What is Enabling Technology and how has it changed us?

// Published July 17, 2015 by Max

Enabling technology is an invention or new innovation that can be applied to drive radical change in the capabilities of a user or culture. These are fast developing technologies that range in various fields. In Lehman’s terms; something created to advance society.

In order to provide a better understanding, we’ve put together some of the most significant enabling technologies:


Glasses – If you travel all the way back to 1 A.D. (1 is not a typo), the first written record regarding glasses was found. Granted, these were not glasses as we know them to day, but more of a magnification. The first documented eye glasses were made in Italy in 1286. Other documentations have also stated that the infamous Marco Polo saw civilians in China wearing eye glasses around 1275.

Whatever the case may be, it’s just one of the many examples of our enabling technologies throughout history.


Printing Press – Another history changing piece of technology was the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg invented the machine somewhere around 1440. The printing press provided a line of communication between all of society, and eventually books. Sixty years later there were printing presses throughout all of Western Europe.

A hundred years later, printing presses were in 200+ cities and reach an output of almost 200 million copies. In modern times, printing presses are giving way to the digital era, but their place in history will always be cemented.


Internet – One of the most important enabling technologies, the World Wide Web has transformed the way society interacts with one another. Everything from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Snapchat, they are utilized by millions around the world.

The Internet first started back in the 1960s. Its goal at that time was for the government to build a communication portal that could not be breached. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the “Internet” was structured as we know it today. How has it affected everyone?

Well, look beyond communication between your family and friends. Instead, look at the other technologies that seemed be reshaped due to the Internet’s ability. For instance, let’s talk about the newspaper. Back in the 1980s, just about every doorstep had a newspaper in the United States. Fast forward 25 years and the newspaper company has either gone out of business, or figured out a way to digitalize themselves online.

Even the television has seen monumental changes over the years. Remember when you used to have to be home by 8pm to watch your favorite show? Those days are long gone thanks to DVR. Oh, and what about your ability to shop? Brick and mortar companies are going stale, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see warehouse distribution sites “only,” and everything is purchased online (except maybe groceries, because there will always be a grocery store…right?).

The point is; enabling technology has been around for centuries and has dramatically changed lives throughout history. It’s exciting to think about the types of enabling technology we have yet to see.

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