term and the use of quantitative measurement as a quantitative discipline.
Quantitative assessment refers to the use of quantitative statistical data in order to evaluate the quality of technological systems. This was a part of the schatzberg’s original definition of technology which was expanded upon by J. S. Eagleworthy and F. M. Salmon in their famous textbook, Applied Technologies. Schatzberg distinguished quantitative evaluation from the use of qualitative analysis, arguing that qualitative methods are inherently more dynamic and creative than are quantitative measurements. In fact, he believed that the art of technology was nothing more than the application of the theories of classical mechanics to the particular context of twentieth century society.
According to Schatzberg, there are two broad schools of thoughts about how to classify technologies. The first category is the material means view, which he described as “the belief that all technological systems are characterized by the application of human labor.” The second category is the creative power view, which he described as “the faith in the possibility of new technological systems.” According to the material means school of thought, all technological systems are characterized by the use of matter as a means of execution; while the creative power school believes that all technological systems can be generated from artistic inspiration. The key concepts of both views are the belief that technological systems can be produced from technological sources using materials such as ideas, science, machines, and physical processes not available to people in previous generations.