The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900

The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900

David Edgerton

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0199832617

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900

David Edgerton

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: 0199832617

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From the books of H.G. Wells to the press releases of NASA, we are awash in clichéd claims about high technology's ability to change the course of history. Now, in The Shock of the Old, David Edgerton offers a startling new and fresh way of thinking about the history of technology, radically revising our ideas about the interaction of technology and society in the past and in the present. He challenges us to view the history of technology in terms of what everyday people have actually used-and continue to use-rather than just sophisticated inventions. Indeed, many highly touted technologies, from the V-2 rocket to the Concorde jet, have been costly failures, while many mundane discoveries, like corrugated iron, become hugely important around the world. Edgerton reassesses the significance of such acclaimed inventions as the Pill and information technology, and underscores the continued importance of unheralded technology, debunking many notions about the implications of the "information age." A provocative history, The Shock of the Old provides an entirely new way of looking historically at the relationship between invention and innovation.

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the United States achieved in the 1920s. Although much of Africa first got television in the 1950s and 1960s there were only around twenty-five TV sets per 1,000 population in the 1980s, well below the level of countries now richer who first got television at the same time or later. Yet while technological replication over time, driven by economic development, is a crucially important element in the history of the twentieth century, it can mislead us. The replication over time is far from exact.

century, it spread around the world to areas of British army operation as transportable housing. It also became a key material for building roofs and walls of white settler communities in Australia, New Zealand and the Americas, where it is now of interest as a vernacular architecture. It was hugely important in the twentieth century as a truly global technology. Its cheapness, lightness, ease of use and long life made it a ubiquitous material in the poor world in a way it never had been in the

500s were made and 3.6 million Fiat 600s between 1957 and 1975.51 European car workers were not yet able to buy cars themselves, but would be doing so by the late 1960s.52 In the long boom the Eastern European economies, like those in the West, grew very fast. Yet, the Soviet Union and its allies, for all the emphasis on standardised production and the possibility at least of plenty for the masses, were places of low consumption. Even in the 1960s the superpower USSR made only 1 per cent of the

the first jet engines were routinely used in civil airliners in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the TBO was set at the same level as for piston engines (2,000–2,500 hours), but as confidence increased the time was stretched to 8,000 hours.33 The jet engine became, through intensive effort, a very reliable machine. Today TBOs can be as high as 50,000 hours. 34 88 Shock of Old.indb 88 22/11/07 13:05:31 maintenance 13. The 0.5 inch guns of a Republic F-24 Thunderjet fighter-bomber are tested by

the USSR before the USA.54 Britain, Germany, the USA and the Soviet Union, all developed television in an experimental form at the end of the 1930s, based on RCA technology. It is worth noting that with the exception of what happened in the USA, television, like broadcasting generally, was under the direct control of the state in these countries. Nation, empire, race In thinking about the relations between the global and the national in the history of twentieth-century technology it has been

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