Stages in the development of complicated technical innovations:

T-squarePostman argues that the development of technical expertise occurred in steps. Such a sequence was so powerful that each stage overwhelmed our perception and each step undermined subsequent effective responses to new technology. The increments occurred so swiftly and pervasively that we no longer effectively control tools and their applications.

  Stages Mechanical Technocracy Automated
1 Prologue Descartes' Method Bacon's vision Oliver Evan's Mill
2 Preliminary antecedents Organ & Clock Guns, magnet, press Railroads
3 Immediate problem (anomaly) and discoveries Longitude & navigation Experimental evidence

lightning and machine sparks

4 Research and laboratory Development James Watt
Eli Whitney
Priestly, Cavendish Smithsonian

Telegraph, time & motion–the Gilbreaths

5 prototype Newcomen engine Bell Labs Morse code
6 testing Watts explosion Taylorism Meat packing / canning
7 Deployment Dual cylinder engines Newspapers media Ford's
assembly - line
8 marketing & development Steam transport advertising aircraft
9 dispersal railways radio radar

Compare Tables

Oliver Evan's completely automated flour mill 1790s, Philadelphia, US. He used a system of pulleys and Archimedean screws to move the grain from the wagon unloaded on the right hand side. This obviated the need for any human hands to touch the grain until it was turned into flour and bagged on the left. Once packaged in a sack, the flour could be loaded on the awaiting ship, seen here to the left of the mill. The spread of wheat and the consequent reduction in flour prices encouraged the spread of the wheat planting belt from Pennsylvania in the 1790s to the Prairies and Illinois in the 1830s.

Oliver Evans also constructed a prototype steam engine, steam carriage and perfected the vacuum for refrigeration before he opened the Mars iron works in Philadelphia. He died impoverished as his inventions were far ahead of their times.

fragile demo

Postman's analysis


Tools to Technocracy


From Technocracy to Technopoly


Broken Defenses

An improbable world

Invisible technologies



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Tools of Toil: what to read.
Tools are historical building blocks of technology.