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Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology

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Johns Hopkins Studies in the History of Technology

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Aluminum Upcycled

Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective

Carl A. Zimring

Besides being the right thing to do for Mother Earth, recycling can also make money—particularly when it comes to upcycling, a zero waste practice where discarded materials are fashioned into goods of greater economic or cultural value. In Upcycling Aluminum, Carl A. Zimring explores how the metal’s abundance after World War II—coupled with the significant economic and environmental costs of smelting it from bauxite ore—led to the industrial production of valuable durable goods from salvaged aluminum.

Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015.

By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire, Upcycling Aluminum tells a story of profound interest to anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.

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The Business of Civil War

Military Mobilization and the State, 1861–1865

Mark R. Wilson

This wide-ranging, original account of the politics and economics of the giant military supply project in the North reconstructs an important but little-known part of Civil War history. Drawing on new and extensive research in army and business archives, Mark R. Wilson offers a fresh view of the wartime North and the ways in which its economy worked when the Lincoln administration, with unprecedented military effort, moved to suppress the rebellion. This task of equipping and sustaining Union forces fell to career army procurement officers. Largely free from political partisanship or any formal free-market ideology, they created a mixed military economy with a complex contracting system that they pieced together to meet the experience of civil war. Wilson argues that the North owed its victory to these professional military men and their finely tuned relationships with contractors, public officials, and war workers. Wilson also examines the obstacles military bureaucrats faced, many of which illuminated basic problems of modern political economy: the balance between efficiency and equity, the promotion of competition, and the protection of workers' welfare. The struggle over these problems determined the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars; it also redirected American political and economic development by forcing citizens to grapple with difficult questions about the proper relationships among government, business, and labor. Students of the American Civil War will welcome this fresh study of military-industrial production and procurement on the home front—long an obscure topic.

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The Business of Speed

The Hot Rod Industry in America, 1915–1990

David N. Lucsko

Since the mass production of Henry Ford’s Model T, car enthusiasts have been redesigning, rebuilding, and reengineering their vehicles for increased speed and technical efficiency. They purchase aftermarket parts, reconstruct engines, and enhance body designs, all in an effort to personalize and improve their vehicles. Why do these car enthusiasts modify their cars and where do they get their aftermarket parts? Here, David N. Lucsko provides the first scholarly history of America’s hot rod business. Lucsko examines the evolution of performance tuning through the lens of the $34-billion speed equipment industry that supports it. As early as 1910, dozens of small shops across the United States designed, manufactured, and sold add-on parts to consumers eager to employ new technologies as they tinkered with their cars. Operating for much of the twentieth century in the shadow of the Big Three automobile manufacturers—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—these businesses grew at an impressive rate, supplying young and old hot rodders with thousands of performance-boosting gadgets. Lucsko offers a rich and heretofore untold account of the culture and technology of the high-performance automotive aftermarket in the United States, offering a fresh perspective on the history of the automobile in America.

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Civil War Ironclads

The U.S. Navy and Industrial Mobilization

William H. Roberts

Civil War Ironclads supplies the first comprehensive study of one of the most ambitious programs in the history of naval shipbuilding. In constructing its new fleet of ironclads, William H. Roberts explains, the U.S. Navy faced the enormous engineering challenges of a largely experimental technology. In addition, it had to manage a ship acquisition program of unprecedented size and complexity. To meet these challenges, the Navy established a "project office" that was virtually independent of the existing administrative system. The office spearheaded efforts to broaden the naval industrial base and develop a marine fleet of ironclads by granting shipbuilding contracts to inland firms. Under the intense pressure of a wartime economy, it learned to support its high-technology vessels while incorporating the lessons of combat. But neither the broadened industrial base nor the advanced management system survived the return of peace. Cost overruns, delays, and technical blunders discredited the embryonic project office, while capital starvation and never-ending design changes crippled or ruined almost every major builder of ironclads. When Navy contracts evaporated, so did the shipyards. Contrary to widespread belief, Roberts concludes, the ironclad program set Navy shipbuilding back a generation.

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Closed Captioning

Subtitling, Stenography, and the Digital Convergence of Text with Television

Gregory J. Downey

This engaging study traces the development of closed captioning—a field that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s from decades-long developments in cinematic subtitling, courtroom stenography, and education for the deaf. Gregory J. Downey discusses how digital computers, coupled with human mental and physical skills, made live television captioning possible. Downey's survey includess the hidden information workers who mediate between live audiovisual action and the production of visual track and written records. His work examines communication technology, human geography, and the place of labor in a technologically complex and spatially fragmented world. Illustrating the ways in which technological development grows out of government regulation, education innovation, professional profit-seeking, and social activism, this interdisciplinary study combines insights from several fields, among them the history of technology, human geography, mass communication, and information studies.

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The Draining of the Fens

Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England

Eric H. Ash

The draining of the Fens in eastern England was one of the largest engineering projects in seventeenth-century Europe. A series of Dutch and English "projectors," working over several decades and with the full support of the Crown, transformed hundreds of thousands of acres of putatively barren wetlands into dry, arable farmland. The drainage project was also supposed to reform the sickly, backward fenlanders into civilized, healthy farmers, to the benefit of the entire commonwealth. As projectors reconstructed entire river systems, these new, artificial channels profoundly altered both the landscape and the lives of those who lived on it.

