Telephones are an interesting illustration of the way that Amish families incorporate technology into their lives. Visitors often mistakenly think the Amish use nothing modern. So, when they notice an Amish person making a call from a pay telephone booth, they might be surprised. They may wonder why Amish sometimes use the phone of their English (non-Amish) neighbors. Many visitors are even more shocked to discover that some of the buildings that resemble outhouses sitting near an Amish house or in a field are actually private Amish telephone booths. The ban on telephone ownership was established due to the Amish belief that it contrasts the spirit of humility; contributes to pride and individualism; is not a necessity; and is a link to the outside world. There was also concern that the phone removed people from the physical, face-to-face communication so important in Amish society. Similar to, though, it is just the ownership of telephones that is forbidden, not the use of them. The use of the community phone or phone shanty was permitted beginning in the 1950s, when more Amish were forced to go into businesses and hotels to use phones for emergency purposes and to contact doctors, dentists, veterinarians and food dealers. This community phone building, which often resembles an outhouse, is typically built at the end of a farm lane and shared by several neighboring families.
The objective of this concept was to allow access, but maintain distance. Hence, the phone is not in the house and the number is unlisted, to be used essentially for necessary outgoing calls, not socializing. In the 1980s, the increase in Amish enterprises resulted in more creative phone use. Today, regulations vary by district; some allow phones at
; others do not. Many entrepreneurs claim that the phone is critical to their competitiveness and success in non-farming businesses in Lancaster County, and even farmers find that phone access is critical in caring for their dairy cows and contacting the veterinarian. As is typical of the Amish, when a new technology comes along, its effect on the church and community is examined. The technology should not be an intrusion into the home, but rather serve the social purposes and goals of the group. With that in mind, the Amish often re-purpose the technology, in a sense, to align with their community beliefs. Learn about the Pennsylvania Amish lifestyle by. on Feb. 26, 2013 at noon NPR s visit to an Amish tool expo shows how ingenuity is getting around the issue of electricity. But electricity, too, from certain sources, is slowly gaining acceptance in Amish communities. Table saws and circular saws, cordless drills and sanders–these are all tools we associate, naturally, with electricity.
They\’re tools that make the lives of carpenters and construction workers dramatically easier, replacing pure human-created force with the power of electricity. That electrical dependence also makes them tools the Amish, who avoid electricity in their homes and workshops, will never use–unless someone gets creative. recently featured a segment recorded at a tool expo in Dalton, Ohio, which sounds normal enough. The tools on display, however, weren\’t. They were modified, specialized versions of the power tools you\’d see at Home Depot, trading out electrical dependency for compressed air power. \”There are more than a hundred vendors at the show, all selling some Amish twist on technology,\” writes Planet Money. As land grows more expensive and farming as a way of life becomes less practical, many younger Amish turn to trades like woodworking to make a living. Having power tools is a game-changer in those trades, a way to be more efficient, do better work, and bring in more money. But NPR approaches the obvious question these tools raise: are the Amish slowly adopting more technology into their lives, bending rules that would have once forbidden such tools? One booth at the tool convention sold computers designed for the Amish, which meant no Internet, no video, and no music capabilities. Air-powered tools don\’t really indicate that kind of change; after all, Amish have been using diesel generators and tractors and gas lamps and other such technologies for years.
Electricity, though, is still verboten. mostly. NPR\’s Robert Smith ran into an Amish businessman who has a phone back home, though he keeps it in a separate building, along with an answering machine, so that he can\’t hear it ringing. It seems almost inevitable that the Amish will find it harder and harder to avoid hard ties to the outside world as they slowly adopt more technologies. One booth at the tool convention sold computers designed for the Amish, which meant no Internet, no video, and no music capabilities. But spreadsheets, word documents, and CAD software were front and center. That\’s a device that could quickly justify a connection to the outside world. And maybe that will happen in some Amish communities. But their self-reliance might end up giving us new ideas for technology, too. Some communities are and solar power, learning how to harness electricity without relying on the usual sources. And their roundabout solutions often mean new inventions, like special skylights that can direct daylight to fill a room. They may have to work harder to bring new technologies into their lives, but it doesn\’t seem impossible that one day we\’ll be taking bits of technology from the Amish, and not the other way around.