Recovered Writing: MA in SF Studies, Special Author: Ursula K. Le Guin, Final Paper, Voices of the Alien Other During Wartime in the SF of Heinlein, Le Guin, and Haldeman, May 17, 2007

This is the sixteenth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

I wrote this essay as the final project in ENGL681: Special Author: Ursula K. Le Guin module of the MA in Science Fiction Studies at the University of Liverpool. This module was challenging and fun. We read a lot of Le Guin’s writing alongside criticism, theory, and historical context. Around this time, I also had read Robert Heinlein and Joe Haldeman. The overlapping resonance in their works led me to write this essay.

At the end of the essay, after its works cited list, I am including a Coda that I cut from the first draft in order to fit the assignment’s word count. Also, it wasn’t germane to my overall discussion. However, including it here might be useful for readers interested in other fictions related to the three discussed in the main essay by Heinlein, Haldeman, and Le Guin.

Jason W. Ellis

Mr. Andy Sawyer

ENGL681: Special Author: Ursula K. Le Guin

May 17, 2007

Voices of the Alien Other During Wartime in the SF of Heinlein, Le Guin, and Haldeman

Years ago at an MLA conference I saw a young man, a graduate student, read a paper on one of Ursula Le Guin’s science-fiction novels.  After he had finished and it was time for discussion, a handsome, middle aged woman at the back of the room rose and said emphatically, “You’re wrong.  I didn’t.”  It was Le Guin.

Joanna Russ, “Letter to Susan Koppelman”

Writing academic criticism about living authors is a problematic enterprise, particularly involving metaphorical and textual meanings, but it’s a practical and essential element of literary exploration and discussion.  Regardless of the intentions of authors, readers bring their own point of view and cultural education to a text, so there are myriad connections between stories and cultural frameworks in which these texts are situated.  A significant intersection within the cultural web has do to with SF stories about the Vietnam War and the loss of a voice from the objectified alien other.

War, military conquest, and military adventure all have a long history in SF.  However, the stories that came out during and around the hot zone phase of the Cold War (i.e., around the time of the Korean War and more markedly, the Vietnam War) show a growing disparity of belief involving the militarized might makes right in earlier SF.  To explore the shift in tone and meaning of military SF as a social message, it’s best to begin by looking at the text most recognizably identified as the model for post-WWII military SF:  Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.  Following that work are the very different, but analogously connected anti-Vietnam War texts:  Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest.  Haldeman’s novel is a reaction to Heinlein’s militarized future seemingly always at war with the alien other.  Le Guin’s novel, based on her earlier 1972 novella of the same name, goes beyond the singular voice of the war makers and includes the cacophony of voices on both sides of conflict.  Her approach, as illustrated in many of her earlier works, is a more elaborate synthesis of the (mis)communication and (mis)understandings that lead to war (i.e., the aggressive self-righteous and apparently technologically superior oppressing the native alien other and the oppressed appropriating the power of the oppressor in order to fight back and gain agency in the power system engaged between the two groups).

“The Only Good Bug is a Dead Bug”

It’s important to put Haldeman’s and Le Guin’s identifiably anti-Vietnam War texts in perspective both textually and historically, and this is best accomplished by looking at Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, because it set the stage for future SF works dealing with the military and war themes.  Starship Troopers is historically located at the historical apex of the first phase of the Cold War.  The novel was originally published six years after the end of the Korean War, five years before the Gulf on Tonkin Incident, and the same year as the Cuban Revolution and the founding of the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam.  Strictly speaking, this is a novel created in the midst of the Cold War as well as at the crux of some of the bloodiest ‘hot spots’ in the protracted conflict between Western and Eastern powers during that era.  Instead of presenting a reaction against protracted and ambiguous wars, Heinlein presents a militarist utopic future that glorifies the role of the soldier as the only person capable and permitted to be a voting citizen.  The author idealizes the military and the way he believes the military could be employed to elevate the citizenry of a future society.  However, the way in which Heinlein engages the conflict between humanity and the alien other (i.e., the Skinnies and the Bugs) are the most telling elements of the novel despite the fact that human-alien conflict actually occupies a small portion of the text in comparison to his utopic world building.

The reader learns about Heinlein’s militarized future and the war with the Bugs through the protagonist and narrator, Juan “Johnnie” Rico.  It’s interesting that the author chose to have a narrator who is decidedly Filipino as evidenced by his name and the fact that he tells Bernardo at the end of chapter thirteen that his native language is Tagalog (Heinlein 218).  The Philippines are a strategic military location for the United States, particularly during World War II and the subsequent Korean War, both of which took place prior to the novel’s publication.  For all of the novel’s flaws, Heinlein’s presentation of racial equality on Earth is one positive element of an otherwise militaristic future utopia, and I mean utopia in the sense that it’s a wish fulfillment on the part of the author, otherwise it’s decidedly a dystopia for the civilians sans suffrage.

The other element of Johnnie’s character has to do with Heinlein’s choice for his name.  First, his nickname, Johnnie, recalls the famous American World War I song, “Over There.”  Written by George M. Cohan in 1917, it begins, “Johnnie, get your gun/Get your gun, get your gun/Take it on the run…Over there, over there.”  Hence, one of the nicknames of Americans fighting in the Great War:  Johnnies.  This creates a dual identity for Johnnie as both American as well as a member of a group of people ceded from Spain to the United States following the Spanish-American War, and eventually achieving independence after World War II.  Johnnie’s first name, Juan, derives from the Spanish form of Hebrew names such as Yohanan, which may be translated as “God favors.”  This may be true as the narrative follows Johnnie through training and battles until the final drop, which provides an ambiguous ending possibly to Johnnie’s life as well as that of the war.  His last name, Rico, is of Italian origin and its root meaning is rich or powerful.  Johnnie is from an apparently wealthy family, but his mother and father lack enfranchisement, because they have not served a term in the military, which is necessary before one is allowed to vote.  Another way of looking at his name, according to root meanings, is that Juan Rico means “God favors the rich” or by extension, “God favors the bold.”  This bears a similarity with Virgil’s famous quote, “Audentes fortuna iuvat” or “Fortune favors the bold.”  This often quoted motto can easily be used as a call to arms, particularly for the military hegemony of Johnnie’s future reality in the twenty-eighth century are bold in their routing of alien species in the planned annexation of more planetary space for humanity.

Johnnie’s bold comrades in arms come from all corners of the Earth in their united attack on the alien other.  This is an interesting turnabout by Heinlein that seems to point to the possibility that people will always find an alien other.  After (most) vestiges of inequality along racial and gender lines are removed, humanity has to look elsewhere for the alien other to objectify and therefore, become the literal and figurative targets of humanity’s need for a group to lower in comparison to ourselves.  Heinlein create two literal alien species in the novel, known only by their derogatory names:  the Skinnies and the Bugs.  There is only one battle, in the first chapter, with the Skinnies.  Johnnie describes them as, “local yokels,” and, “geezers [that are] humanoid, eight or nine feet tall, much skinnier than we are…[and] they don’t wear any clothes” (Heinlein 15 and 16).  Johnnie, clad in his “powered suit” that looks like “a big steel gorilla” leaps over buildings firing as many weapons as possible so that he rejoins the other soldiers with all ammunition expended.  Of course, the side effect of using a great deal of rockets, miniature nuclear bombs, and a flame thrower in close proximity to the enemy, there is a lot of collateral damage, carnage, and death.

Heinlein’s treatment of the Bugs is even more telling about the way the enemy is objectified in the course of military engagements.  Halfway through the novel, Johnnie describes them as:

The Bugs are not like us…They are arthropods who happen to look like a madman’s conception of a giant, intelligent spider, but their organization, psychological and economic, is more like that of ants or termites; they are communal entities, the ultimate dictatorship of the hive” (Heinlein 117).

The enemy’s human-given derogatory name, ‘Bugs,’ itself implies a pest, which necessitates eradication.  The multicultural and racially diverse Mobile Infantry belies the racial hatred and prejudice of the alien Skinnies and Bugs.  Additionally, these eusocial arthropod-like organisms represent an evolved form of communism, which mirrors social Darwinian issues propounded by earlier authors such as H.G. Wells.

