Week 10, really? How did it get to be week 10. Well, by now you certainly know what to do.
Nye: Made fascinating connections between the nineteenth century private toll road, canal system, railroad, and automobiles. Even during the depression I find it exciting how public transportation survived because of the government use in the cities and transportation never came to a complete end. Also, he points out the country ties due to transportation and how rapid transportation carried urban culture out into the countryside which brought many goods and visitors to the small towns. This allowed people to move around faster and have more transportation options depending on where they were traveling. I find the great depression very remarkable so I would have liked if he would have went into more detail during that time period with public transportation, however, he did state the main points and made it clear how the depression did effect transportation.
The reading in Pursell, The Culture of Engineers by Sinclair was different than what Nye wrote but still on the same topic. Sinclair gave an altered perspective and focused mainly on the engineers themselves, during the nineteenth century and great depression. His overall reading I did not find as interesting, but I did find the documents more thought-provoking where he gave a broader breakdown of the vocational guidance, 1932 unemployed engineers and the pay decrease during this time period. Also, the documents talked about the relief that was provided to the engineers which was interesting to see the break down and how much pay was actually lost. When he talks about the plans for the future I thought his layout was very written very well, where he talked about who would be called back to work first, and how married men would have their jobs back immediately. I think it would be a good topic to learn more about this system and exactly how it was put together and the thought process behind it after the great depression.
It’s really interesting how the Great Depression effected many different areas of live and all the reading i’ve done on it (because I didn’t live through it) are backed up by both Nye’s and Purcell’s point of- transportation was not effected. It’s fascinating to think about how railroads, canals, and most recently cars, were still in business and were still used on a daily basis. The numbers of people who were unemployed were so high, yet the government never shut down and never stopped using transportation so that others could use it as well. The point about married men was also really cool to me because that meant that factories were thinking about families and putting families first, an ideal I think most Americans pride this country on, but it’s still great to see actions speaking louder than words.
I loved thinking about the transition from streetcars to automobiles because it represents a shift away from public transportation and toward more independent modes of transportation. Even though buses were still a form of transportation, automobiles and taxis were becoming more popular. This allowed for a distinction of social classes and a growth of urban areas. People were then able to live in suburbs but work in the city without worrying about catching public transportation into the city. In a lot of ways, many people are shifting back toward using public transportation. People who live near large cities, such as D.C. or New York City, use metro or bus to get to work to avoid traffic and the difficulties of parking in the city. Still, many people own their own private vehicle to go other places, but we are seeing an increase in car sharing/renting services like Uber and Zip Car. I’ve even heard news shows report on car sharing being the future of cars, largely because of the cost and the lack of need when living in an area with a great transportation system. This could really change multiple facets of our current society.
I was also fascinated by the “Colonial Radio Saves Wasted Motion” source. This idea of “wasted motion” seems like a change from people to machines to people who are treated like machines. This way of viewing employees is still apparent in our society, especially in the meatpacking industry. The movements that are seen as “wasted” and are eliminated have actually led to an increase in work related injuries. Employees who use the same motions often suffer muscle and joint pains and also injuries from not remaining alert because of the monotony of their jobs. I have to say, I just love connecting our readings about things that changed a century ago to the very similar things today that we are starting to see as industrial problems.
I actually found Bruce Sinclair’s “Notions on Engineering Professionalism in America” to be an interesting read. It’s difficult for historians to contextualize engineers in American history and culture because of the lack of pertinent information: “75-80% of those identified with the principal branches of the field do not belong to their national societies.” Because of this, we know surprisingly little about the interactions between engineer and society and the profession as a whole. This made me think back to our discussion about artifact creators versus consumers. We know a lot about the inventors and entrepreneurs of industry, and more than a fair amount about the day-to-day users of these innovations, but what about the engineers? What do we know about the men who installed the first electric lighting in homes, or who improved and maintained the country’s infrastructure? It’s strange to think that we know so little about the implementers of innovation.
