Modern conveniences

Modern conveniences

Modern conveniences or Mod cons are labor-saving devices that make a task easier to perform than a traditional method. Because of the historical use of the term, and the differences in lifestyles around the world, the term is a relative term based upon the conveniences previously available to a person and his or her neighbors. For instance, an American definition of "modern convenience" is likely different than an individual living in an developing country.

Most of the time the term "modern conveniences" is used to express personal lifestyle and home life.



Late 19th century


Turn of the century bathroom

In 1889, architect and author Louis. H. Gibson defined modern conveniences as "those arrangements and appliances which make it possible for people to live comfortably in a larger house, without seriously increasing the cares which they had in a smaller one." The supposition is that at that time if a family lived in a smaller home, they would have less furniture, appliances and other goods to take care of, and as a result the family's lifestyle and housekeeping would be relatively easy. If, on the other hand, a family moved into a larger home the increase area and furnishings would be much more difficult to manage without labor-saving devices.[1]

Examples of modern conveniences at that time included:[2][3]

20th century

In addition to the modern conveniences of the previous century, the 20th century also afforded the following common conveniences:

The homes of the 20th century are much bigger than the homes of our family members from the 19th century, both in terms of square footage and number of rooms. Homes built at the beginning of the 21st century have 2-3 times more rooms than homes at the turn of the 20th century. In terms of square footage, new homes built in 2000 are 50% larger than a home built in the 1960s.[4]

Some examples of modern conveniences in the 20th century include:[5][6]

21st century

Comparison of modern conveniences in new housing construction

Peter Ferrara quotes in his book America's Ticking Bankruptcy Bomb that the access to modern conveniences is markedly different in 21st century new homes than at the beginning of the 20th century:[4]

Modern conveniences 1900 1950 2011
Electricity < 2% (1) (1)
Running water
Flush toilets
Vacuum cleaner
Gas or electric heat
< 20% Unknown 80-100%
Microwave oven
Air conditioner
None < 20% 80-100%
Central air conditioning
Decks and Patios
Swimming pools
Ceiling fans
(2) (2) Prevalent

(1) Not stated, likely 100%. (2) Likely extremely rare at the beginning of the 20th century.

Upcoming technological advancements

David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect and Tech Targets the Third World projects that technological advancements in education and health care, mobile computing and broadband will empower the poor and provide economic opportunities that they would not otherwise have access. These technologies are relatively easy and cost-effective to implement because of technological advancements that have driven down the costs and because developing countries do not have expensive and outdated legacy systems to manage emerging technology.[7]

Religious groups who avoid or limit use of modern conveniences


Key beliefs that determine an Anabaptist community's position on use of modern conveniences are:[8][9]

  • The belief that in order to enter the Kingdom of God, they must live apart from the "world", or the unreformed.
  • Avoiding "worldly" behaviors that pull their attention and intentions away from their religious community.
Religion General position Electricity Comments use of modern conveniences
Amish Generally, the Amish avoid use of modern conveniences to limit their contact with the outside world.[10] In recent years, there has been greater openness to strategically select certain modern conveniences to support their businesses, while keeping the spirit of the separateness. Per Donald Kraybill and Steven Nolt: "If it enhances the welfare of the community, new technology is welcomed. Only when it peels away community cohesion does technology face the frown of the church."[11] Generally,[12]Amish avoid electricity lines coming directly in their homes, but they may used battery, generators, or pneumatic or hydraulic power, such as for machinery and tools.[10] In most cases the Amish do not have cars, telephone lines coming into their home, or farm equipment that they would ride, all of which increase contact with the outside world or be significant advantages from worldly capabilities. There are exceptions, such as use of voicemail and mobile phones for people who own businesses or are in a progressive order, with guidance provided by their church.[10][13][14][15]
Mennonite There is wide disparity among the Mennonite, from those most Progressive to the strictest Old Order about the use of modern conveniences. For instance, some Progressive Mennonites life in cities and enjoy many of the modern conveniences of their non-Mennonite neighbors. Each Mennonite community determines its right path, but always with the ideal of living "simply and humbly".[16] See general comment and Old Order information. See general comment and Old Order information.
Old order Anabaptists: Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish and Brethren Although there are some modern conveniences that Old Order members enjoy, they are the most reluctant of the Anabaptists to accept the use of technology, especially direct use. For many of them it is a slippery slope that leads to eternal damnation.[17] Use of telephone service and electricity lines brought into the home are generally discouraged, decisions are made by the individual religious communities. Like the Amish, they explore creative use of energy, like batteries, generators, etc.[18] It is difficult to provide one conclusion for four Old Order religions: Each religious community determines the use of modern conveniences based upon their specific circumstances. [19]

Shabbat - Rest day in Orthodox and Conservative Judaism

Shabbat is the seventh day of the Jewish week and a day of rest in Judaism. Shabbat is observed from a few minutes before sunset on Friday evening until a few minutes after the appearance of three stars in the sky[20] on Saturday night. On Shabbat Jews recall the Biblical Creation account in Genesis, describing God creating the Heavens and the Earth in six days and resting on the seventh. It also recalls the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, when God commanded the Israelite nation to observe the seventh day and keep it holy. Shabbat is considered a festive day, when a Jew is freed from the regular labors of everyday life, can contemplate the spiritual aspects of life, and can spend time with family. Orthodox and some Conservative authorities rule that there are 39 prohibited activities of work (melakhot), such as turning electric devices on or off, driving cars and more during the Shabbat, as listed in Mishnah Tractate Shabbat.[21][22][23]

Effects of certain modern conveniences

There are many ramifications of the development of modern conveniences for individuals and their families over the past 150 or more years. The many labor-saving devices have kept pace with growing houses and furnishings and allow for greater leisure. There are also some negative effects, some of which are also as the result of advancements in chemical technology in the food that we eat or products that we use. In these cases there are also conflicting opinions about the extent to which some of the products are harmful. Here are a few examples of positive and negative effects of modern conveniences.

