Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The term low-technology is a description of those crafts and tools whose inception (typically) predates the Industrial Revolution.

A test for low-technology may be that it can be practiced or fabricated with a minimum of Capital investment by an individual or small group of individuals; and that the knowledge of the practice can be completely comprehended by a single individual, free from increasing specialization and compartmentalization.

Colloquially, low-technology (or lo-tech - an antonym of hi-tech) has also come to be used as a relative description of more modern techniques and designs to show that they are no longer cutting edge. Lo-tech techniques and designs may fall into disuse due to changing socio-economic conditions or priorities.

Examples of low-technology

Note: almost all of the entries in this section should be prefixed by the word traditional.

    * weaving produced on non-automated looms, and basketry.

    * hand wood-working, joinery, coopering, and carpentry.

    * the trade of the ship-wright.

    * the trade of the wheel-wright.

    * the trade of the wainwright: making wagons. (the Latin word for a two-wheeled wagon is carpentum, the maker of which was a carpenter.)

(Wright is the agent form of the word wrought, which itself is the original past passive participle of the word work, now superseded by the weak verb forms worker and worked respectively.)

    * blacksmithing and the various related smithing and metal-crafts.

    * folk music played on acoustic instruments.

    * organic farming and animal husbandry (ie; agriculture as practiced by all American farmers prior to World War II).

    * milling in the sense of operating hand-constructed equipment with the intent to either grind grain, or the reduction of timber to lumber as practiced in a saw-mill.

    * fulling cloth preparing.

    * the production of charcoal by the collier, for use in home heating, foundry operations, smelting, the various smithing trades, and for brushing ones teeth in Colonial America.

    * glass-blowing.

    * various subskills of food preservation:
          o smoking
          o salting
          o pickling
          o drying

Note: home canning is a counter example of a Low-technology since some of the supplies needed to pursue this skill rely on a global trade network and an existing manufacturing infrastructure.[citation needed]

    * the production of various alcoholic beverages:
          o wine: not quite so well preserved fruit juice.
          o beer: a way to preserve the calories of grain products from decay.
          o whiskey: an improved (distilled) form of beer.

    * flint-knapping

    * masonry as used in castles, cathedrals, and root cellars.

the legal status of low-technology

    * By Federal law in the United States, only those articles produced with little or no use of machinery or tools with complex mechanisms may be stamped with the designation hand-wrought or hand-made.

    * Lengthy court-battles are currently underway over the precise definition of the terms organic and natural as applied to foodstuffs.

Groups associated with low-technology

    * the Arts and Crafts Movement, popularized by Gustav Stickley in America around 1900.

    * the corresponding Bauhaus movement of Germany around the same time.

    * the Do-It-Yourself phenomenon arising in America following World War II.

    * the Homesteading Movement beginning in America during the 1960s, whose adherents sought to get Back-to-the-land.

    * Survivalists are often proponents, since Low technology is inherently more robust than its high-technology counter-part.

    * most pejoratively, the Luddites, whose activities date to the very beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

    * the various Living History Museums and Open air museums around the world, which strive to recreate bygone societies.

    * the Amish and to a lesser extent some sects of the Mennonites, who specifically refuse some newer technologies to avoid undesireable consequences or effects on their societies.