Heinlein’s Bugs are colonizing social insects on a much larger and more developed scale than mere pests.  They are clearly intelligent creatures, albeit different that ourselves, but nonetheless worthy of a narrative voice.  What is their side’s view of the conflict?  What do the inhabitants of Klendathu think of humanity and humanity’s military?  Heinlein, through Johnnie, removes all volition and agency on the part of the Bugs.  The fact that it is an intelligent and evolved species means nothing, because they are not us.  Their difference marks them, like their given name, as worthy only of a boot stomping on them forever, and this itself leads to an unwitting reversal on humanity, which I’ll return to in more depth later in this paper.

The ambiguity of the Bug war along with the one-sided view presented to the reader combine to shutout the alien other from any possibility of discourse.  As a Cold War narrative, Starship Troopers mirrors the ambiguity of the post-WWII tension and remotely engaged overt hostilities between the democratic West and the communist East.  For the West, it was impossible to popularly envision giving a voice, much less a privileged voice, to communist sympathizers or Politburo officials.  The reason for this is the West’s view of the subversive nature of communism.  Giving the enemy (i.e., the communists) a voice would be adverse to the stability of democracy.  Heinlein recreated this political narrative of his here-and-now in the pages of his military SF masterpiece.  The Bugs are an enemy that lie under the surface, hidden, burrowing to find new avenues of escape into the open, which represents the political consciousness of the West (i.e., privileged humanity).  Therefore, the Bugs cannot be allowed to speak, because they would undermine the military and political effort to eradicate both their race as well as their (literally) evolved political ideology.

Heinlein’s novel is not about the Vietnam War, but it sets the stage for future military SF stories.  However, it is written on the heels of the Korean War, which has many parallels with the Vietnam War.  One of those parallels is the continuous nature of protracted war in the post-WWII era.  Joe Haldeman and Ursula K. Le Guin draw on this as well as issues of voice, agency, and enemy identities as presented in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers in their Vietnam War based SF works, which are as much a reaction against Heinlein’s treatise as the war itself.

When Will This War Ever End?

In the “Authors Note” at the beginning of the 2004 Gollancz edition of The Forever War, Joe Haldeman writes that it, “was not an easy book to sell back in the early seventies.  It was rejected by eighteen publishers before St. Martin’s Press decided to take a chance on it.”  The publishers that turned him down said to Haldeman, “Pretty good book…but nobody wants to read a science fiction novel about Vietnam” (“Authors Note”).  And Vietnam is precisely what the novel is about, because as Haldeman writes, “that’s the war the author was in,” but he also says, “it’s mainly about war, about soldiers, and about the reasons we think we need them” (“Authors Note”).

Haldeman’s novel is a reaction to the year he spent as a draftee in Vietnam in 1968-1969 (ten years after the publication of Starship Troopers), and it relies on the military SF history provided by works such as those by Heinlein and earlier pulp stories by E.E. “Doc” Smith.  Like Starship Troopers, the majority of the novel is concerned with the minutiae of soldiering life, though not as much about the training as in Heinlein’s novel.  However, this is reflective of the differences in the two authors’ military backgrounds.  Heinlein graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy on an officer track prior to the Second World War.  Haldeman was a Vietnam draftee who, as did many of the young soldiers from that war, received basic training and were subsequently dumped into the action just as the reader is at the beginning of The Forever War with the opening line, “Tonight we’re going to show you eight silent ways to kill a man” (3).

William Mandella, the protagonist and narrator of The Forever War, does in fact kill.  However, like Johnnie Rico, the military encounters are few and far between.  Both novels, as Haldeman claims about his own novel, are “about soldiers and about the reasons we think we need them” (“Authors Note”).  The role of the soldier, or in this case, William Mandella, is integral to our understanding of the alien other, because he’s the soldier who interacts with the alien other through the sights of a loaded weapon.

Haldeman’s protagonist’s name is an interesting choice that has meaning within the context of humanity and its relationship with the alien other.  First, William has its origins in German, but it’s a widely popular name in English speaking countries and in particular the United States, but it has also been the name of several notable kings and historical figures.  The German version of William is Wilhelm, which breaks down into the roots, der Wille and der Helm.  Der Wille means will or volition and der Helm means helmet or protection.  As a soldier, his will is to protect the fatherland, and to fight promotes his will.  However, he’s an educated person who is a draftee.  His family name, Mandella, is more engaging due to its obvious association with the word, mandala.  A mandala is a symbol, sometimes described as a dynamic symbol, or as an archetype in Jungian psychology that represents the unity of self and completeness.  Haldeman’s choice here is almost, but not nearly as transparent as Stephenson’s Hiro Protagonist in Snow Crash.  Here, Haldeman is clearly employing this character to represent something else.  This includes the eponymous everyman soldier involved in a conflict that is far removed from their experience and everyday reality, but it also must mean the divided individual who through training and subversion has found him or herself changed and made less whole by the experience of engaging in war making.  Another example of this kind of mandalic character is Joseph Heller’s ambivalent Captain John Yossarian in his 1961 novel about World War II, Catch-22, which might have also been another of Haldeman’s influences.

It wasn’t Mandella’s desire to be a soldier, but the military provides his volition, or rather, removes his volition and replaces it with theirs through the use of post-hypnotic suggestions.  In the first battle with the Taurans, Sergeant Cortez (the similarity of the name with the Spanish conquistador is unmistakable), shouts over the com channel to his subordinates:

Scots, wha hae wi’ Wallace bled;

Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,

Welcome to your gory bed,

Or to victory (Haldeman 66)!

This is the opening stanza to Robert Burns’ poem, “Scots Wha Hae.”  The poem is meant to be what Bruce said to his troops prior to the Battle of Bannockburn against Edward II.  This is an ironic selection for the future military to chose, because the poem also refers to the oppression of the Scottish by the English.  The poem’s future purpose is an oppression of the will of the soldiers, because it turns them into killing machines.  It obviates the possibility of discussion with the alien other, the Taurans.  Therefore, the poem’s meaning is subverted to a military need for a breakdown in communication, because without communication, the propagation and continuation of war is able to continue unimpeded.

The military needs the disconnect between individuals on humanity’s side and the objectified Taurans as targets (possibly another word association on the author’s part).  After the war begins with a Gulf of Tonkin-like incident between Terran and Tauran ships far from Earth, the unwillingness of the humans to discuss the situation with the other side illustrates the extent humanity will go to in order to ostracize and make an object of other groups:  in this case, literal aliens.  Toward this end, the author is skillful in selecting what the reader is presented in terms of physical description of the Taurans in order to promote the objectification taking place within the narrative.  For example, the soldiers don’t really know what a Tauran even looks like on their first mission.  At first, they mistake what they call “teddy bears” as the Taurans.  Unfortunately, the soldiers are wrong, and that species’ psionic powers kills or debilitates several humans with psychic abilities.  Then, when the platoon actually encounters the Tauran forces, Mandella describes them thus:

The creature riding it was a little more human-looking than the teddy bears, but still no prize…He had two arms and two legs, but his waist was so small you could encompass it with both hands.  Under the tiny waist was a large horseshoe-shaped pelvic structure nearly a meter wide, from which dangled two long skinny legs with no apparent knee joint.  Above that waist his body swelled out again, to a chest no smaller than the huge pelvis.  His arms looked surprisingly human, except that they were too long and undermuscled.  There were too many fingers on his hands…His head was a nightmarish growth that swelled like a goiter from his massive chest.  Two eyes that looked like clusters of fish eggs, a bundle of tassels instead of a nose, and a rigidly open hole that might have been a mouth sitting low down where his adam’s apple should have been (Haldeman 59-60).

