The Shock of the Old

The Shock of the Old

Technology and Global History Since 1900

Book - 2007
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From the books of H.G. Wells to the press releases of NASA, we are awash in cliched claims about technology and history, writes David Edgerton. Now, in The Shock of the Old, Edgerton offers a startling new and fresh way of thinking about the history of technology, radically revising our ideasabout the interaction of technology and society in the past and in the present. Our sense of technological time--and our thinking about technology and production, nationalism, war, and more besides--will all be changed, and to a surprising degree. Modern technology, writes Edgerton, is not just a matter of electricity, mass production, aerospace, nuclear power, and the internet. It also involves the rickshaw, the horse, corrugated iron, cement, DDT, small arms, flat-pack furniture and the refrigerator. The Shock of the Old challengesus to view the history of technology in terms of what everyday people have actually used--and continue to use around the world--rather than just what was invented. The reader discovers that many highly touted technologies--from the V-2 rocket to the Concorde jet--have been costly failures. On theother hand, corrugated iron emerges as hugely important, 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 rich world. Edgerton reassesses the significance of such acclaimed inventions asthe Pill and IT, and underscores the continued importance of unheralded technology, debunking the idea that we live in an era of ever-increasing invention and casting doubt upon the many naive assertions about "the information age." A provocative history in the mold of Simon Schama, David S. Landes, and Eric Hobsbawm, The Shock of the Old provides an entirely new way of looking historically at the relationship between technology and society as well as invention and innovation themselves.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2007.
ISBN: 9780195322835
Branch Call Number: 609.04 EDG
Characteristics: xviii, 270 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jun 03, 2012

A comprehensive and objective view of invention and innovation as the author tries to show that most of what is new is really what has been before.
Interesting stats, and lots of references to back up his assertions. Governments have been the instigators of many inventions and developments via government spending via the military. Larger companies shirk Research and Development at their peril. Most all top companies have active research facilities and have been around for over 100 years -- that speaks lots. Good reading for those trying to counter the creepy growth of the anti-government leagues. Academe is not such a great source of new ideas; its still the individual, and laboratories, work shops and such of both governments and private industry. Most discoveries are work related. 80,000 patents per annum do not mean much as no value can be ascertained. Very interesting read

Aug 22, 2008

An interesting view of technology from a different angle. However, there are many assertations with limited proof or argument to back them up. In addition, the authors politics leak through in several places.

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