History of technology


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A monument to the glories of Soviet-era military aviation. Tiraspol, Transdniester, 2004. Photo by Jonas Bendikson/Magnum

Essay/
Future of technology
How vulnerable is the world?

Sooner or later a technology capable of wiping out human civilisation might be invented. How far would we go to stop it?

Nick Bostrom & Matthew van der Merwe

Emerging towards 241 18th Street (centre), home to Amazon’s new HQ2 in Crystal City, Virginia. Photo by Dermot Tatlow/Panos Pictures

Essay/
Technology and the self
The problem with prediction

Cognitive scientists and corporations alike see human minds as predictive machines. Right or wrong, they will change how we think

Joseph Fridman

Santiago ‘Jimmy’ McKinn (then 11 or 12 years old) pictured with Apache children at their camp at Cañon de los Embudos in 1886. McKinn had been been captured months earlier by Geronimo’s group near Silver City, New Mexico Territory. Photo by C S Fly/Library of Congress

Essay/
Anthropology
Captive culture

Even when enslaved or despised, captives brought novel ideas and technologies to the societies of their captors

Catherine M Cameron

A polio patient receives treatment via an ‘iron lung’, the nurse adjusting the flow of air pressure. United States c1955. Photo by Three Lions Inc/Getty

Essay/
Medicine
Life and breath

There’s a strange, and deeply human, story behind how we taught machines to breathe for critically ill patients

Sarah Ruth Bates

On the runway in 1962. Photo by Ernst Haas/Getty

Essay/
Travel
Fly with me

Jet-age glamour was more than just aesthetic: its promise of motionless movement reshaped perception of time and space

Vanessa R Schwartz

Photo by Corbis/Getty

Essay/
Language and linguistics
A history of punctuation

How we came to represent (through inky marks) the vagaries of the mind, inflections of the voice, and intensity of feeling

Florence Hazrat

Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (c1608), by Hendrick Avercamp. Avercamp was deaf and mute and specialised in painting scenes of the Netherlands in winter. Courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Environmental history
Little Ice Age lessons

The world’s last climate crisis demonstrates that surviving is possible if bold economic and social change is embraced

Dagomar Degroot

Lloyds Coffee House, which eventually became Lloyds of London. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
Information and communication
Reddit, with wigs and ink

The first newspapers contained not high-minded journalism but hundreds of readers’ letters exchanging news with one another

Rachael Scarborough King