Positive effects

Health Care

Some of the major improvements over the past century has been in improved health care.
  • Prevention of infectious diseases has been much more successful with the advent of waste (sewer) disposal and water treatment. It has also made marked changes in life expectancy.[24]

Technological advancement in underdeveloped countries

Some of the most dramatic technological benefits are seen in third world, or underdeveloped, countries. For instance, cabling for land-line telephone service is expense and requires a significant amount of time to complete, especially in the most remote areas. Introduction of cellular phone service, on the other hand, is much cheaper and dramatically improves individual's ability to be economically productive, often in microbusinesses. It is estimated that 80% of the world's population is now located within range of cellular towers, 1.5 billion cellular phones are in use in developing countries and, in India alone, 5 million customers sign up for cellular service each week. Singapore, Taiwan, Korea and Libya are a few of the countries that have leveraged technology to become a presence in the global community.[7]
Another example, led by Nicholas Negroponte of MIT's Media Lab in rural Asia, Latin America, and Africa, provides $100 laptop computers to underdeveloped countries.[7]

Negative effects

In 1905 the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article titled "Nervous Strain" about how "modern conveniences" make our lives busier and with less direct contact than the preceding generations. As an example, the author compared having a calming cup of tea with a person to the more distant practice of placing a telephone call. Labor-saving devices meant that people now spent more time sitting, breathed machinery generated smoke, and ate food in greater abundance, changing peoples' diets. These activities were speculated to result in high blood pressure, obesity and "nervous strain."[25]

Although modern conveniences have resulted in greater ease for our lives, there are some harmful impacts to some modern conveniences:

Processed food and food preparation
Processed foods, High-fructose corn syrup and increased fat - the greater reliance on processed, packaged, microwaveable food has resulted in a rise in Type 2 Diabetes, obesity and other health concerns. Margarine, once seen as a great alternative to butter, does not help with absorption of nutrients and may contribute to heart disease. Microwave ovens used for cooking food for several minutes can kill off much of the nutrients. For better health, it is recommended that microwaves are used just to re-heat food.[24]
Meat and eggs from animals that received growth hormones negatively impacts ones health. Cage-free eggs and grass-fed beef are healthy alternatives. Partially hydrogenated oils contain a chemical which extends the shelf-life of the oil, but because it does not deliver the necessary oxygen with it and it is harmful to the cells and blood vessels in our body. Genetically modified food, such as corn and soy, have not been adequately tested to ensure they are healthy.[24]
Silver fillings were made with 50% mercury, a significant health hazard. Fortunately, there are safe alternatives available now. Chemicals in Flame retardant bedding are very hazardous. Teflon non-stick cookware, plastics and styrofoam cups are generally considered to contain carcinogens. Styrofoam cups release styrene as the food or drink is consumed. Leaded fuel is another hazardous chemical. Although it has been outlawed in the United States, its use in third world countries impacts the health of local people and the global environmental. Cell phones and cell towers generate a significant amount of electromagnetic frequencies, which may be harmful to our health.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Gibson, 21-23.
  2. ^ Gibson, 23-25.
  3. ^ Illinois Farmers' Institute, 68-73
  4. ^ a b Ferrara, 331-332.
  5. ^ United States. Dept. of Agriculture. Office of the Secretary. Information Office, 23.
  6. ^ Danziger, 10.
  7. ^ a b c Kirkpatrick, David. Tech Targets the Third World. Fortune. December 22, 2006.
  8. ^ Institute for Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies, 6, 268-270.
  9. ^ Kenna, Stawicki, 35.
  10. ^ a b c Kraybill, Nolt. (2004), p. 54.
  11. ^ Kraybill, Nolt. (2004), pp. vii, 67.
  12. ^ Kraybill (2001), pp. 114–115.
  13. ^ Kraybill (2001), pp. 114-115, 136, 313.
  14. ^ See, for example, [Dan Morse "Still Called by Faith to the Booth: As Pay Phones Vanish, Amish and Mennonites Build Their Own"], The Washington Post, September 3, 2006, p. C1; see also Diane Zimmerman Umble's work on the subject of the Amish and telephones
  15. ^ Kraybill, Nolt (2004).
  16. ^ Kenna, Stawicki, 13, 35.
  17. ^ Kraybill, Bowman, Bowman, pp. 1, 259.
  18. ^ Kraybill, Bowman, Bowman, pp.97, 248, 252-255.
  19. ^ Kraybill, Bowman, Bowman, pp. 236, 252, 259.
  20. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 293:2
  21. ^ Neulander, 165-171.
  22. ^ Adler, Agus, Friedman, 112-137.
  23. ^ Klein, 54-55, 57-58, 77. Further reading / detail 78-93.
  24. ^ a b c d PureHealthMD editors. (2011) 15 Modern Conveniences That Are Bad for Your Health. Discovery Communications, LLC. Fit and Health. Retrieved 9-18-2011.
  25. ^ American Medical Association (1905), 404.


Further reading

  • Morse, Dan. "Still Called by Faith to the Booth: As Pay Phones Vanish, Amish and Mennonites Build Their Own", The Washington Post, September 3, 2006, p. C1.
  • Zimmerman Umble, Diane. Work on the subject of the Amish and telephones.

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