Friday, December 17, 2010

The rise of "technology"

The Google Books Ngram Viewer, launched online December 16, allows web users to query their respective areas of interest based on n-grams. (Read more about Ngram Viewer in the Scientific American report.)

The graph above resulted from a test with the words "science" and "technology". It shows that the word "science" increased slightly in relative frequency in the 5.2 million book collection of digital Google books over the last century. The word "technology" was scarcely present before 1960, but then increased rapidly in relative frequency reaching near parity with "science" by 1990.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word "technology" first appeared in 1859, "high technology" in 1964, and the shortened form "high tech" in 1972. Of course there has long been an organized body of knowledge about crafts and industries, about how to do and make useful things. Apparently the use of a comprehensive term to indicate the collection of such knowledge is relatively new. The word "science", relating to the body of knowledge organized by scientists about the world, is much older.

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