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Low technology, often abbreviated low tech (adjective forms low-technology, low-tech, lo-tech), is simple technology, often of a traditional or non-mechanical kind, such as crafts and tools that pre-date the Industrial Revolution. It is the opposite of high technology.
Low technology can typically be practised or fabricated with a minimum of capital investment by an individual or small group of individuals. Also, the knowledge of the practice can be completely comprehended by a single individual, free from increasing specialization and compartmentalization. Low-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.)
- blacksmithing and the various related smithing and metal-crafts.
- folk music played on acoustic instruments.
- mathematics (particularly, pure mathematics)
- organic farming and animal husbandry (i.e.; 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, felting, drop spindle spinning, hand knitting, crochet, & similar textile preparation.
- the production of charcoal by the collier, for use in home heating, foundry operations, smelting, the various smithing trades, and for brushing ones teeth as in Colonial America.
- various subskills of food preservation:
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.
- the production of various alcoholic beverages:
- masonry as used in castles, cathedrals, and root cellars.
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
- Arts and Crafts Movement, popularized by Gustav Stickley in America around 1900.
- Bauhaus movement of Germany around the same time.
- Do-It-Yourself phenomenon arising in America following World War II.
- Back-to-the-land movement beginning in America during the 1960s.
- Luddites, whose activities date to the very beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
- Living history and open-air museums around the world, which strive to recreate bygone societies.
- Simple living adherents, such as the Amish and to a lesser extent some sects of the Mennonites, who specifically refuse some newer technologies to avoid undesirable effects on themselves or their societies.
- Survivalists are often proponents, since low-technology is inherently more robust than its high-technology counterpart.