Mandella continually compares the Tauran with humans as the norm.  Also, his “nightmarish” description of “eyes that looked like clusters of fish eggs” and “a bundle of tassels instead of a nose” are reminiscent of BEMS.  Haldeman’s alien other is objectified as being too foreign, and too strange, to be acknowledged as a group of individuals with minds, opinions, and volition.  The slaughter of the Taurans that follows this description further reinforces the lack of volition and agency on the part of the aliens, and literally makes the beings targets for the human military machine.  However, Haldeman’s objective is differentiated from that of Heinlein.  The Forever War is about Vietnam and the military practices that Haldeman experienced while in the military.  U.S. soldier’s identification of the Viet Cong as “Charlie,” drawing from the racist Charlie Chan films, is one way in which the enemy were made objectified targets by the military in order to rationalize and relieve soldiers’ consciences about the wholesale slaughter induced in the protracted “conflict.”

Everyone Deserves a Voice

Ursula K. Le Guin is known for her anthropological approach to SF in many of her stories.  In some novels such as The Left Hand of Darkness, the reader is presented with different, and sometimes contradicting, observations from two different characters.  Having a shifting narrative, particularly when Genly Ai and Estraven are on the frozen wasteland of Gethen, reveals the way in which deceptively simplistic matters such as gender and cultural norms are far more complex than at the first look.  Other stories, such as Le Guin’s “The Matter of Seggri” read like an anthropological notebook full of stories by Seggrians as well as Hainish observers along with anecdotes and other miscellanea.  Another story of this kind is her novel, Always Coming Home, which was also released with its own soundtrack of imagined songs of the Kesh in the far future of Northern California.

In these stories and many of her others, Le Guin is actively working to answer the question, “What about the cultural and the racial Other?” (“American” 94).  What she means by the “racial Other” is, “the Alien everybody recognizes as alien, supposed to be the special concern of SF” (“American” 94).  The alien other is an important element of SF, but the way in which authors engage and challenge our understanding of it has changed over time.  For example, “in the old pulp SF it’s very simple.  The only good alien is a dead alien–whether he is an Aldebaranian Mantis-Man or a German dentist” (“American” 94).  Here, Le Guin is talking about BEMS (Bug Eyed Monsters), which are a recurring component of SF, particularly in the pulp era.  Its in this passage that she’s also referring to the presentation of the alien other in Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and Haldeman’s The Forever War.  In both cases, aliens are targets, not real characters/beings/persons.  What constitutes the alien other may not necessarily be an alien in the strictest sense of the word.  The alien other may be quiet familiar but objectified, given no voice, and therefore, without volition or agency.

The objectification of the alien other in this manner elicits a power relationship between the subject with power and the objectified without power.  This kind of power relationship can lead to a turnabout for the power subject:

If you deny any affinity with another person or kind of person, if you declare it to be wholly different from yourself–as men have done to women, and class has done to class, and nation has done to nation–you may hate it or deify it; but in either case you have denied its spiritual equality and its human reality.  You have made it into a thing, to which the only possible relationship is a power relationship.  And thus you have fatally impoverished your own reality.  You have, in fact, alienated yourself (“American” 95).

Le Guin argues that turning others into mere things, “has been remarkably strong in American SF” (“American” 96).  This leads to what we encounter in Starship Troopers and The Forever War, to which Haldeman was ironically reacting against:

The only social change presented by most SF has been toward authoritarianism, the domination of ignorant masses by a powerful elite–sometimes presented as a warning, but often quite complacently.  Socialism is never considered as an alternative, and democracy is quite forgotten.  Military virtues are taken as ethical ones (“American” 95).

Heinlein’s military-only enfranchised citizenry serves as the power elite in Starship Troopers, and even though it isn’t fully developed, the reader is capable of extrapolating the perpetuation of war as in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and un-disguising Eisenhower’s conception of the military-industrial complex gone awry and power hungry.  Additionally, Heinlein builds a moral and ethical system around military codes of conduct in the didactic “History and Moral Philosophy” classroom flashbacks.  Haldeman’s William Mandella finds himself drawn to the ‘security’ and ‘safety’ of the military, because the author inverts the battlefield with the home front.  The ignorant masses of civilians are unfettered by the power elite who pursue war while neglecting social systems and the civilization at home on Earth.  War for war’s sake is pursued until the two sides in the conflict, humanity and the Taurans, come together to discuss how the conflict began, and that it should end before both species were destroyed not necessarily from without, but from within.  However, the reader doesn’t actually get to hear this from a Tauran, but from far future descendants of humanity.

Le Guin must have had these stories or similar military SF stories in mind when she wrote The Word for World Is Forest.  She originally penned the story as a novella in 1968 while she was staying in London for a year, and she titled it, “The Little Green Men.”  Before it’s inclusion in Harlan Ellison’s collection, Again, Dangerous Visions, he “retitled it, with [her] rather morose permission” (Word 7).  She describes the source for writing the story as a need to fill a void left by her disengagement with the anti-war movement in the United States.  She writes in the introduction to the novel:

All through the sixties, in my home city in the States, I had been helping organise and participating in non-violent demonstrations, first against atomic bomb testing, then against the pursuance of the war in Viet Nam.  I don’t know how many times I walked down Alder Street in the rain, feeling useless, foolish, and obstinate (Word 7).

Her involvement against the rise of Eisenhower’s prophesied military-industrial complex ran the gamut of Cold War conflict escalation.  In England, she was disconnected from the outlet that she enjoyed in the United States, which was to non-violently demonstrate against the Johnson-Nixon-Kissinger mushroom cloud carrying a fallout of death and suffering from promoting Western ideology by treating other groups of people as objects and not subjects.

The Word for World is Forest is constructed around the importance of voices, even those most disgusting and reviling.  The novel’s narrative is presented through the voices of three males involved in the struggle on a planet distant from Earth known as Athshe, which means ‘forest’ in the native language.  Two of these narrators are Terrans from Earth and the third is a native Athsean.  It’s important to consider hidden meanings in the choice of names, because as Le Guin has stated in the introduction to “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” in her collection, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters:

I sat down and started a story, just because I felt like it, with nothing but the word “Omelas” in mind.  It came from a road sign:  Salem (Oregon) backwards…Salem equals schelomo equals salaam equals Peace.  Melas.  O melas.  Omelas.  Homme hélas.  “Where do you get your ideas from, Ms. Le Guin?”  From forgetting Dostoyevsky and reading road signs backwards, naturally.  Where else? (276)

However, this example illustrates that more than reading road signs backwards goes into the pool from which she catches her stories.  Stream of consciousness and word association plays an integral part into developing the seed that germinates into a realized story.  For this reason, some attention should be directed towards possible points of origin for the names of the protagonists in The Word for World is Forest.

Chapters one, four, and seven are explicated from the perspective of Captain Davidson.  This character is best described as a purely evil person who has a near-psychotic self-righteousness that manifests itself in his debasement of the Athseans or creechies as well as of other Terrans including his commanding officer.  Further scrutiny of his name may belie Le Guin’s choice for it.  Davidson is a surname of English origin that literally means, “Son of David.”  However, this character is no Solomon!  Another connection may come from historical persons involved in the Vietnam War.  Two notable persons are Lieutenant General Phillip Buford Davidson, Jr., who served as Westmoreland’s J-2 in Vietnam  (Ford par. 18), and Major General Alexander K. Davidson, who provided tactical airlift services to the Vietnam theater of operations during the late 1960s (Air Force Link par. 4).  However, it’s most likely that Le Guin wanted to place Davidson in opposition to Captain Raj Lyubov not only in their firmly held beliefs of one another, but also through the connection between Davidson’s English name and Raj’s given name, which implies the British term of empire in India.  Therefore, further conjuring the image of the oppressors and the oppressed, and by extension, the oppressed and the formerly oppressed seeking to help out those persons in a similar situation.

