Category Archives: Automation

Yesterday’s Futures of Work

A number of this week’s milestones in the history of technology connect accidental inventors and the impact of their inventions on work and workers. On March 11, 1811, the first Luddite attack in which knitting frames were actually smashed occurred in … Continue reading

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The Challenge of Automation, 1965

Kevin Maney, “Will AI Robots Turn Humans Into Pets?” April 2, 2017: Here’s a question worth considering: Is this AI tsunami really that different from the changes we’ve already weathered? Every generation has felt that technology was changing too much … Continue reading

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Steven Levy in 1984 on the Invention of the Electronic Spreadsheet

As Dan Bricklin remembers it, the idea first came to him in the spring of 1978 while he was sitting in a classroom at the Harvard Business School. It was the kind of idea—so obvious, so right— that made him … Continue reading

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Youth Solves a Typewriter Problem

Today in 1906, the New York Times reports that “Youth says he solved a typewriter problem” by inventing the automatic carriage return. “Springs cause the carriage to slide back to starting point when end of a line Is reached,” said … Continue reading

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World’s First Female Telephone Operator

Today in 1878, Emma Mills Nutt (1860–1915) became the world’s first female telephone operator on when she started working for the Boston Telephone Dispatch company in Boston, Massachusetts. Wikipedia: In January 1878 the Boston Telephone Dispatch company had started hiring boys as telephone … Continue reading

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Robotics and the Birth of Silicon Valley

“The life of William Shockley—Nobel Prize winner, inventor of the junction transistor, and founder of the seminal silicon electronics laboratory—has been well chronicled. But recently, while digging through the Shockley archives at Stanford University, researcher David C. Brock made a … Continue reading

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The Rise of The Machines, 1947

“Three key factors shaped the production operations design of [Ford’s] Cleveland Engine Plant. The first was the decision that Delmar Harder made in April 1947 to organize an Automation Department within his Manufacturing Division. Harder charged the new unit’s engineers … Continue reading

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