History of technology


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Photo courtesy Dick Swanson/U.S. National Archives

Essay/
Future of technology
The golden quarter

Some of our greatest cultural and technological achievements took place between 1945 and 1971. Why has progress stalled?

Michael Hanlon

Dam Square with the New Town Hall under Construction (1656) by Johannes Lingelbach. Photo courtesy The Amsterdam Museum/Wikipedia

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Global history
How Europe became so rich

In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?

Joel Mokyr

Connecting the USSR; at the Cybernetics Institute of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev in 1968.
Essay/
History of technology
The Soviet InterNyet

Soviet scientists tried for decades to network their nation. What stalemated them is now fracturing the global internet

Benjamin Peters

Photo by nobiann/flickr/Getty

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Computing and artificial intelligence
It’s complicated

Human ingenuity has created a world that the mind cannot master. Have we finally reached our limits?

Samuel Arbesman

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

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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

‘Mathematician, American, jazz fanatic, juggling enthusiast’. Claude Shannon. Photo courtesy Nokia Bell Labs

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Information and communication
The bit bomb

It took a polymath to pin down the true nature of ‘information’. His answer was both a revelation and a return

Rob Goodman & Jimmy Soni

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, speaks on the stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, February 2016. Photo by Albert Gea/Reuters
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Information and communication
The world wide cage

Technology promised to set us free. Instead it has trained us to withdraw from the world into distraction and dependency

Nicholas Carr

Detail from a contemporary fake miniature, purporting to be from the 17th century, depicting Ottoman-era scholars observing the night sky through telescopes. Allegedly from the Istanbul University Library. Photo by DEA/Getty

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History of science
Forging Islamic science

Fake miniatures depicting Islamic science have found their way into the most august of libraries and history books. How?

Nir Shafir

Lauren Bowker and her studio THE UNSEEN have come up with a revolutionary fabric that changes color with the wind. Photo courtesy The Unseen/Jonny Lee Photography
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Design and fashion
Losing the thread

Older than bronze and as new as nanowires, textiles are technology — and they have remade our world time and again

Virginia Postrel

From the Automata of al-Jaziri or the Book of Knowledge of Mechanical Devices. Photo by Werner Forman/Getty Images
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Automation and robotics
Preternatural machines

Robots came to Europe before the dawn of the mechanical age. To a medieval world, they were indistinguishable from magic

E R Truitt

Photo by Gozooma/Gallery Stock

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Engineering
A fault in our design

We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable

Colin Dickey

Photo by SSPL/Getty

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History
Future perfect

Social progress, high-speed transport and electricity everywhere – how the Victorians invented the future

Iwan Rhys Morus

An 18th-century Indian Matchlock Musket from Lahore. Photo courtesy the Royal Armouries Collections

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Nations and empires
Guns and the British empire

Eighteenth-century Indian arms were as sophisticated as European. Then came the British Empire to drive industry backwards

Priya Satia

In the General Electrics Research laboratory circa 1949. Photo by Bettmann/Getty
Essay/
History of technology
It’s not all lightbulbs

If we abandon the cult of the Great White Innovator, we will understand the history of technology in a much deeper way

W Patrick McCray

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History of technology
Into the mystic

From Stonehenge to Silicon Valley: how technology nurtured New Age ideas in a world supposedly stripped of its magic

Benjamin Breen

Walk like a man; rancher James A Shugart walking a dusty road with son James J. Photo by Allan Grant/Getty
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Childhood and adolescence
Brilliant impersonators

We prize originality, yet humans are natural-born copycats and only good imitators survive. Is it time to celebrate the rip-off?

Kat McGowan

Working on the AN/FSQ-7 computer in a Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (or SAGE) air defence system facility. Photo by Andreas Feininger/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
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History of technology
Web of war

How the hair-trigger nuclear age and fears of Armageddon inspired visionary cold warriors to invent the internet

Sharon Weinberger

Buckminster Fuller explaining principles of dymaxion building in 1959. Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty
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History of technology
Buck to the future

He’s a forgotten hippie idol, a sage of 1960s counterculture. What can we learn from Bucky Fuller’s faith in technology?

Samanth Subramanian