Captain Raj Lyubov occupies chapters three and five.  He makes a point to learn Selver’s true name and to become his friend after Captain Davidson nearly kills Selver.  Lyubov is a “spesh” or a specialist and scientist.  In essence, he’s Le Guin’s avatar or representative within the narrative as an anthropologist trying to figure out these native relatives of humanity.  His name is particularly interesting.  His given name, Raj, literally means ruler, prince, or royalty, but it also reminds the reader of England’s imperialistic history and its oppression of India during the ‘Raj.’  He’s not a character to actively aid Selver’s people, but he doesn’t warn his own people about an impending attack, which in itself is a traitorous act of rebellion against oppression.  Additionally, his surname, Lyubov is typically identified as a feminine Russian given name.  Could this imply that Lyubov has a ‘feminine’ side, or that he’s a hybrid personality that exhibits both the masculine and the feminine?  He’s in a male dominated military hierarchy, but he’s willing to consider and question the masculine rape of the land while not actively participating in it himself.  His full name also implies this hybridity, because of its combination of Indian and Russian names.  Le Guin fashions the other (i.e., Indo-Asian) with Davidson’s assumed ethnic superiority as ‘white’ while touching on a unity bridging the West and the East during the midst of the Cold War.

Selver, the native Athshean, occupies chapters two, six, and eight.  He’s the most powerful character in the novel, but he comes from a world without the power relationships inherent on Earth at that time or in Le Guin’s future.  His people invest great meaning in dreams and their interpretation.  Selver’s dreams lead him to a realization of how to remove the oppressors by appropriating the Earthmen’s tool of murder.  Of the three main characters, Selver’s name is the most interesting, and the one possibly the most full of hidden meanings.  Relying on Le Guin’s use of word play, it’s useful to explore anagrams of Selver and his home world, Athshe.  Two telling anagrams of Athshe are heaths and sheath.  A heath is land that has not yet been developed.  Before the arrival of Terrans to Athshe, the Athsheans lived in harmony with the land.  The Terrans’ develop the land by clear cutting it of all wood.  This development is actually destructive both to the planet and to its native inhabitants, and the act of destruction is itself in part handled by the natives in their forced support of the Terran occupiers.  The other anagram, sheath, implies a weapon not yet drawn.  The weapon is Selver’s awakening from dream with the means to lead and unify his people to remove the oppressors from Athshe.  Selver has two anagrams that describe his character.  One is revels, which comes from Old French, reveler, which means to rise up in rebellion.  The other is levers.  The obvious connection here is to Archimedes’ boast that given a long enough lever and place to stand, he could move the Earth.  What is more interesting is Thomas Paine’s use of Archimedes’ story in relation to the American revolution in his 1791 treatise, The Rights of Man.  He wrote, “What Archimedes said of the mechanical powers, may be applied to Reason and Liberty: ‘Had we,’ said he, ‘a place to stand upon, we might raise the world.’ The revolution of America presented in politics what was only theory in mechanics” (Paine, par. 1 and 2).  Selver is the revolutionary both in action and ideology.  He brings the ideas of revolution from the dream realm to the reality of his oppressed people.  As Paine argues, “Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think,” it is true too that Selver is the person to break free of “the slavery of fear” (par. 2).

Le Guin’s three protagonists create a spectrum of views within the conflict on Athshe between the Terrans and the Athsheans.  Lyubuv and Davidson are two opposing views on the Terran side.  Evoking her use of dualisms, these two characters represent good/evil, liberally open-minded/conservatively closed-minded, sane/psychotic, low self-confidence/egomaniacal self-image, and anthropologist-observer-preserver/soldier-reconnoiter-destroyer.  Together, Lyubuv and Davidson provide a Taoist resolution to humanity’s division.  Then, Selver is part of another Taoist matrix amongst his people as well as the other:  humanity.  Among the people of the Forty Lands, he is a god, a bringer of new ideas from the dream world to the waking world.  Unfortunately, he brings death and murder, but these are concepts also imported by humanity to Athshe by their inhumane treatment of the Athsheans and their contemptuous wholesale destruction of a once viable ecosystem.  Creating an analogous three dimensional matrix, Le Guin writes Selver as the other half of a ying-yang image with humanity.  Selver represents the living, but assumedly fragile forest, with his green fur and small stature.  However, he, like the forest containing his people, is a spring waiting to unleash its stored energies against the encroaching humans who threaten his world and his utopic existence.  In some ways, humanity in this story may feel threatened by the possibility of a utopic pastoral existence as that experienced by the Athsheans and it’s for this reason that their world and people are made to suffer.  Therefore, Le Guin completes her narrative of opposites with Selver appropriating the means of the oppressor to gain the respect and agency from humanity, and she accomplishes this both literally in the story and figuratively by giving Selver and his people a narrative voice, history, and spiritual life that one may only assume about Heinlein’s Bugs or Haldeman’s Taurans.

Conclusion

            These three political works by Heinlein, Haldeman, and Le Guin operate within a shared cultural space in the historical moment of the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  These texts directly engage the increasingly technologized means of warfare and its relationship with political ideologies in ways that are unavailable to mainstream popular culture.  Therefore, it’s no surprise that Frederik Pohl argues, “there is very little science fiction, perhaps even that there is no good science fiction at all, that is not to some degree political” (7).  And, it’s the political message(s) within Starship Troopers, The Forever War, and The Word for World is Forest that make them enduring works.  However, these three novels remain classics, because they each spoke to and about a politically divisive time in the third quarter of the twentieth century.  They were engaged by readers at the time in which they were first published as well as in the intervening years to the present.  Just as much as these stories evoked what was in the minds of readers then, they continue to give the present an understanding and awareness of the times in which they were written.

Of these three authors, Le Guin creates a synthesis of the military SF tropes along with her recognizably anthropological approach to SF.  Her decision to do this facilitates multiple narrative voices that are necessary to better understanding the complexities of war and the way people on different sides of a conflict objectify and subjugate the alien other.

Works Cited

Burns, Robert.  “Scots Wha Hae.”  19 March 2002.  7 April 2007 <http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/poem/334.html&gt;.

Cohan, George M.  “Over There.”  2 August 2002.  7 April 2007 <http://www.firstworldwar.com/audio/overthere.htm&gt;.

“Davidson, Major General Alexander K.”  Air Force Link.  September 1991.  6 April 2007 < http://www.af.mil/bios/bio.asp?bioID=5165&gt;.

Ford, Harold P.  “Episode 3, 1967-1968: CIA, the Order-of-Battle Controversy, and the Tet Offensive.”  CIA and the Vietnam Policymakers:  Three Episodes 1962-1968.  1998.  6 April 2007 <https://www.cia.gov/csi/books/vietnam/epis3.html&gt;.

Haldeman, Joe.  The Forever War.  London:  Gollancz, 2004.

Heller, Joseph.  Catch-22.  New York:  Simon & Schuster, 1961.

Heinlein, Robert A.  Starship Troopers.  London:  New English Library, 1977.

Le Guin, Ursula K.  “American SF and the Other.”  The Language of the Night.  New York:  HarperCollins, 1993.  93-96.

—.  “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.”  The Wind’s Twelve Quarters.  London:  Gollancz, 2000.  275-284.

—.  The Word for World is Forest.  London:  Victor Gollancz, 1977.

Orwell, George.  Nineteen Eighty-Four.  London:  Penguin, 2000.

Paine, Thomas.  “Introduction to Part the Second.”  The Rights of Man.  9 April 1998.  6 April 2007 < http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/p/paine/thomas/p147r/p2intro.html&gt;.

Pohl, Frederik.  “The Politics of Prophecy.”  Political Science Fiction.  ed. Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox.  Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press, 1997.  7-17.

Russ, Joanna.  “Letter to Susan Koppelman.”  To Write Like a Woman:  Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction.  Bloomington and Indianapolis:  Indiana University Press, 1995.  171-176.

Stephenson, Neal.  Snow Crash.  New York:  Bantam Books, 1992.

—————-

Coda to the above essay’s first draft.

One anti-Vietnam SF story that predates Le Guin’s novel, but provides multiple voices in a tangential way, is J.G. Ballard’s “The Killing Ground,” which shows how in a “world wide Vietnam,” English insurgents respond to captured American troops, and how an American officer uses his voice to mislead the English commander.  Another Vietnam era story is Gene Wolfe’s “Feather Tigers,” which is about an alien anthropologist studying the ruins of Earth, but it refuses to acknowledge the stories about the Mekong River Valley from a human created A.I. artifact.  A recent work similar to “Feather Tigers” is Robert J. Sawyer’s novel, Humans, which offers an interesting chapter that features different voices, one from our universe and one from a parallel Earth populated by Neanderthals, talking about the Vietnam War while looking at the memorial in Washington, D.C..  And finally, Bill Campbell’s Sunshine Patriots combines Heinlein, Haldeman, and Le Guin in a reactionary story against the John Wayne mythos and the first Iraq War.

