Some things change. Some things don’t.
The meaning of the word “home” is not so easy to isolate. To most, the idea of home is a place where they can feel safe and secure; a place to return every day and find comfort. We find peace in the physical comfort that home offers to us, while at the same time taking advantage of the fact that we have a home to return to every day.
Despite how we perceive home today, it did not always consist of a roof over our heads. Native Americans defined home as a place where they could gather with family. It provided the same comforts as our modern sense of the word without always needing a roof. However, their land was taken away from them and sold to settlers.
The loss of home has gone back much further than the days of the settlers though. In the 8th century BCE, the Assyrians kicked the Israelites out of their homeland. This became known as the diaspora. It happened again between the 6th century and 4th century BCE in Greece as Greeks fled for safer places to call home. There was no longer security. In ancient Rome, fire insurance was sold to citizens, and those who didn’t buy the insurance found their homes burned to the ground. The immigrants that came into the new Americas during the 16th century left for the same reason that the Greeks fled centuries before them. The place they once called home was no longer safe or secure.
Safety and security are an integral part of the definition of home, and we can only feel this way when we are protected. Home security systems themselves date back farther than technology. Kings and nobles used armed guards and battlements to protect their homes. They built moats around their homes and used drawbridges to keep invaders from storming the castle.
In 1853, Augustus R. Pope patented the first electro-magnetic alarms. It was a basic design, using electronically charged magnets on windows and doors. If the window or door was opened while armed, it would sound an alarm inside the house, ostensibly scaring away intruders. It was the first home security system by our modern understanding of the word. The systems were later developed so that the alarm would also alert the police and increase the likelihood that the police could prevent the crime.
Pursuing security was about more than alarms though. The first Neighborhood Watch program was organized in 1972. The idea was to help those who couldn’t afford high-priced in-home security keep their homes safe from invasion. Instead, neighbors would act as the alarm by watching each other’s homes. They organized patrols during the higher risk hours in order to deter or catch criminals before they could get away. Even with modern home security, this program is still used across the country.
As technology advanced, the rudimentary systems we once used to protect ourselves have evolved as well. Security systems that were once affordable only to the rich have become common among the middle class. Where once everything was expensively wired into the walls of the home, affordable wireless home alarm installation is now ubiquitous.
The very idea of home security has changed, and with it the idea of what is a home. As humans, we seek and find need for shelter, for a place to call home. The meaning attached to “home” is evolving, just like the technology we use to protect it. Because of this evolution, we as humans create layers upon layers of meaning that help to shape and define the cultural sense of the word.
A home is never just a home. It is a place that defines who we are as individuals, as a community, and culturally. The only thing that has remained constant throughout time is the need for a feeling of safety and security wherever we lay our heads.
Abby Locker is a young idealist who loves examining society around her. After college, she hopped on a plane and switched coasts moving from east to west. Abby has been relying on her entrepreneurial instincts ever since. In the end she is just like you, drinking her coffee one sip at a time.