Funny enough, the clearest look the chapter gave us into the profession was the sardonic immorality play, Every Engineer. Ironic and self-deprecating towards the audacity and misplaced sense of duty, the play was much closer to my experience with engineers; my grandfather, father and brother are all engineers, and it seems the sarcastic irreverence is a generation-crossing trait common to engineers…
In Smith and Clancey, I found the section about Marconi and his transatlantic signal to be very interesting. Because his family had money, he was able to continue experiments without the threat of economic instabilities. His system overall was stable with a few issues. For instance others could pick up communication signals, therefore changes had to be made to reduce interference by using a copper reflector. This allowed for the signal to be sent in certain directions. I also found the section interesting about how electricity changed moods in the home. “A bright home is a happy home” (362) and without electricity you are forced to come home to darkness and are not able to spend time with your family.
I found it fascinating that something we use so often today was seen as awkward looking and odd. Medical technology has come such a long way and it is interesting to see how medical practices have progressed along with our understanding. It is surprising that so many can argue about what “technology” is and how it pertains to every aspect of our life. Overall, I found Cowan’s article to be an interesting bridge between the views of technology in history.
In Cowan’s article I thought that there was an interesting piece on the way that American’s understood the concept of what was “natural.” Natural could include machinery, machines were just a step that allowed Americans to conquer the land according to people like Coxe. Of course later the article references individuals like Thoreau who saw mechanization in the completely opposite viewpoint. This same idea came up in an earlier part of the article how “technology” used to be understood. Smith & Clancey’s article collection was in my opinion the more intriguing, but that is more of a personal opinion because of my interest in Radios. Particularly the idea of the back work that went into creating the radios and the way that time organization played into the factory work as we have seen before.
I found some of the excerpts from the Smith and Clancey reading strikingly similar to the talk Rachel Maines gave tonight on hobbies and gendered space. The clippings from the “Electrician and Mechanic” show how young men took up the wireless telegraph as a hobby. They set their stations up on top of the roofs outside of their home, similar to the men and boys in Maines’s research who also had their hobby spaces outside of the living areas. Wireless telegraphs were male hobbies and excluded women as evidenced by the absence of women applying for licenses. Similarly, some schools installed wireless telegraph stations because they thought their male students would benefit from learning about it. The essay by Fern Van Bramer also shows how people in the early 20th century believed that it was important for boys to play with electrical toys because it would ultimately help them further their educations and careers. These excerpts show that girls were excluded from having toys and hobbies involving the latest scientific and technological innovations, paralleling Maines’s argument.
Agh, week 10?! I thought the language used in the Smith and Clancey reading was interesting to look at. The word choice in these excerpts were intended to be very persuasive. Phrases like “a bright home is usually a happy home” to support electricity in the domestic realm. In the same passage, it also discusses the importance of having a light on for the father to come home to a well lit house. I also found the distinction between boys and girls to echo Rachel Maines’ lecture from tonight. Boys were given much more opportunities to tinker with wireless transmitters
The readings about transportation were especially interesting. I think that a lot of people have specific images in their head when they think of the Great Depression and I don’t think many of those images include automobiles and streetcars. Similarly to Megan, it surprised me to think about all of the public transport still running. Though it makes sense, people still need to get around even if they’re unemployed; transportation just ceasing wouldn’t do any good.
Also with transportation, I wonder how cities would have evolved if streetcars and other public transport weren’t phased out due to automobiles. I think we’d have more urban areas than we currently do since a strong public transportation system facilitates more urbanization and rural and suburban life requires you have a vehicle of your own to go places.
The Smith and Clancey reading for this week was rather interesting. The one that stood out to me the most was the passage by Fern Van Bramer and how they basically stated that electricity was equal to happiness. I don’t particularly agree with that. I’ve learned in one of my previous courses that you cannot measure happiness in a mathematical or scientific way. Many have tried, but they concluded that you cannot.
For the Nye reading, I didn’t know that trolleys failed that quickly. I always figured that they were popular, but it makes sense that trolleys had to decline a bit to make more room for the various automobiles. It seems to me that the ones left are now used for tourists rather than transportation.
I would also like to say that I find the idea that technology has some sort of meaning in relation to something else. I am sure that you see that in various technology of this generation.
