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The magic world was a great pirate. It was using muggle-world ideas as well as designs. e. g. - Hogwarts Express, Kings Cross Railway Station, Railway ticketing system, Ford Anglia, Hagrid's Motorbike, Press Camera, Print Media with newspaper, etc.

Answers to Why don't muggle-born wizards use Muggle technology to fight Death Eaters? clearly say that muggle tech was inferior.

Plus, the magic world was kept hidden from the muggle world . Other than the relevant answer, it means that the magic world was fully self-dependent. It didn't seek anything from the muggle world.

Then, why did the magic world copy muggle ideas and designs?

Interestingly, the muggle technology they used was not thousands of years old, but most were a few centuries old. So, there are two possibilities:

  1. They copied everything during a certain period. If so, why did they choose that period to copy?
  2. They were copying everything from the beginning (to show muggle born magic users a familiar world) with subsequent updates. If that's the case, why didn't they upgrade to latest ideas and designs? Hogwarts Express could have had a Bullet Train design..
  • Yes, this is the central conceit of the story, isn't it? – Mark Beadles May 19 '12 at 15:08
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    The Wizarding world wasn't kept hidden from the Muggle one from the beginning. Wizards were around, and not living in secret, for years before the International Statute of Secrecy. The flying Ford Anglia belonged to Mr. Weasley, who was fascinated by everything to do with the Muggle world, so the reasons for that one should be pretty obvious. – Anthony Grist May 19 '12 at 17:18
  • i think it has something to do with Rowling too. How many aliens have you seen in movies lately? How many had eyes? Legs? Arms? Most are very similar to humans, because it is hard to create something completely new. Plus, in most tales wizards use old 'muggle' stuff. – 11684 May 20 '12 at 6:50
  • @11684 No. That's not the point.. Magic users were humans which is the main base framework of potterverse. I don't have problems if magic world uses brooms (old muggle stuff). The point: Magic world was separate and muggle tech was inferior, but still..... – I Love You 3000 May 20 '12 at 7:09
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According to Pottermore, the International Statute for Secrecy was not enacted until 1692. Up until that point, the Magical world and the Muggle world were not separate at all. It was at that point the Muggles first began to be highly suspicious of magic in general, so in order to maintain peace, the Wizarding world went into hiding. From the date of the Statute for Secrecy, we can clearly see a sharp decline in the Wizarding world's technological advancement. Even during Harry Potter's time in Hogwarts (1991-1998), Wizarding technology has a distinct early Industrial Era quality to it.

While the Wizarding world is separated from the modern world, there are always going to be certain individuals who are more forward thinking than others, being willing to borrow and improve upon Muggle technology. We see plenty of instances of post 1692 technology being adopted by the Wizarding world: Steam engines (1712, improved in 1769), steam locomotives (1814), cameras (1826) and film (1885), printing press made newspapers (1814), cars (1886), motorcycles (1885), modern indoor plumbing (early 1800's), and radio (1920's). One such instance that is key to understanding Wizarding use of Muggle technology is the Hogwarts Express. It is an enchanted Muggle Steam Locomotive, and has been employed by the Wizarding World since 1936. It was installed under authority of Minister of Magic Ottaline Gambol to solve the problem of secretly getting students from all over Britain to Hogwarts. When it was installed, many Wizards were indignant of the idea of using Muggle technology, but they were quickly silenced by Ms. Gambol's insistance that "students either rode the train or did not attend school." The Wizarding community is led by the Ministry; if the Ministry decrees that something will be done (widespread adoption of a Muggle technology), it will be done.

Another insight into the Wizarding community's view of modern technology and changes can be found in the Pottermore article on Measurements. J. K. Rowling wrote:

Just as British witches and wizards do not use electricity or computers, they have never turned metric. They are not governed by the decisions of the Muggle government, so when the process of metrication (switching to metric measurements) began in 1965, witches and wizards simply ignored the change.

Witches and wizards are not averse to laborious calculations, which they can, after all, do magically, so they do not find it inconvenient to weigh in ounces, pounds and stones; measure in inches, feet and miles; or pay for goods in Knuts, Sickles, and Galleons.

The implication of this being that the Wizarding community does what they see as needed. Something like a Muggle newspaper was deemed very useful, so the Daily Prophet was founded. A method of moving a large group of students all at once was needed, so a Muggle steam locomotive was adopted. If some Muggle technology is seen as "not terribly useful," then it is simply ignored.

The Hogwarts Express was never made to be a bullet train both because England is fairly small, and because waiting a few hours on a train ride was not deemed inconvenient enough to warrant the upgrade. Also, bullet trains and even modern three rail electric trains run on electricity; magic interferes with electricity, they'd never work properly.

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    magic interferes with electricity, they'd never work properly. ~> Is it canonical? – I Love You 3000 May 20 '12 at 7:11
  • yes, look at mr. Weasley's Ford for example. And somewhere at the house of the Weasleys it is mentioned too. (Don't remember when) – 11684 May 20 '12 at 10:48
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    @SachinShekhar Yes, it is canonical. In Goblet of Fire, Hermione says, "All those substitutes for magic Muggles use - electricity, computers, and radar, and all those things - they all go haywire around Hogwarts, there's too much magic in the air." For whatever reason, large concentrations of magic and magical beings disrupts normal electrical operation. – Gabe Willard May 20 '12 at 16:25
  • Fine.. I thought, you got it from "Sorcerer's Apprentice".. Thanks. – I Love You 3000 May 20 '12 at 16:29
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Since you didn't ask for in-Universe explanation, I'll provide the obvious out-of-Universe one.

  • Muggle trappings/similarities help the readers identify with Harry Potter and his world.

  • This shows how the wizarding world tries to blend in with Muggle world

  • OTOH it shows just how far Wizarding world is from the Muggle one and stuck in the past (see your own note re: steam train vs. bullet train). This serves dual purpose - to give "magical" archaic color to wizarding world, AND to show its separateness.

  • Wizarding world doesn't have the manufacturing resources of Muggle one. So it's easier to take a muggle motorbike and enchant it than to create one from scratch. I wouldn't be surprised of Hogwarts Express didn't start off as a perfectly Muggle train.

  • IIABDFI. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Computers on Space Shuttle are (AFAIR 15-20 year old vintage technology. But they work, and they do the job in a satisfatory manner. So why re-design? Ditto Hogwarts Express. It does the job (as discussed in other questions on SFF) of allowing kids to get acquainted with each other and with wizarding world. Bullet train won't do the job any better.

  • I haven't told exclusively, but the question says I want in-universe answer. See "muggle tech was inferior" and last 2 points in the question. – I Love You 3000 May 19 '12 at 16:37
  • I liked your last two points, but you haven't really addressed the question.. – I Love You 3000 May 19 '12 at 16:38

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