Brand New and Wonderful: The Rise of Technology
Jacques G. Ruelland, Université de Montréal

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like without the telephone or other modern means of communication- This is the question that Canadian men and women come to ask themselves toward the end of the 19th century, when inventions such as these begin to change their daily lives.

Numerous new revolutionary techniques are perfected throughout the world, and Canadians are the first to benefit from them. The exploitation of natural resources like coal and various ores pick up speed, and a new source of energy - electricity - finds many applications.

The results of technical progress begin to appear everywhere: telephones, phonographs, photographs, films, exotic foods, streetcars, electric trains and automobiles invade the daily lives of each and every Canadian. The introduction of sewing machines into the home redefines the way that clothes are made, along with fashion and domestic work. The washing machine lends precious assistance to busy mothers. Typewriters transform office work. Progress in chemistry leads to the emergence of plastics and synthetic fibres and dyes. All sectors of Canadian industry - footwear, clothing, wood, paper, agriculture, etc. - undergo rapid growth.

The use of machine tools brings about changes in manufacturing processes, agriculture, food production, health, transportation, communication and work organization. But if machine tools permit an increase in productivity, they do so at the expense of the quality of life in factories. Canadian workers - including many women and children - toil without respite in factories where they are subjected to extremely demanding methods of production.

Over two generations these innovations totally change each person's way of life, along with relationships with neighbours and family and even trade between nations. All these inventions finally impose a new lifestyle on Canadians, one based on the satisfaction of needs created by the new economic order.

Technological innovation makes dreamers of us all. Everyone believes that technology can do the impossible - which it often does. In the meantime, the novelties it generates reinvent daily life.