*Work on this essay had the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation through its New Liberal Arts Program.

1. Published in N. Metropolis, J. Howlett, G.-C. Rota (eds.), A History of Computing in the Twentieth Century: A Collection of Essays (N.Y.: Academic Press, 1980), 3-9.


2. There is a variety of views of what is involved in watching scientists in action and of what conclusions may be drawn from what is observed. For the most recent and perhaps most provocative, see Andrew Pickering, The Mangle of Practice (forthcoming).


3. Cf. Lynn White, Jr., Medieval Technology and Social Change (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962) and the writings of the Annalistes.


4. On this point, see the thoughtful and well illustrated study by Eugene S. Ferguson, Engineering and the Mind's Eye (Cambridge/London: MIT Press, 1992), which pursues in greater detail the themes laid out in his "The Mind's Eye: Nonverbal Thought in Technology", Science 197(1979), 827-836.


5. This would seem to hold true for computer scientists and software engineers, despite the air of mathematics about them and their work. In The Sciences of the Artificial, Herbert Simon argues persuasively for the empirical nature of computer research. The thinking of computer designers and programmers is embodied in the way their machines and programs work, and the languages they use to specify how things are to work are themselves artifacts. The models they use are filled with images difficult or distractingly tedious to translate into words. On these themes, cf. J. David Bolter, Turing's Man (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1984).


6.Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution (N.Y., Knopf, 1978), 238-239; cf. the entire section "Thinking About Machinery", 237ff. I thank Larry Owens for first bringing Wallace's discussion to my attention.


7. When the machine is a machine for thinking, its design reflects ideas about the nature, purposes, and techniques of human thought itself. So pronounced is that aspect that Sherry Turkle has termed the device a "second self"; cf. her The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1984).


8. The Intelligence of a People (Princeton University Press, 1973), 290. Russell's remark quite unintentionally poses the difficult historical question of recapturing the tacit knowledge and skills of a culture, that is, the things that "everybody knows". Taken for granted, they are not worth mentioning, and as they are lost so too is the fact that people once routinely possessed them. Successive editions of the Boy Scout Manual could prove quite revealing of knowledge once possessed by young boys (and their adult leaders).


9. Garden City: Doubleday, 1922, p.2 and pp.23-24.


10. The model is made by Gabriel Industries, Inc. in their line of "Classic Car Kits".


11. Many boys who grew up in the '30s, '40s, and '50s built model airplanes of balsa and paper and thereby acquired skills of forming three-dimensional objects from two- dimensional plans, of carving smoothly curved shapes to fit templates at discrete intervals, and of stretching paper and bending thin wood to follow compound curves. It was an immensely popular hobby, signaled by extensive selections of inexpensive kits at toy and variety stores, and it became an aspect of national defense during WW II, as schoolboys turned out the scale models used to train pilots and spotters to recognize friendly and enemy aircraft. See the model-airplane exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. No one thought it remarkable to possess those skills, which have by and large disappeared among the male population under the age of fifty.


12. Cf. "A Battle for the Cheap Car", Chap. XII of Allan Nevin's Ford: The Man, the Times, the Company (N.Y.: Scribner's, 1954).


13. Ford, My Life and Work, p.68.


14. For the story of Ford's encounter with the new alloy and his efforts to secure a steady supply, see Nevins, p. .


15. Ford, My Life and Work, pp.65-66.


16. The bands were tightened by stepping on pedals. Although replaced in the Model A by the more common sliding-gear transmission, the planetary transmission lives on as the basis of automatic transmissions; there the bands are controlled by a fluid torque converter.


17. Ford, My Life and Work, p.69.


18. As this paper was first taking shape in the early '80s, I owned a 1980 Zephyr (the Mercury version of the immensely successful Ford Fairmont). Looking at the engine, it was difficult even to see the spark plugs, and it was impossible to reach them without a special wrench costing several hundred dollars. In general it is clear from a glance at the engine compartment of any automobile today that manufacturers do not want owners working on the engines of their cars.


19. Ford, My Life and Work, p.67. In this light, look at the microcomputer and ask what it does or is supposed to do. Its outward appearance displays a curious juxtaposition. If the T was a one-horse shay with a motor in it, the personal computer is a typewriter and a TV set with a processor (i.e. an electronic logic machine) in it. Ford was reaching for a cultural symbol when he spoke of the one-horse shay. Consider the symbolism in the microcomputer. The typewriter is a tool for active human work, the TV a device for passive entertainment; both are ubiquitous in our daily lives, though in different parts of our lives. The processor allows the composite to go either way, making the computer both tool and entertainment. That in itself demands a sensitive reading, especially when the computer is applied to education.


20. Arnold and Faurote, Chap.XII, "Special Machines and Fixtures".


21. As was the case in all centrally powered machine shops, one did not turn the machines on; rather, one turned the factory on. All the machines had to work together, or no machine worked at all.


22. As George Daniels pointed out in explaining why English industries did not themselves develop something akin to the "American System", "those who planned the manufacture thought in terms of breaking down a job into human actions --as we know, the great obstacle that 19th-century inventors had to overcome. The machine sequence is usually not similar to the sequence of human actions in performing a job." ("The Big Questions in the History of American Technology", Technology and Culture 11(1970), 1-21; at 20). Given the emphasis on the visual and the tactile in this essay, it may sound strange to be speak here of "passing" and "grammar", but those terms refer to language as a whole, not just to its written form. As Ferguson points out in his article and book, nineteenth- century machine designers possessed a visual language of mechanisms. Indeed, that is precisely what technical drawing constitutes.


23. Ibid., pp.82-83.


24. See Stephen Meyer III, The Five Dollar Day: Labor Management and Social Control in the Ford Motor Company, 1908-1921 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1981.


25. Eli Chinoy has documented the limits of upward mobility among auto workers in his The Automobile Worker and the American Dream (Garden City, 1955).


26. So too, one may add, were the myriads of dealerships, branch assembly plants, and service stations that Ford helped to establish. Not part of the design, though wholly compatible with it, were the network of highways, the new traffic codes, and the service industries that all responded to the needs of drivers and encouraged ever wider use of the automobile. "Farm to Factory" is the title of a new exhibit on African-American migration from the rural south to the urban north in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. In the exhibit, the factory is Ford's Highland Park plant.