In titling the course Technology and American Frontiers we mean to constrain its subject matter as little as possible, while still providing a common focus. Participants will choose a technology (or a technological realm) for investigation, and each person has the obligation to make the case that the chosen subject has to do with "invention and innovation", but the initial definition is much less important than the process of investigation and discovery that it inspires.
After all, what's not technology? What doesn't have some component of how to MAKE and DO? The problem is more one of how to situate and link up than how to defend whether something is or is not 'a technology'. Thus, MANAGEMENT can be thought of as a technology for managing enterprises; and POETRY can be thought of as connected with the means to compose and distribute words.We specify "American Frontiers" in the same spirit of adventure, intending the broadest possible definition of 'frontier'.
How many ways can we think of 'frontier'? Space and time are the obvious senses, but there's also the notion of a frontier as a moving edge of knowledge, and as an arena of opportunity. Others?And in everything we do in this course we want to concentrate on the process of doing: how do we find information to answer questions that arise? how do we develop ways to illustrate and express what we've found?
I think of implication as the central question: what things are connected to and entangled with a particular technology? What stories help us to a better understanding of the significance and influences of an innovation?
Last Pony Coming This Way Left
WELLS, FARGO & CO, Agents.
What's it about? What's its context? What are its implications? (has to do with the completion of telegraph connections to the west coast, an earlier information revolution)
TITLE Eyewitness to the American West : from the Aztec Empire to the digital frontier in the words of those who saw it happen / edited by David Colbert. PUBLISHER New York : Viking, 1998. DESCRIPT 495 p. ; 24 cm. SUBJECT West (U.S.) -- History -- Sources. Leyburn Library F591 .E94 1998which has a number of short chapters that are epitomes of inspiration for technological subjects: "The Birth of Silicon Valley" (Lee De Forest in Palo Alto, 1911, pg 222); "The First Closeup and other movie innovations", pp 223-227; "Manufactured Weather: the invention of air conditioning", pp 250-251; "Philo Farnsworth Imagines Television", pp 252-255; "Talkies", pp 265-267; others, too...). There's one on Novajo Code talkers that got me hunting for other links, via AltaVista:
and there's a book in our library:AUTHOR Bixler, Margaret T. TITLE Winds of freedom : the story of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II / by Margaret T. Bixler. PUBLISHER Darien, Conn. : Two Bytes, 1992. DESCRIPT xviii, 182 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. SUBJECT Navajo Indians. World War, 1939-1945 -- Cryptography. Navajo language -- Written Navajo. Leyburn Library E99.N3 B59 1992
Inventions are certainly not the sum total of technology, and indeed are only one of a number of important viewpoints, but they do constitute an interesting entrée for the study of history of technology. Quite a few books emphasize the "great man" view of invention, which generally concentrates on !ahah! and slights the implicational perspective we prefer. Various books by Henry Petroski are good correctives to the !eureka! tendency:
CALL NO. TA174 .P473 1994. AUTHOR Petroski, Henry. TITLE Design paradigms : case histories of error and judgment in engineering / Henry Petroski. IMPRINT Cambridge [England] ; New York, N.Y. : Cambridge University Press, 1994. CALL NO. TG23 .P47 1995. AUTHOR Petroski, Henry. TITLE Engineers of dreams : great bridge builders and the spanning of America / Henry Petroski. IMPRINT New York : Knopf, 1995. CALL NO. T212 .P465 1992. AUTHOR Petroski, Henry. TITLE The evolution of useful things / Henry Petroski. IMPRINT New York : A. Knopf, 1992. CALL NO. TA174 .P4735 1996. AUTHOR Petroski, Henry. TITLE Invention by design : how engineers get from thought to thing / Henry Petroski. IMPRINT Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1996. CALL NO. TS1268 .P47 1989. AUTHOR Petroski, Henry. TITLE The pencil : a history of design and circumstances / by Henry Petroski. IMPRINT New York : Knopf, 1989. CALL NO. TA145 .P47 1997. AUTHOR Petroski, Henry. TITLE Remaking the world : adventures in engineering / by Henry Petroski. IMPRINT New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. CONTENTS Images of an engineer -- Alfred Nobel's prizes -- Henry Martyn Robert -- James Nasmyth -- On the backs of envelopes -- Good drawings and bad dreams -- Failed promises -- In context -- Men and women of progress -- Soil mechanics -- Is technology wired? -- Harnessing steam -- The Great Eastern -- Driven by economics -- The Panama Canal -- The Ferris wheel -- Hoover Dam -- The Channel Tunnel -- The Petronas towers. CALL NO. TA174 .T6 1987. TITLE To engineer is human [videorecording] / written & presented by Henry Petroski ; producer, Alec Nisbett ; BBC Television. IMPRINT Chicago : Films Inc., 1987. CALL NO. TA174 .P474 1985. AUTHOR Petroski, Henry. TITLE To engineer is human : the role of failure in successful design / Henry Petroski. IMPRINT New York, N.Y. : St. Martin's Press, c1985.
Petroski is eloquent on "the extraordinariness of ordinary things" (1992:78), and his chapters on pins, paper clips, PostIts, staples and zippers (Chapters 4-6 of 1992) are exemplary.
A search via AtlaVista for 'Whitcomb Judson' (inventor of the zipper) turns up a nice array:See also some pages on packaging:
and we have a tempting-looking book:
- MIT Inventor of the Week Archives
- University of Montana
- Sundback's zipper patent (1917)
- Zippers & Velcro ("Useless Information")AUTHOR Friedel, Robert. TITLE Zipper : an exploration in novelty / Robert Friedel. PUBLISHER New York : W.W. Norton, c1994. DESCRIPT xiv, 288 p. : ill. ; 22 cm. SUBJECT Inventions -- History -- 20th century. Inventions -- History -- 19th century. Zippers -- History. Science Library T19 .F75 1994And there's a Scientific American article ("The Slide Fastener", Lewis Weiner, June 1983, pp 132-144)