History of Technology: An Area of Growth in Design Education

Michael Sayer
1978, Vol. 10, No. 2,


Not even the greatest educational sceptic can deny the remarkable growth, in the last decade, of that curious phenomenon the Industrial Museum; curious because not so long ago the very idea was ajoke in itself:

'Blank & Co. have gone bankrupt - not surprising, their factory was like a museum ... no wonder production costs were high, the machinery should have been in a museum .. .' and so on. Only 20 years back - not long, but outside the lifetime of most of our students - your author was responsible for the design, operation, and maintenance, of a computer installation using thousands of electronic valves, transistors being still a new and unreliable invention; this is already technological history, along with clockwork gramophones and biplanes, and illustrates how all of us already have valid experience in this new field of study.

But what has history to do with today's (or tomorrow's) technologists? Possibly not much, but technologists are only a minor fraction of the nation's population; the majority being subject to the products, successes, failures, and mistakes, of professional technologists; and to the enjoyments, frustrations, and fears of technological society. There is no escape from technological society, in fact attempted escape is practically a punishable offence; but technological society does offer wonderful scope for cultural fulfilment and satisfaction if the nature of technology is clearly understood.

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