Modern Conveniences We Take for Granted that Would Astonish People from Two Centuries Ago

Technology made almost everything easier, safer, and more effective than a century ago. 

Sometimes, we take the modern conveniences we enjoy for granted. Here are the things we don’t even think about that would astonish folks living two centuries ago. 


A medical researcher using a microscope.
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We no longer fear infection. Penicillin changed the face of modern medicine. If someone gets a minor ailment, they go to the doctor, take some pills, and are fine. 

Two hundred years ago, people had to pray their bodies were strong enough to fight it off. 

Clean Water

Server carrying tray of water
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Western societies are blessed with access to clean, potable water. Most of us simply need to turn the facet for a seemingly endless supply of nourishing liquid. 

Clean water isn’t a given. Millions of people around the world don’t have access to clean water.

All the Spices You Want

Indian spices in bulk
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Global trade enhanced the spice trade. You had to be rich two hundred years ago to afford a bounty of spices from exotic lands. Anyone can get any spice they want at the local grocery store

Cell Phones

A man stands to use his hand on a cell phone that's bigger than he is which stands in his living room.
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We can communicate with anyone we want with the touch of a button. Imagine what cell phones could have done for Paul Revere, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Edison.


HVAC technician working on large machine.
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Imagine living through an Arizona summer without air conditioning or a Montana winter without heating. People survived with fireplaces, Franklin stoves, and other ineffective means of heating, but now we’re spoiled when electricity makes our homes a stable environment. 


Back view of a woman looking in the refrigerator and scratching her head.
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Before refrigerators, people kept their perishables cool with ice and root cellars. The home refrigerator we know and love wasn’t invented until the early 1900s. People from 200 years ago would marvel at our ability to keep food from spoiling. 

Washing Machine

Colorful shirts hanging out to dry on a clothes line.
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Imagine taking your clothes down to the river once a week to wash them in questionable water. 

The washing machine changed how we think about hygiene and cleanliness, allowing us to keep our clothes clean easily. 


Office supplies stacked nicely on a desk.
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We take pens for granted. They’re small, cheap, and one of the most commonly stolen items in the US. 

But think about what life was like 200 years ago before standard ballpoint and fountain pens were invented. You needed a quill and a jar of ink to write anything down. People from that era would be amazed at how easy it is for us all to write. 


Dr. vaccinating an older female patient.
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Vaccines have saved countless lives. We’ve all but eradicated debilitating diseases like Polio. People from the 1800s would marvel at the healthy populace resulting from vaccines. 

Vaccines are so ubiquitous in our culture that we’ve forgotten what life was like before them. As more people take them for granted and doubt their efficacy, we can be assured that more diseases will re-emerge. 

Grocery Stores

An aerial view of women shopping for fruit at the grocery store.
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Though societies throughout history had marketplaces to find fresh foods, people from most ages would be astounded by our modern grocery stores. 

Seasonal fruits line the shelves at all times of the year, exotic vegetables from far-off lands are everyday staples, and the abundance of prepackaged food makes their eyes jump out of their sockets. 


Person holding a light bulb that's on despite not being connecting to anything.
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Famed scientist Thomas Edison began bringing electricity into our homes in the late 19th century. The electrical revolution took off in the 1920s, but people relied on candles and fire to see in the dark before that. 

Someone from 1823 would marvel at how we light our homes with a safe flip of a switch. 

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