Phase 1 : Technical discovery (1870-80)
A century after Cugnot's steam automobile (1770), the
economic development of Europe made various technical
advances possible, which led to the production of prototypes
of auto-mobile vehicles by enthusiasts such as Carl Benz
and Gottlieb Daimler. Innovations sprang up everywhere
and the pioneers pushed the technique ever further by
testing new ideas, which made them appear either like
visionaries or madmen. Pioneers have to evangelise to
convince. They travelled the length and breadth of different
countries to justify their approach by practical proofs.
The general public and the authorities watched them with
a mixture of incredulity and amusement.
Phase 2 : First applications by the general public (early
Little by little, nevertheless, the craze for this new
technology grew, probably due as much to the stubbornness
of the inventors as to the funding which increasingly
supported them. Some went so far as to start businesses
(Renault and Michelin in 1898, Daimler-Benz in 1901).
The phenomenon spread from the enlightened few to become
a privilege of the more comfortably off social classes.
Demand grew, and the products were adapted to public demand
(more comfort, better ergonomics), at the same time as
the critics of these machines which disturbed established
Phase 3 : Appropriation of the tool by the next generation
A whole generation passed and the people integrated these
new machines into their everyday life, though they still
had a certain prestige compared with other consumer objects.
Costs fell considerably, allowing the middle class to
buy cars. The new technology is no longer a dream reserved
solely for enthusiasts or the rich ; its use became widespread
(taxis, goods transport, buses, petrol stations, defence),
while the traditional activities such as hackney cabs
began to disappear. Production methods began to be rationalised
(time and motion) and competition between manufacturers
became more and more fierce and few new arrivals stood
a chance of breaking into the market.
Phase 4 : The wave of technology matures and transforms
Twenty years later, the new technology is no longer a
technology but an object of mass consumption within reach
of the entire population, prices have fallen incredibly,
there are more different models : the upper classes have
their de luxe models, the middle classes their mid-range
models, the working class, their small cars. Society is
reorganised around the car, with the appearance of suburbs,
motorways, independent long-distance transport become
the norm for the individual, visits between countries
increase. Innovation in terms of different uses of the
technique has slowed down considerably, and the growth
of the market is relatively slow.
The computer is the technology which
caused the present revolution