Works Cited

Ballard, J.G.  “The Killing Ground.”  The Day of Forever.  London:  Panther, 1971.  138-146.

Campbell, Bill.  Sunshine Patriots.  Tucson:  Hats Off Books, 2004.

Sawyer, Robert J.  Humans.  New York:  Tor, 2003.

Wolfe, Gene.  “Feather Tigers.”  The Norton Book of Science Fiction.  eds.  Ursula K. Le Guin and Brian Attebery.  London:  W.W. Norton and Company, 1993.  280-286.

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technology & American Society Paper on Handheld Calculators, Nov 26, 2003

This is the fifteenth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

This essay was my term paper in Professor Steven W. Usselman’s HTS 3083, Technology and American Society course at Georgia Tech in Fall 2003. I wrote this essay in the second class that I took from Professor Usselman (with the first being HTS 2082, Science and Technology of the Industrial Age). Professor Usselman gave his lectures as engaging stories full of detail and context. As a lecturer, he knows how to guide and support his students on their way to understanding. It is a credit to Professor Usselman that I remember enjoying his lectures, but I do not remember writing my essay below (which alarmingly is true for much of my early writing). However, I thought that this essay would share some correspondence with the object-oriented essays in my previously posted essays from Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel’s Technologies of Representation class. These kinds of interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary connections are what excited me the most about my Georgia Tech undergraduate education.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Steven W. Usselman

HTS3083

November 26, 2003

Introduction of Electronic Handheld Calculators

The story of the electronic handheld calculator is about making one product to sell to consumers while proving a piece of that product to industry.  Eventually the electronic handheld calculator would probably have come along, but its introduction in America by Texas Instruments was done not to fill a void or need in the marketplace for electronic handheld calculators.  It was introduced to push the idea of the “heart” of the calculator–the integrated circuit.  The story of the calculator is tightly woven with that of the integrated circuit, or microchip.

Before the handheld calculator debuted there was the desktop electronic calculator which “had to be plugged in (120 v), were the size of typewriters, and cost as much as an automobile” (Hamrick 633).  After WWII scientists, engineers, bankers, actuaries, and others found greater need of computational power.  With the advent of transistors to replace the much larger vacuum tube, electronic computation machines were able to be reduced in size.  The story of the integrated circuit and the transistor are almost a case of history repeating itself.  In 1954, Texas Instruments was one of the world leaders in mass producing transistors.  The public and industry, however, were not as ready to jump on the transistor bandwagon yet.  Pat Haggerty, VP of Texas Instruments, had his engineers develop a pocket sized radio using transistors.  TI had limited experience with consumer products so TI teamed up with Regency Company of Indiana to market the pocket radio.  The radio was introduced just before Christmas of 1954 and over 100,000 radios were sold in the first year.  The salability of the transistor pocket radio impressed companies like IBM who began to buy transistors from TI.

TI had trouble selling the integrated circuit to big companies for introduction into their products.  Also, the nature of the integrated circuit was not good as a business model as it stood when it was first developed.  It was difficult to built a good integrated circuit, but once a good one was built, it rarely went bad.  Without a need of replacing integrated circuits like with vacuum tubes, TI wanted to find new applications for the integrated circuit so that they could be sold for use in many other products not currently using electronics such as transistors or tubes.

Haggerty thought that this “invention technique” would work for introducing the world to the integrated circuit (Hamrick 634).  Haggerty ran the idea by the inventor of the integrated circuit, Jack Kilby while on a flight back to Dallas.  What was to be invented was up in the air at this point.  Haggerty suggested to Kilby, “invent a calculator that would fit in a shirt pocket like the radio, or invent a lipstick-size dictaphone machine, or invent something else that used the microchip” (Hamrick 634).  Kilby liked the idea of inventing a calculator so that is what he went with.  Kilby was allowed to choose his own team back at TI’s headquarters in Dallas.  He choose Jerry Merryman _  and James Van Tassel.   Kilby made his pitch to his assembled team.  He described to them that they would build a “our own personal computer of sorts which would be portable, and would replace the slide rule” (Hamrick 634).  At this time the invention was not yet called a “calculator,” but a “slide rule computer” (Hamrick 634).  It was code named CAL-TECH.  Tasks were divided among the team members:  Kilby worked on the power supply, Van Tassel worked mostly on the keyboard, and Merryman worked on the logic and the output.

The CAL-TECH prototype was completed in November 1966, almost one year after it was first discussed by Haggerty and Kilby.  This first handheld electronic calculator was about 4” by 6” by 1.5” and it was a heavy 45 oz. because it was constructed from a block of aluminum.  What is interesting about the display of the CAL-TECH is that it doesn’t have one.  Its output is handled by a newly designed “integrated heater element array and drive matrix” which was invented by Merryman for this project.  This allowed for the output to be burned onto a paper roll and it was designed to use little power.  The CAL-TECH had 18 keys:  0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, ., X, +, -, , C, E, and P (Hamrick 635).  This early calculator could actually only add and subtract.  For multiplication it would add repeatedly and for division it would subtract repeatedly.  The patent was first filed for the CAL-TECH on September 29, 1967_ .

As with the transistor radio, TI did not want to make the first handheld electronic calculators themselves.  TI partnered with Canon of Japan to market the consumer version of the CAL-TECH, the Pocketronic.  The Pocketronic was first offered to the market on April 14, 1970, the day before income tax returns were due (Hamrick 636).  The Pocketronic was lauded in Business Week magazine as “the portable, pocketable, all electronic consumer calculator that the electronics industry had long dreamed about” (Hamrick 636).  It was small and it only weighed 1.8 pounds.  Initially it cost $400 ($1500 in 1995 dollars).  This is compared to the bulky, desktop calculators which cost more than $2000 (over $7,500 in 1995 dollars) (Hamrick 636).  Production costs of the parts to build electronic handheld calculators decreased the cost of production compared to the electronic desktop calculators of the day.  For example, “the 1966 business calculator version retailing for $2000 contained over a thousand discrete semiconductors such as transistors and resistors with a cost of $170” (Ament).  Ament goes on to show that “in 1968, integrated circuits (ICs) began finding their niche in business calculators with a typical selling price of $1000…[which] had 90 ICs at a cost of $125.”  The Pocketronic used a MOS/LSI_  IC which put all the functions of the calculator on one IC chip.  This further reduced the cost of parts and it reduced the number of parts involved in production.  This better economy of production helped fuel the boom in electronic handheld calculators that took place in the early 1970s.

Compared to today’s calculators, the Pocketronic was outrageously expensive and it could only do basic arithmetic.  At that time, however, it was doing something that only specialized and much more expensive machines could do.  It was the first step in democratizing computational machines.  It would start the move of computation from academia and big business to K-12 schools and the home.

The instruction manual for the Pocketronic features a picture of a man dressed in a suit holding the Pocketronic performing a calculation for a woman wearing a coat, tie, and fashionable hat watches while she is standing in the open door of a car (Canon).  She is probably looking at the car at a dealership and the man is a car salesman.  Initially this higher cost item was probably marketed to professionals who could bear the cost of the new technology.  As with much technology it was suggested as primarily as a man’s tool.  Hamrick takes some excerpts from early articles and advertisements of calculators in the 1970s.  Here are a few examples:

1.  “Calculators are being sold to engineers, college students, and women to use for shopping.”

2.  “Every housewife will have one (calculator) when she goes shopping.”

3.  “Salesmen use them to compute estimates and prices for carpeting and fences.  A professional pilot carries one for navigational calculations.  A housewife with skeet-shooting sons checks shooting record cards.”

4.  “At the supermarket, the new calculator will help your wife find the best unit price bargains.  At the lumberyard, they’ll help you decide which combination of plywood, lumber and hardboard would be least expensive for your project” (Hamrick 639).

