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The Use of Technology in Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Technologies in Fahrenheit 451
  3. Headphones and headsets
    Fingerprint recognition
    Blood transfusion
    Surveillance technology
  4. Conclusion


Society’s use of technology has a substantial effect on the world. The topic of technology is a prominent one that is displayed in several known works, including Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury’s once shunned and now renowned book, Fahrenheit 451, takes place in a dystopian future in which Bradbury’s satirical twists hint readers about the dangers of the future. The book foreshadows consequences that may take place in the future due to the gradual buildup of problems in the world. This fact makes Fahrenheit 451 a perfect receptacle for themes. One such theme heavily revolves around the topic of technology.

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Technologies in Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 was written by Ray Bradbury in 1953. The book is about the banning of books sometime in the future in order for the Government to better control society. In the 50’s their technologies were limited compared to the technologies that we have invented today. However, Bradbury had an extensive imagination. He created technologies in Fahrenheit that we now use and he created technologies that even we do not have today in 2014. Bradbury uses technologies similar to headphones and headsets, Skype, blood transfusions, fingerprint recognition, and even the Government’s technology used for surveillance of the Nation’s use of technology.

Headphones and headsets

Throughout Fahrenheit 451, there is a strong indication of ear pieces used by many different people. Mildred uses what is called Seashell Radio when she goes to sleep. It is described as an in-ear piece that plays electronic sounds of waves so she can sleep easier. This reminded me of one of those machines that plays sound to help someone fall asleep. Mildred had hers in the form of earbuds which they called seashell radio. A second use of an in-ear technology used is what they called the Green Bullet. The Green Bullet allowed Montag and the old man to listen in and “analyze the firemen’s world” (Bradbury 72). This spying tactic can be considered as improper access. Improper access is defined by Yang as “data about individuals [that is] readily available to people not properly authorized to view or work with this data” (Holster, 2014). Due to Montag’s change of character, he is considered a person who is unauthorized to know about why the firemen do the work they do. Mildred’s seashell radio is very similar to wireless headphones which we have today. Headphones were originally invented in the early 1900’s and only came in the over-the-ear style. Keep in mind, the book was written in 1953. In 2001, the in-ear headphones came in to play. By 2012, wireless headphones had been invented. Compared to the types of headphones they had in the early 1900’s, the headphones that have been developed today are more advanced and come in multiple styles as well as brands. When comparing Mildred’s headphones to the headphones of today, it’s apparent the two devices are about the same. Mildred’s, however, seem to be used only for a sleep aid. Headphones today are used for sleep aids as well as music, and even to talk on the phone. After looking deeper into the invention of in-ear devices and Bluetooth devices, it was discovered that they have invented Bluetooth headphones. Bluetooth headphones are an in-ear device that connects both earbuds to one another by a connecting piece of wire or plastic that sits on the ear and wraps around the back of the head. Montag’s Green Bullet is also similar to Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a wireless communication device that was invented in 1994. The Bluetooth device has a part that is inserted in the ear. Montag and the old man use this Bluetooth device to spy on the firemen. Montag and the old man have begun to question the motives of the firemen and have aroused curiosity about books and what they contain. The start of the Arms Race caused great mistrust and anxiety among Americans. According to Cullip, a professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, “the Soviet Union was able to test their own atomic device, which created mass suspicion in the United States”. This underlying fear inspired Bradbury to create a device for Montag and the old man to keep a close watch on the firemen. The firemen, in this case, represent the Soviet Union and the fear they instilled amongst Americans. The firemen instill a sense of fear amongst all book loving citizens of this town. They, therefore, exhibit matrix of domination “meaning that the particular configuration of race, class, and gender relations in society is such that together they establish an interlocking system of domination” (Holster, 2014).


A tactic of the Government to keep people away from books is the intricate use of television. In Montag and Mildred’s parlor, they have a television set with what Bradbury calls Spot-Wavex scrambler. Essentially what the Spot-Wavex scrambler does is allow the announcer on the television to reply back to the person watching. This makes viewing television more personal and helps keep people interested in the TV rather than allowing their minds to become curious about books. This technological device reminded me of an application we have today called Skype. Skype is the brand name for a technological invention that allows people to communicate through a screen much like the Spot-Wavex scrambler. Even though Skype is mainly used through a computer, there are television sets that support Skype. Skype was invented in 2003, 50 years after the book was written. The idea of video chatting has noticeable improvements compared to Bradbury’s initial creation of them. In Bradbury’s version, he only allows for a one on one contact through the screen. With companies like Skype, there is now a way to add multiple users to a call. Television was a relatively new technology introduced in the early 50’s and “in 1951, 1.5 million TV sets were sold in the United States, ten times what it was in 1950” (Cullip). Bradbury was influenced by all the excitement surrounding television. This contributed to his invention of a television that talks back to the viewer.

