The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture

By John H. Lienhard | Go to book overview

9
Attitudes
and Technological Change

W e look into the mirror of our machines, but what do we really see when we look in that mirror? How does change occur in the context of the mirror? The mirror turns out to be a strange reflector. We do not see ourselves when we first look at a new machine because there is a time lag in the reflection.

If you are a baby boomer or older, remember the first time you saw a computer. You felt neither need nor empathy for it. We cannot need what we have never experienced; yet that first glimpse initiated a long process. You have friends who still jitter about this new medium, wondering whether to accept the change it will bring into their lives or to keep dodging it. The need for transformation lies at our biological core, but we fear change nonetheless.

The first computers I ever used were so large that they filled rooms, and we had to speak to them with punched cards. The simplest conversation could stretch into weeks. We would submit three-inch decks of cards, wait twenty-four hours, and be handed a five-hundred-page sheaf of nonsense output because a do-loop went mad when we misplaced a period. During the 1960s we began to compute things that had been beyond us a few years before; but even as we did we grew desperately frustrated. All we talked about was increasing the speed of calculation, but what we really needed was a more accurate mirror of our human nature.

We finally began speaking directly to computers with keyboards during the 1970s. Then we realized we could compose text on the computer and print it out. Since the computer took no responsibility for organiz-

-126-

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The Engines of Our Ingenuity: An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • The Engines of Our Ingenuity *
  • 1 - Mirrored by Our Machines 3
  • 2 - God, the Master Craftsman 20
  • 3 - Looking Inside the Inventive Mind 35
  • 4 - The Common Place 55
  • 5 - Science Marries into the Family 70
  • 6 - Industrial Revolution 86
  • 7 - Inventing America 96
  • 8 - Taking Flight 115
  • 9 - Attitudes and Technological Change 126
  • 10 - War and Other Ways to Kill People 139
  • 11 - Major Landmarks 153
  • 12 - Systems, Design, and Production 167
  • 13 - Heroic Materialism 179
  • 14 - Who Got There First? 193
  • 15 - Ever-Present Dangers 209
  • 16 - Technology and Literature 219
  • 17 - Being There 229
  • Correlation of the Text with the Radio Program 241
  • Notes 243
  • Index 255
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