Smith and Clancy
It was interesting to see even in the time of factories, where it is speeding and orderly there is still some use of the apprenticeship. That is that we have the younger collage graduates’ having to learn the ropes form older engineers. This reading also showed just that even when we advanced in our technology we still use some of the older systems. It was also interesting that they talked about only men in the collage and did not bring in any women, when around this time women were starting to go to collage.
This was a good reading because it fused together technology and other constructs, like technology and romanticism or technology and art, this was something I never seen before. Then when she mentions that most of the anti industrialist did not think that all this new technology was very natural and went against nature, but they never thought that it went against God. This I find funny because you would think that the wave of immigrates coming over who were mostly Catholic would bring this up or the evangelic preachers of this time.
The Nye and Pursell readings both talk about the way engineers and how they helped create the antecentis of the technology we have today. It is also funny that we do not know how they effected their time and our time as figures, were they like celebrity were they well known like how Bill Gates or Steve Jobs are to us. It was not surprising that engineers found a lot of work after wars, and some work during times of peace. I was also surprised that they were the ones who really brought about the fair’s and it was a way to get money or to display hope for people. I also did not think about how the toll roads could help during the Great Depression, because even people without jobs needed to get to interviews or to get food in the cities. Then they have transportation carrying people to other places to find work if they could not find it in the city.
I found the reading in Pursell particularly interesting. Pursell claims that though engineers were central to the development of this country, they are practically invisible in its past. No great novelists wrote about them and few engineer societies kept records on their membership. We know little about engineers of the past except their stereotype. Pursell then discusses the differences that are able to be seen between engineering society leadership and the members::the leaders are generally more conservative than the members. I found Pursell’s discussion on the culture of engineers quite interesting.
It was interesting to read about a different aspect of the great depression. I have never previously thought about how transportation was a constant in the great depression. It shows that there are always new aspects to something thag may have otherwise been unknown. This really opened my eyes to how people needed to sustain themselves during this period of time. I know that transportation is a type of technology in some way but never really viewed it as essential to getting around for everyday functions. Overall the reading was enlightening and allowed me to get another view of the depression without thinking of hungry people.
I really enjoyed Ruth Cowan’s essay on American ideas and beliefs about technology. I think we tend to think of technology, and the people who reject it in favor of the “old” or “traditional” way of life, as a modern phenomena, but Cowan shows that this is nothing really new. She explains that even when the word technology was a new word, people had very strong opinions about the items the word was describing. She says that “people had ideas about technology, and their ideas were, as all ideas are, ideas about technology in relation to something else” (Cowan 204). People viewed technology in relation to nature, to social status, and to skill. Similarly, people viewed technology in relation to the person using it: gender, political beliefs, and religion. (I would argue that this is still true today.) I was also very interested by the concept of scientific management, a movement that focused on how technology could bring about efficiency. While it sounds rooted in home economics, it actually had its birth in political ideas about American exceptionalism and democracy. Technology has always been an important part of America and Cowan’s chronicle of how our country has viewed it throughout time is necessary to better understanding it.
These readings gave me a new perspective on the Great Depression. From all the reading that I have done on the subject not once was it mentioned that transportation was not effected. At first I was confused as to why this happened but it makes sense after thinking about it. Railroads, canals, and cars were all a part of life that couldn’t be given up. People needed a way to get places to find new work, move their family, ect. These readings showed me that the Great Depression was not just everyone loosing their jobs and going hungry but that there were many layers to this time in history.
I liked Ruth Cowens essay because I feel like it was written the same way you lecture. Cowan introduced a technology then goes into the antecedents and explains why the new technology was needed. She goes on to explain why people may have felt negatively towards it or not. I enjoyed her idea of romanticism. That not only could someone who is an artist or craftsman be considered special but someone who invents something may also be considered an artist. I feel like today we do consider engineers both scientists and artist. To us that makes sense but I guess I can understand why someone who used to be praised for making something with his bare hands only would feel threatened. I wonder if it was the idea of having to learn a new skill that scared the Physicians at the beginning of the story or if they just thought machines would allow for unskilled workers to become doctors. (Which I could understand as a fear.)
What is wireless telegraphy? I don’t understand it. Also were Smith and Clancy trying to say that because the army and Navy were interested in the wireless technology only boys even got the chance to “play” with it? Because during this time the military was not a place girls were allowed?