These excerpts reveal a sexism regarding how calculators will be used by men and by women.  Men are shown as using the calculator in a professional sphere.  The calculator is a tool that helps a man in his daily work.  Women are shown as using the calculator in the home sphere.  The calculator can be a tool for the woman to perform household duties much as she should use a sewing machine or some other appliance.  The calculator was marketed to both men and women, but the attitudes shown in the advertising shows a sexist bent regarding how the two sexes will use their respective calculators.

Demand was great enough however that other manufacturers quickly began making their own electronic handheld calculators.  By “October of 1974, the JS&A Company, which sold calculators through mail and magazine advertisement, offered the Texas Instrument TI-2550 for an incredible $9.95.  For this period, a calculator under $10 was incredible cheap!” (King).  It would follow that in order to justify such a ramp-up in production there must have been a lot of people wanting to buy these electronic handheld calculators.  Robert King writes that there were “seven such ‘milestones’ leading to today’s commonly-used calculator” (King).  He lists them as portability, small size, replaceable batteries, increased functions, liquid crystal display, solar power, and cheapness (King).  These stages of calculator evolution were each mastered or integrated into products increasing the market demand for the calculator while decreasing the cost of the calculator.

Slide rule manufacturers began to fall to the wayside because of the demand for calculators instead of slide rules.  For instance, “Keuffel & Esser, the oldest slide rule manufacturer…made its last slide rule in 1975,” only five years after the introduction of the Pocketronic (Hamrick 638).  Slide rules had been the primary portable computation device used by students, scientists, and engineers before the calculator came along.  The electronic desktop calculators also began to be phased out when more advanced and powerful calculators began to come out such as Hewlett-Packard’s HP-35 in 1972_ .  HP’s website describes the HP-35 as, “the world’s first scientific handheld calculator. Small enough to fit into a shirt pocket, the powerful HP-35 makes the engineer’s slide rule obsolete. In 2000, Forbes ASAP names it one of 20 “all time products” that have changed the world” (HP).  The first handheld calculator makes inroads into markets where people need to make basic arithmetic computations.  These newer, more advanced calculators move into the markets where the more specialized desktop calculators and early computer systems were the mainstay.  The explosion of the handheld calculator market muscles in quietly and quickly usurping the dominant position of calculation technology in many different arenas where people need to make calculations.

In the home and business market, the calculator was swiftly adopted and integrated into a standard tool.  A source of some controversy involved the introduction of the calculator into schools.  There was not a loud outcry about students using calculators in college level classes.  In one example, the University of Ohio redesigned its remedial college math class so that calculators were required for the curriculum.  Leitzel and Waits describe the situation at the University of Ohio in the autumn of 1974 as “we faced approximately 4500 students who were not prepared to begin our precalculus courses” (731).  The authors note that “the enrollment in our remedial course includes typically a large number of students from diverse backgrounds, with equally diverse abilities, with poor attitudes toward the study of mathematics, with poor study habits and, to a large extent, poor academic motivation” (Leitzel and Waits, 731).  Only a few years after the introduction of the handheld calculator these professors are designing a new approach to an old mathematics course that will try to capture the attention of these students with such poor school habits.  The calculator will be instructive and it will be a hook to get the students interested in the material.  They noted that “in using calculators students raised questions about arithmetic properties of numbers that would have been of little interest to them otherwise” and “the desire to use the calculator seemed often to motivate this understanding” (Leitzel and Waits, 732).  The calculator would let the students spend more time doing more problems in a sort of trial and error scenario.  It took a long time to do some calculations with a slide rule or by hand.  A calculator would allow for easy and quick computation involving larger numbers or large sets of numbers.  Leitzel and Waits are proposing that by letting the students explore mathematics with the calculator as a facilitating tool, it is allowing the students to accomplish what they were not motivated to do before.  They add, however, “the question of whether a person who uses a hand-held calculator to do computations is somehow less educated than a person who does computations mentally we will leave for others to decide” (Leitzel and Waits, 732).  This was the big question regarding the calculator for those in education.  Was the calculator something that built upon the learning process or was it something that detracted from one’s development of arithmetic ability.  This question weighed much more heavily on those in K-12 education than in colleges.  Calculators were not rushed into kindergartens or the early grades in school.  I remember using calculators and adding machines at home and at my parent’s business when I was young.  The school curriculum in the schools I attended in southeast Georgia didn’t allow the use of a calculator in until the sixth grade.  That was in 1988-1989.

This debate continues even in the higher levels of grade school.  One of the loudest arguments involves high school geometry and the development of proofs.  Proofs allow the student to see that there is a rational basis for particular mathematical rules and operations that might not appear intuitive at first glance.  James Stein Jr. writes, “I am extremely concerned by the current emphasis on calculators in the elementary and secondary mathematics curriculum.  The vast majority of my students, to borrow Hofstadter’s phrase, are woefully innumerate, a condition I believe has been exacerbated by the reliance on calculators” (447).  Stein_  reveals that by this time, about 17 years after the introduction of the Canon Pocketronic, calculators are used in elementary and secondary schools.  Neil Rickert_  writes regarding this issue, “although the curriculum a generation ago was far from ideal, at least the students learned that mathematics provided a powerful tool for solving interesting and difficult problems.  Today mathematically strong students are leaving high school convinced that mathematics is a boring and sterile subject, overloaded with pedantry” (447).  He feels that by having students spoon feed axioms instead of discovering the proof behind those axioms and principles, students are turned away from mathematics.  The dynamo of change from proofs to the more problem solving ideology is the calculator.  With the calculator students are better equipped to perform complex operations and solve difficult problems whereas before there was a limit to the number of problems or complexity of a problem that a student could tackle with only pencil, paper and a slide rule.  In response to Stein and Rickert, Lynn Arthur Steen_  writes, “the calculator makes possible precisely the exploration of arithmetic patterns that Stein seeks.  To translate this possibility into reality will require greater emphasis on quality teaching so that calculators can be used effectively” (447).  Steen is looking for a solution involving teaching and the use of calculators.  She isn’t placing all blame on the calculators.  She goes on to say, “the need to move students from lower, rote skills to complex problem-solving has been recognized in virtually every report on education during the last decade.  It is calculation rather than deduction (as Rickert states) that improperly dominates today’s school curriculum” (448).  This shows that she also thinks that calculators have too much school space in that students are encouraged and taught to use them in elementary and secondary schools.  She feels that there are greater skills that must be taught along side the use of calculators.  Steen is suggesting that better problem solving skills coupled with the calculator should be the new order for elementary and secondary school math education.  After the initial boom and integration of the calculator into educational life, everyday life, and professional life, there is a backlash against the adoption of the calculator in educational life.  There must be mediation between traditional rote skill learning and the use of the calculator.  There must also be an revision in the way problem solving skills are taught and approached to better utilize the calculator as a tool and not as a reliance.  The debate regarding calculators in the classroom continue to this day though it often regards more advanced calculators such as ones capable of symbolic manipulation_  and graphing complex equations.

The electronic handheld calculator was initially embraced by many different people in different spheres of life such as the home, business, or school.  People needed to calculate percentages, balance check books, more easily solve math problems, calculate interest, and many, many other things.  Initially the calculator moved into these different facets of society and debate or dissent did not arise until the growing use of calculators in the school environment.  College mathematics departments tried to use calculators to help some remedial students get up to speed while other math professionals decried the use of calculators in elementary and secondary schools.  In the professional and home arenas, the calculator has been accepted as a useful tool to solve many problems that were once tedious or nearly impossible to do without the aid of some mechanical or electrical computation technology.  The introduction of the electronic handheld calculator was a quiet revolution that brought a democratization of calculation to nearly everyone in America.

Works Cited

Ament, Phil.  “Hand-Held Calculator.”  The Great Idea Finder.  Oct. 22, 2002.  Nov. 23, 2003 <http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/handcalculator.htm&gt;.

Canon Incorporated.  Canon Pocketronic Instructions.  Japan:  Canon.  1970.

