Technology that scared people through history

Date:6 April 2020 Author: Leila Stein

5G tower conspiracy theories and fears are running rampant on the internet, with some towers even being burnt down in the UK as a result. Humans are always weary of the new, with deep-seated survival instincts pushing us to be cautious.

In the modern age, this has often meant new technology has been met with strong opposition. Even things we now take were granted were initially spurned and rallied against.

Here are the “scariest” technologies through history:


Trains may not even seem like technology at this point because they have been around so long. Trains are dangerous and can have accidents but that isn’t what people were worried about. When the Stockton-Darlington Railway opened in 1825, people were scared that moving at the whopping speed of 48 km/h would harm their bodies. This would either be through it ripping their limbs from their torsos or simply melting them.


The arrival of the telephone changed communication forever. Connection across longer distance was significantly easier and news could travel faster. Some were worried that the electric telephone would shock them, though this was a hangover fear from the introduction electricity. Others thought it would put an end to privacy, this could have been valid seeing how far we’ve come, and many believed it would make society lazy and unsociable.


Much like the text fear of the cellphone age, when the telegraph was initially introduced people thought it would ruin the English language. They believed the short, clipped and ungrammatical posts would lead people to speak like that even in real life, therefore stunting our communication.


Do you remember when you were younger and your parents said you would hurt your eyes by sitting too close to the TV? Well these fears where hangovers from the early days of television.

People were afraid the fabric of life, socialising and reading would be destroyed by the introduction of TV. In addition, according to TechRadar, the fear about it hurting your eyes has some truth behind it. In the 1960s, General Electric shipped faulty sets which allegedly emitted X-Rays. People were told to sit further away to avoid them, despite GE fixing this issue.


Cellphones began a massive leap in technological progress. They took the connectivity made by telephones and put that right in peoples’ pockets. Now we are always connected and able to respond. Fears around radiation, and cancer caused by cellphones has plagued them since their release. This hasn’t seemed to stop people buying them, but led to many articles on how you should sleep with your phone switched off.


Much like the telegraph, text speak and emojis which have grown since the introduction of the cellphone and smartphone have been considered the downfall of language by some. These convenient ways to shorten text and create wider expression, much like acronyms and slang through the ages proved to be an extension of language rather than its demise.


Much like cellphones, Wi-Fi was condemned as a cause of cancer. While there has been no proof that this is true, and Wi-Fi only growing in abidance, it hasn’t stopped people from claiming similar conspiracies about a similar product, 5G.

Tech wearables 

What is it with technology and cancer? Tech wearables like smartwatches and wireless headphones got much the same treatment as cellphones and Wi-Fi with claims they would cause cancer in the wearer. While this has also not been proved, other fears including a lack of privacy from tacking also popped up.

Images: Pixabay

Latest Issue :

May-June 2022