I was a bit confused with the Nye reading, when he refers to trolleys does he mean trains that had tracks in streets? almost like buses but it’s a train? Or is he talking about something. I think it is interesting though, the story of the man who complains about the trolley because I think people who take public transit may still somewhat feel that way. And there is definitely a notion of social class difference if someone rides a bus rather than having a car or riding the metro (at least in the DC area).
I once heard someone say that music is the timeline of your life. After this week’s readings I would have to say that technology could also be the timeline of your life. Innovations from canals to railroads to cars to electricity to the concept of scientific management all helped to define not only the generation in which they were invented but impacted the generations that followed. I liked how Cowan showed how different elements of society were changed historically by technology. Things such as razors and places being advertised as being sanitary is definitely something that we don’t think about today, it’s just part of the norm. And thinking about how something like electricity could bring a family together is just something that just doesn’t occur to us today. I think the electricity going out today gives us more to talk about than having it on because it is more unusual for us to not have electricity than having it. Just in my lifetime I have gone from having a phone that was connected to the wall by a cord to a cordless phone to a cell phone to a smart phone and I got through high school without the internet or Google. Each time I got a piece of new technology though is associated with a different time in my life and falls in line with exactly what Cowan was saying. Without the original technology being created to get the ball rolling, our social history might have played out differently.
Nye made a great point, automobiles started to divided the classes even more. He also shows the shift in transportation methods, going from trains, to trolleys, then even trackless trolleys and street cars. Unfortunately the market for trolleys declined.
In Pursell’s reading, Sinclair discusses the rise of engineer’s in America. He says ” More American men follow engineering than any other profession.” This is true today and throughout history. I thought Perry’s look at the unemployment of engineers was very interesting. He talks about how they lacked certain skills to apply for jobs during the Depression, like writing skills.
I thought Marconi’s Transatlantic Signal was so interesting. It improved the maritime world so much with this invention. It was another way for the ships to communicate, ultimately saving ships.
The three selected readings have a commonality of practical technological change. The first is the evolution of the street railway, the second is an example of hobby or learning practices and last is a development in the medical practice field.
“The decline of the street railway is reminiscent of what happened to some other transportation systems in the United States.” (133) A character in a novel by Sinclair Lewis represents how America feels about the street car with a monologue expressing complete satisfaction; “Babbit embraced the car, condemned traction fare increases and municipal ownership, and complained about the poor service.” (133) It was not the lack of faith America showed in the system itself; other ramifications such as “overextended lines, stiff competition, declining investment, rigid fracture structures, and rising cost for replacing equipment” began the demise of such infrastructure. (134)
-Why would Americans allow the system to collapse?
“A combination of political, social, and economic circumstances, compounded by a lack of planning.” (136) Furthermore, fares exceeded consumer demand subsequent to the 1929 stock market crash. Unemployed workers no longer necessitated transportation.
The dual use and meaning America associated with the trolly system allowed it to cross “class differences [and] erase social distinctions.” (137)
-What is the future of the street car?
America may adopt the “light rail” as European nations have. (166)
On December 12, 1901 Mr. Marconi “recieved distinct and unmistakable electric signals, transmitted through space without wire or cable or other visible or tangible agency.” How?
Marconi quickly knew that this wireless device would aid numerous ships lost at sea; they can now signal without a connecting line. Furthermore, this device can aid war effort but the enemy can overhear.
Cushing and Crile “were forward-thinking physicans who were willing to consider the advantages of change.” Past medical practice taught to feel for the pulse of a patient with one’s finger. A problematic is that every patient has a different pulse that reacts in various ways with various illnesses and every doctor’s finger provides measured bias. Cushing and Crile were introduced to blood pressure machines that were calibrated to acquire more precise readings from patients. Similar to gauges in factories, these blood pressure devices were used to quickly discover abnormalities among similar objects.
I thought that the articles were interesting in the fact that people were skeptical about new technologies and how it might reduce the importance and skill of their work. Also the fact that amateurs in technology were so prominent thAt the government had to enforce laws and rules to not interfere with the military operations. Also the article talks about women and men’s roles in hobbies and jobs which tied in nicely with the Maines lecture from last night.