Hamrick, Kathy.  “The History of the Hand-Held Electronic Calculator.”  The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 103, No. 8 (Oct., 1996), 633-639.

Hewlett-Packard Company.  “HP timeline – 1970s.”  2003. Nov. 23, 2003 <http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/abouthp/histnfacts/timeline/hist_70s.html&gt;.

King, Robert.  “The Evolution of Today’s Calculator.”  The International Calculator Collector, Spring 1997.  Nov. 23, 2003 <http://www.vintagecalculators.com/html/evolution_of_today_s_calculato.html&gt;

Leitzel, Joan and Bert Waits.  “Hand-Held Calculators in the Freshman Mathematics Classroom.”  The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 83, No. 9 (Nov., 1976), 731-733.

Rickert, Neil W..  “Mathematics Education.”  Science, New Series, Vol. 238, No.    4826 (Oct. 23, 1987), 447.

Steen, Lynn Arthur.  “Mathematics Education:  Response.”  Science, New Series, Vol. 238, No. 4826 (Oct. 23, 1987), 447-448.

Stein Jr., James D..  “Mathematics Education.”  Science, New Series, Vol. 238, No. 4826 (Oct. 23, 1987), 447.

1 Jerry Merryman is described as a “self-taught engineer” who attended Texas A & M, but never graduated.  He was considered “one of the brightest young engineers at TI (Hamrick 634).  _2 This first patent filing was followed by a refiling on May 13, 1971 and it was refiled again on December 21, 1972.  The CAL-TECH is covered by patent number 3,819, 921 (Hamrick 635)._3 MOS/LSI stands for metal-oxide-semiconductor/large scale integration._4 “The HP-35 was introduced in January, 1972 and was recalled in December, 1972.  The owners were sent a letter pointing out idiosyncrasies in programming caused by a defect in one logic algorithm.  HP offered to replace the calculator.  This was probably the world’s first instant recall.  The defect caused a few 10 digit numbers, when used in an exponential function, to give an answer that was wrong by 1%” (Hamrick, 638)._5 James D. Stein Jr. is in the Department of Mathematics at both the California State University, Long Beach, CA and the University of California, Los Angeles, CA._6 Neil W. Rickert is from the Department of Computer Science, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL._7 Lynn Arthur Steen is from the Department of Mathematics at St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN._8 The TI-92 is able to solve equations for a numerical answer and it can perform many calculus operations such as derivatives, integrals, etc.._

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Final Essay Response on Communication Tech and World of Warcraft, Dec 8, 2004

This is the fourteenth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

This is my final post of material from Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel’s LCC 3314 Technologies of Representation class at Georgia Tech. LCC 3314 is taught in many different ways by the faculty of the Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication, but I consider myself fortunate to have experienced Professor Knoespel’s approach to the course during the last phase of my undergraduate tenure. The ideas that we discussed in his class continue to inform my professional and personal thinking. Also, I found Professor Knoespel a great ally, who helped me along my path to graduation with side projects and independent studies.

This is my final paper assignment (I think given in lieu of a final exam) in LCC3314. The more exciting portion is question 2, which concerns Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. I break down how you navigate its space and I describe elements of its operation. It bears noting that at the time that I wrote this, WoW had been out for less than a month. I was rabidly playing it on my PowerMac G5 at 2560×1600 resolution on a 30″ Apple Cinema Display. While it might not have been the best essay, it certainly was one that I enjoyed writing to no end! I wish that I had found a way to make time for WoW since my days in Liverpool. I have played WoW on only rare occasions since returning to the States, but I continue to write about it from my memory of Azeroth.

Also included below is my response to question 1, which seems to be focused on the telegraph, telephone, and cellular phone. In this question, I explore the material experience of using these different communication media and technological devices. I suppose WoW is another kind of communication technology wrapped up in a highly interactive gaming environment (cf. Hack/Slash).

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel

LCC3314 – Technologies of Representation

December 8, 2004

Final Paper Assignment

1. On the telegraph, telephone, and cellular phone

The telegraph, telephone, and cell phone each have a particular interface that works with different human senses and thus provide different experiences for the body.  The differences between these communication technologies lie in the physicality of the artifact as well as the technology underlying the technology for encoding and decoding communication.

The telegraph is a wired point-to-point textual communication technology.  Telegraph operation involves trained operators who can encode and decode the Morse code messages transmitted over wires with telegraph machines.  The process of sending a telegram involves finding a business that offers telegraph service, going there in person, telling the telegraph operator the message to send, the telegraph operator encodes the message with the telegraph machine, it is received by the appropriate destination telegraph operator, that operator decodes the message, a delivery person is dispatched with the message, and the message is hand delivered to the recipient.  The experience of the telegram sender is standing at a counter and speaking with an operator.  The receiver interfaces with a delivery person who hands them a piece of paper containing the message.  The technology that makes the sending and receiving messages over great distances possible is removed from the experience of the sender and receiver.  The sender and receiver also have to rely on a network of operators and delivery persons.  These people are in a unique position to view the correspondence between the sender and receiver.  This fact is probably something that senders of telegrams were well aware of.

The telephone is a wired point-to-point oral communication technology.  Telephones encode auditory information into electrical signals which travel over copper wires in a phone network to the receiving telephone that decodes the electrical signals into auditory information (the spoken voice).  Telephones allow users to hear the person’s voice that they are speaking with.  One problem with telephones is that the technology uses a narrow band of audible sound that can cause “m” to sound like “n” or “b” to sound like “d.”  Initially, telephones were prohibitively expensive and were direct wired from location to location.  After telephone networks were made possible with human operator switching technology, voice phone calls could be routed from the call initiator to the call receiver.  Therefore, over time the phone network mediation shifted from human operators to electrical switching technology.  When you would make a call you would speak to an operator first, and then the person that you were calling.  Now, one can dial a number and the phone network’s automatic switching technology connects the caller with the receiver.  Someone who makes a phone call assumes privacy when the call is made from home or within an enclosed space such as a phone booth.  The physical interaction between the user and the telephone is that a headset is lifted off the base and held to the ear and mouth.  The user taps out a phone number on the base or dials a number with a rotary phone base.  The telephone user experiences an interaction with a disembodied voice.

The cell phone is an unwired point-to-point oral and textual communication technology.  Modern cell phones are a synthesis of the telegraph, telephone, digital photography, video technology, and radio technology.  Cell phones facilitate voice conversations between cell phone to cell phone or cell phone to wired telephone.  They also allow for text messaging, audio messaging, picture messaging, and video messaging.  Widespread cell phone use is shifting voice phone conversation into a more commonplace activity.  Additionally, the private sphere of telephone conversation is shifting to the public sphere of wherever the cell phone user answers or makes a phone call.  Cell phones also connect to the Internet and Internet-based text messaging networks such as AOL Instant Messenger.  The cell phone has become a place of contact for the individual in more ways than merely talking on the phone.  It builds connections between the individual and others as well as between the individual and information (e.g., online weather information, movie listings, online news websites, etc.).  With ear bud speaker/microphones that plug into cell phones or wireless Bluetooth headsets, one can interface with the auditory communication features of their cell phone without needing to hold the cell phone up to the ear and mouth as one would with a traditional telephone.  The cell phone users also interface with a disembodied voice, but the cell phone also has other means of interaction with people as well as information.

The telegraph is not an interactive means of communicating in the way that the telephone and the cell phone are.  With the telephone or the cell phone, one can have a real-time conversation with someone else whereas with the telegraph, there is a delay between sending a message, delivery, and if need be, a return message.  The amount of information capable through transmissions has increased over time.  The telegraph had a finite amount of information that could be conveyed because of the time and cost of sending messages with Morse code.  The telephone increased the amount of conveyed information because it was a disembodied voice that could carry nuances of speech and emotive information (e.g., happiness, sadness, anger, etc.).  The cell phone has brought these communication systems full circle with the creation of a synthesis of voice and text.  Along with oral communications, there is so much textual and graphic information that can be conveyed through a cell phone.  Barbara Stafford writes, “we have been moving, from the Enlightenment forward, towards a visual and, now, an electronically generated, culture” (“Presuming images and consuming words” 472).  The cell phone represents the bringing together of communication, both between people and between people and sources of information.  Walter J. Ong writes in Orality and Literacy, “By contrast with vision, the dissecting sense, sound is thus a unifying sense.  A typical visual ideal is clarity and distinctness, a taking apart…The auditory ideal, by contrast, is harmony, a putting together” (71).  The modern cell phone brings together the visual and the oral in a way that previous communication technologies had not.  This unification ties two of the powerful human senses (sight and sound) to the cell phone that distinguishes it from the telegraph and telephone.