Fingerprint recognition

Instead of having a lock and key for his front door, Montag has a glove in which he inserts his hand. The glove recognizes his hand and unlocks the door for him. This is very similar to a technology in many touch screen objects called fingerprint recognition. Fingerprint recognition allows someone to press their finger or thumb against the screen and the machine will recognize the fingerprint. This technological advance can be found on iPhones and some computers and tablets. For many, fingerprint recognition is considered the safest method of keeping a device locked and personal information private. Fingerprint recognition was incorporated into devices around the 1960’s for FBI use. By the 1980’s, the FBI had begun to make improvements on the fingerprint recognition technology. Even today, there is no glove that connects to front doors in replace of a lock and key. Bradbury’s invention of a glove lock is seen as a strong security technique. This fear of uninsured security stems from the fear and panic the Soviet Union had created back in the 1950’s.

Blood transfusion

When Mildred accidentally, or so she claims, overdoses on sleeping pills, Montag rushes her to the paramedics who use a machine that removes all of her blood and replaces it with new blood. This machine is somewhat similar to a blood transfusion or a gastric suction. Blood transfusions are defined as the transfer of blood from one individual to another in cases of excessive blood loss from surgery or serious injury whereas gastric suction is a process that empties the contents of the stomach and is designed to remove the toxins from the stomach in the instance of a suicide attempt from overdosing on pills such as Mildred had. Blood transfusion was invented in the 1760’s. However, there is currently no way for doctors and paramedics to remove all of someone’s blood and replace it with entirely new blood. Blood transfusions only add more blood to the body instead of removing it all and replacing it. Bradbury’s machine idea is far better than a blood transfusion. Blood transfusions have risks. The blood given to a patient could be rejected by the body. With Bradbury’s idea, the body is flushed of all blood and then entirely replaced. This method eliminates the risk of the blood being rejected. However, in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit world, there is a strong sense of technological rationality. Technological rationality is defined as the idea that “all problems are seen as manageable with technical solutions” (Holster, 2014). It appears that medically, environmentally, socially and politically, all problems within Fahrenheit 451 can be solved by technology.

Surveillance technology

The Hound is a very large, robotic dog that the firemen use to locate hidden books in residents’ homes. As of today, the United States Government does not have a Hound. However, the Government does have the technology to keep an eye on society’s use of technology, specifically the internet. The internet was not invented until 1962. The Hound symbolizes the Government watching people through technology. In the book, the Hound is described as this cold, emotionless machine that is solely devoted to seeking out books for destruction. Bradbury predicts the Government’s surveillance will have a negative impact on society. Bradbury’s opinion can be argued from both sides. The Government’s constant surveillance of society’s use of the internet can be seen as an invasion of privacy. Privacy is defined as a spatialized right to solitude or an information right to confidentiality (Holster, 2014). Bradbury feared the Government’s constant watch could ultimately lead to society being fully dependent and brainwashed by the Government. However, the Government’s surveillance of the internet can be viewed as a safety precaution, especially in today’s world. With the recent attacks that have occurred on our country from opposing countries overseas, the Government has good reason and good intent when it comes to supervising all technology used by everyday citizens. The technology used by the Government today is better than how Bradbury described Government control in his book. Government technologies in Fahrenheit were used for the destruction of knowledge in order to gain control of the Nation. Today, the Government’s constant surveillance on the country is to ensure the safety of the Nation’s inhabitants. There is a technological devices called Surveillance-oriented security technologies which are defined as “technologies intended to enhance the security of citizens via some inherent surveillance capability either operated by or accessible to the state” (Holster, 2014). According to Mitchener, “they facilitate the monitoring, screening, or threat assessment of individuals, groups, or situations, and are based on live-events, past events or the processing of data”. In the 1940’s, America took part in World War II. War causes fear amongst all involved directly or indirectly. Bradbury’s concept of Government surveillance symbolizes the Government’s fear and anxiety surrounding the war that had happened a few years earlier.

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Bradbury’s creative inventions in the book Fahrenheit 451 represent inventions we have today that were invented after the time the book was written. Bradbury thought up creations that only a science fiction novelist could dream of. To the readers living in present day, these technologies he created are simple, everyday technologies we use in daily life. It makes one think, if Bradbury could somehow predict the idea of Bluetooth in the early 50’s, what inventions could be predicted in 2014 and revealed in the future?

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