This is a draft of a talk I delivered at the Maintainers II: Labor, Technology, and Social Orders Conference on April 6-9, 2017 as part of our telephone panel, “Dial M for Maintenance,” with Shari Wolk, Joshua Bell, and Fabian Prieto-Ñañez. The telephone may seem to be the pre-eminent emblem for the history of innovation. There […]
From the Western Electric News for September 1927.
I have to confess to being something of a phone nerd (I am a telephone historian, after all). I love watching shows and seeing people talk, type, and text. While most of the time these phones are of the mobile variety, period pieces let us see a telephonic landscape that doesn’t really exist anymore. Stranger […]
In the 1920s Western Electric put out this fascinating “material series” of advertisements to narrate the material (and men) that went into the Bell telephone. The campaign appeared in a whole host of magazine and periodicals, from mainstream fare like Life, Forbes, and Time to popular technical publications like Scientific American and The Technology Review. […]
Amazon is a hybrid company, equal parts Walmart and FedEx. Like all great retailers of the modern moment, it is an outsized presence masking the hundreds–thousands–of individuals using its infrastructure to build business behind house labels and simplified searches. But it is distribution that girds the company’s foundation and prefigures its future. In this respect, […]
It was my pleasure this month to visit the Portuguese island of Madeira and organize an intensive workshop for HCI, Design, and Computer Science MS and PhD students at M-ITI interested in exploring topics in&emdash;and developing interventions for&emdash;supply studies. Now that we’ve wrapped up, I thought I would put some of the summary information here […]
First-tier, self-reported. Apple from 2013 shown in pink and Western Electric from 1927 shown in blue.
Wonderful source. “Sampling Inspection” is a one act play about the (surprisingly dramatic) business of quality control. It was written by Bonnie Small, a statistical quality control consultant for Western Electric, and first presented in September of 1953 for the Allentown-Bethlehem Section of the American Society for Quality Control. As Small writes: The Consolidated Equipment […]
The editors of LIMN were kind enough to let me contribute a small historical overview to the recent Food Infrastructures issue. While I’m no expert in food studies (other than in the eating of it), I think it serves as a reasonable primer (particularly with regard to packaging, production, distribution, and data) for the articles […]
Recently I’ve had the chance to give some talks on the history of trade infrastructure, bills of lading, factories, and the intellectual history of “supply.” I shared a similar version of this talk at both the Neil Postman Conference and the Media, Materiality, and Infrastructures workshop here at NYU, so I thought I’d do so […]