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Topic: Do we need the telephone
Do we need the telephone?
A decade ago the answer would have been obvious. The telephone had only one use: it helped us talk to each other. Now that we can use phones to send text messages – and even pictures – things are more confusing. Of course, innovators and manufacturers inevitably think up uses for their latest invention. Yet it is more than likely that they will have a limited range of ideas compared to those of the users of the technology. Sometimes the phone has been used in ways imagined by innovators and sometimes it hasn’t, but almost invariably the introduction of the phone has sparked unpredicted consequences – even the invention of the phone itself was an unpredicted consequence of work to improve the telegraph. This topic is divided into three parts: the successes, the failures and the consequences of the phone which manufacturers were unable to predict.
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Topic section: Unpredicted successes
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It is often hard to predict which groups will benefit most from new technologies. Early telephone manufacturers did not realise that farmers would be keen to use their products, and today mobile phones are even used by activists to depose presidents.  > more

Topic section: Unpredicted failures
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Manufacturers often think they have created an improved version of the telephone that will sell like hot cakes. More often than not, their breakthrough fails to sell. Sometimes an innovation is a success in one place and a failure elsewhere.  > more

Topic section: Unpredicted consequences
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The telephone has affected our everyday lives in many ways. It has changed how we shop, how we write English and even how we use our thumbs. However hard we try to predict its consequences, we cannot completely forecast the impact of the telephone on our lives.  > more
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