In this definitive account, historian Eric H. Ash provides a detailed history of this ambitious undertaking. Ash traces the endeavor from the 1570s, when draining the whole of the Fens became an imaginable goal for the Crown, through several failed efforts in the early 1600s. The book closes in the 1650s, when, in spite of the project's enormous difficulty and expense, the draining of the Great Level of the Fens was finally completed. Ash ultimately concludes that the transformation of the Fens into fertile farmland had unintended ecological consequences that created at least as many problems as it solved.

Drawing on painstaking archival research, Ash explores the drainage from the perspectives of political, social, and environmental history. He argues that the efficient management and exploitation of fenland natural resources in the rising nation-state of early modern England was a crucial problem for the Crown, one that provoked violent confrontations with fenland inhabitants, who viewed the drainage (and accompanying land seizure) as a grave threat to their local landscape, economy, and way of life. The drainage also reveals much about the political flashpoints that roiled England during the mid–seventeenth century leading up to the violence of the English Civil War. This is compelling reading for British historians, environmental scholars, historians of technology, and anyone interested in state formation in early modern Europe.

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Engineering Victory

How Technology Won the Civil War

Thomas F. Army, Jr.

Engineering Victory brings a fresh approach to the question of why the North prevailed in the Civil War. Historian Thomas F. Army, Jr., identifies strength in engineering—not superior military strategy or industrial advantage—as the critical determining factor in the war’s outcome.

Army finds that Union soldiers were able to apply scientific ingenuity and innovation to complex problems in a way that Confederate soldiers simply could not match. Skilled Free State engineers who were trained during the antebellum period benefited from basic educational reforms, the spread of informal educational practices, and a culture that encouraged learning and innovation. During the war, their rapid construction and repair of roads, railways, and bridges allowed Northern troops to pass quickly through the forbidding terrain of the South as retreating and maneuvering Confederates struggled to cut supply lines and stop the Yankees from pressing any advantage.

By presenting detailed case studies from both theaters of the war, Army clearly demonstrates how the soldiers’ education, training, and talents spelled the difference between success and failure, victory and defeat. He also reveals massive logistical operations as critical in determining the war’s outcome.

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FastLane

Managing Science in the Internet World

Thomas J. Misa and Jeffrey R. Yost

Since 2000, the National Science Foundation has depended upon its pioneering FastLane e-government system to manage grant applications, peer reviews, and reporting. In this behind-the-scenes account Thomas J. Misa and Jeffrey R. Yost examine how powerful forces of science and computing came together to create this influential grant-management system, assessing its impact on cutting-edge scientific research.

Why did the NSF create FastLane, and how did it anticipate the development of web-based e-commerce? What technical challenges did the glitch-prone early system present? Did the switch to electronic grant proposals disadvantage universities with fewer resources? And how did the scientific community help shape FastLane?

Foregrounding the experience of computer users, the book draws on hundreds of interviews with scientific researchers, sponsored project administrators, NSF staff, and software designers, developers, and managers.

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Faxed

The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine

Jonathan Coopersmith

Faxed is the first history of the facsimile machine—the most famous recent example of a tool made obsolete by relentless technological innovation. Jonathan Coopersmith recounts the multigenerational, multinational history of that device from its origins to its workplace glory days, in the process revealing how it helped create the accelerated communications, information flow, and vibrant visual culture that characterize our contemporary world. Most people assume that the fax machine originated in the computer and electronics revolution of the late twentieth century, but it was actually invented in 1843. Almost 150 years passed between the fax’s invention in England and its widespread adoption in tech-savvy Japan, where it still enjoys a surprising popularity. Over and over again, faxing’s promise to deliver messages instantaneously paled before easier, less expensive modes of communication: first telegraphy, then radio and television, and finally digitalization in the form of email, the World Wide Web, and cell phones. By 2010, faxing had largely disappeared, having fallen victim to the same technological and economic processes that had created it. Based on archival research and interviews spanning two centuries and three continents, Coopersmith’s book recovers the lost history of a once-ubiquitous technology. Written in accessible language that should appeal to engineers and policymakers as well as historians, Faxed explores themes of technology push and market pull, user-based innovation, and “blackboxing” (the packaging of complex skills and technologies into packages designed for novices) while revealing the inventions inspired by the fax, how the demand for fax machines eventually caught up with their availability, and why subsequent shifts in user preferences rendered them mostly passé.

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Information at Sea

Shipboard Command and Control in the U.S. Navy, from Mobile Bay to Okinawa

Timothy S. Wolters

The brain of a modern warship is its combat information center (CIC). Information about friendly and enemy forces pours into this nerve center, informing command decisions about firing, maneuvering, and coordinating. Timothy S. Wolters has written the first book to investigate the history of the CIC and the many other command and control systems adopted by the U.S. Navy from the Civil War to World War II. What institutional ethos spurred such innovation? Information at Sea tells the fascinating stories of the naval and civilian personnel who developed an array of technologies for managing information at sea, from signal flares and radio to encryption machines and radar. Wolters uses previously untapped archival sources to explore how one of America's most technologically oriented institutions addressed information management before the advent of the digital computer. He argues that the human-machine systems used to coordinate forces were as critical to naval successes in World War II as the ships and commanders more familiar to historians.

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