An interesting development in these technologies is that the perception is that better communication technologies lead to better communication between individuals (i.e., a bringing together of individuals).  George Myerson writes in Heidegger, Habermas, and the Mobile Phone, “There’s no real gathering at all.  Instead, there are only isolated individuals, each locked in his or her own world, making contact sporadically and for purely functional purposes” (38).  Thus, the cell phone has disconnected the individual from the wall phone where one might be “waiting on an important call.”  Casualness and importance are intertwined in the use of the cell phone.

I used Paul Carmen’s paper on the telegraph, Amanda Richard’s paper on the telephone, and Kevin Oberther’s paper on the cell phone as starting points for this essay.

2. On World of Warcraft

Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft video game was released on November 23, 2004 for both Windows and Mac OS X.  It is a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) that immerses the player in a 3D fantasy world where the player is able to create a character based on several layers of identity (e.g., allegiance:  alliance or horde, races:  humans, dwarves, night elves, gnomes, orcs, tauren, trolls, or undead, and classes:  warrior, mages, druids, hunters, rogues, etc.).  After building one’s character (including designing a unique appearance), you choose a realm in which to play.  These realms correspond to computer servers that are in a particular time zone.  Other players around the world pick one of these realms to play in that best corresponds to when they will be playing, or when their friends will be playing.  The player is able to meet up with friends within a realm to go on adventures together, and if the player doesn’t know anyone, he or she can communicate with other players to form groups (large and small) to go on adventures with.  The objective of the game is to gain levels, complete quests, and to battle the forces opposite of your allegiance.  Working with others is the key to success in World of Warcraft.

When the player first enters the game, a movie clip is played that gives some introductory backstory information so that the player has a general idea about what is going on.  This movie is actually a fly-through of the area in which the player is going to begin playing.  This gives the player a chance to get his or her bearings before they are “on the ground.”

The screen space has pertinent information regarding the character as well as the character’s location within the game.  The upper right corner of the screen has a round map that has the cardinal directions with the character centered on this small map.  The character is represented as an arrow so that the player can see which direction they are pointing without having to move around to get one’s bearings.  This player-centered map is similar to the Blaeu Atlas because it is centered around the idea of the person needing to do the orientating is “inside the map.”  The Blaeu Atlas has lines emanating from points on open water toward landmarks.  These lines assist the person on the ocean to determine their approximate position from the landmarks that they see on particular lines of sight.  The system within the game takes this a step further by providing instant feedback of the direction the player is pointed in as well as the location of the player in relation to roads and landmarks.  Another feature that assists the player with recognizing one’s location is that as the character enters a new area or approaches a landmark, the name of that place will fade into the center of the screen for a few moments and then disappear.

Walking around is accomplished by using the keyboard with the mouse.  The W, A, S, and D keys (corresponding to forward, left, backward, and right) are used for walking around.  The mouse orients the “camera” around the player’s character on-screen.  Moving the camera around allows the player to better see up, down, or to the sides without having to walk in that direction (i.e., if the character’s neck were in a brace).

The ground, buildings, hills, mountains, and caves are textured so that they appear like one would think these things would like.  There are clouds and sky above, and the ponds and lakes have shimmering water.  There are small and large animals in the forests that the player can interact with.  Other players’ characters are walking around in the same area that you may be in.  There are also characters that are controlled by the game and the central game servers called non-player characters (NPCs).  These are characters that you can buy equipment from and some will invite you to undertake quests in return for rewards.  Because the world that the game is set in involves fantasy, magic, and mythical beings, the buildings and inhabitants can be fanciful.

The organization of the map, equipment, and battle function icons around the peripheral of the play area of the screen (the world and the character centered on the screen) works very well.  They do not take up that much area so that the player feels immersed in the game, but they are large enough to be meaningful and they all have unique icons (i.e., adheres to HCI principles).  The player interaction with other players and the NPCs is good, but it does require referring to the help system or the user manual.  When playing World of Warcraft on Mac OS X, they choose to do something differently than one would expect.  Within the Mac OS X Finder, you hold down the Control key while clicking with the mouse to emulate a right mouse button (because most Macs do not have a mouse with two buttons).  Inside the game however, you have to hold down the Command key (also known as the Apple key) while clicking with the mouse in order to perform a right click (which is used for picking up loot and for communicating with players and NPCs.  If the Blizzard developers had kept this consistent with what the player was expecting from using the operating system, interaction in the game space would have been more transparent.

The world in which the player navigates through is immersive.  The player’s character is modeled in three dimensions and the world that the character walks through is also modeled in three dimensions.  Physical principles such as gravity and optics are built into the game’s underlying technology.  Features in the distance are faded from view while those things up close have a tremendous amount of detail.  Because believability and level of detail can reach a point of diminishing returns, the look of the game is not photorealistic.  The Blizzard developers strike a balance between the look and feel of the world within the game and the amount of realism necessary for an immersive 3D environment.  Some physical laws are suspended however because of the mythic and fantasy elements of the world.  These elements have to be accepted on faith by the player in order for the game to have any meaning for the player.

The narrative is carried by the exploration and fulfillment of quests by the player/character.  Because the environment is so expansive (like the real world), the narrative created by the exploration of the player is successful.  The terrain that the character walks through is based on models that do not change.  There are certain assumptions about perspective that are upheld within the game.  If a cliff appears to rise about three hundred yards ahead, that distance will not shift.  This is a technical consideration regarding the way that the “camera” focuses and presents perspective of the 3D world.  The game models a space of fantasy but it must present it in a familiar way to the experiences of its intended audience.

There is a learning curve inherent in playing a game like World of Warcraft.  As Barbara Stafford writes in “Presuming images and consuming words,” “It is not accidental that this overwhelming volume of information—likened to drinking from the proverbial firehose—coincides with a mountain concern for bolstering and maintaining language ‘literacy’” (462).  Stafford is writing about the literacy of visual images.  There are subtle cues embedded in the game that the player has to recognize in order to play the game successfully (e.g., exclamation points over NPCs that have quests to offer and question marks over NPCs who are connected to quests in progress).  Iconic information provides the best way for quick access to game controls and functions.  The player has to develop a level of literacy of these icons in order to be a proficient game player.

Additionally, the 3D environments presented in the game are similar to the descriptions of Renaissance gardens in Kenneth J. Knoespel’s “Gazing on Technology.”  The 3D environment of the game is promoting the underlying technology that makes 3D computer graphics possible in the same way that Renaissance technology was employed in building those gardens.  Knoespel writes, “Gardens, whether set out in Renaissance poetry or on the estates of the nobility, offer a controlled means for assimilating the new technology.  In each case, the audience views the machinery at a privileged distance as it would an entertainer…In fact, the garden conceals technology in its mythological narrative” (117-118).  The player does not have to understand how his or her 3D graphics accelerator works in order to enjoy the immersive experience of playing World of Warcraft.  This game is the “controlled means for assimilating the new technology” of 3D computer graphics.

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on a Future Technology, Personal Computing Device, Nov 18, 2004

This is the thirteenth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

In the next few Recovered Writing posts, I will present my major assignments from Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel’s LCC 3314 Technologies of Representation class at Georgia Tech. LCC 3314 is taught in many different ways by the faculty of the Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication, but I consider myself fortunate to have experienced Professor Knoespel’s approach to the course during the last phase of my undergraduate tenure. The ideas that we discussed in his class continue to inform my professional and personal thinking. Also, I found Professor Knoespel a great ally, who helped me along my path to graduation with side projects and independent studies.

This is another example of a WOVEN multimodal essay assignment. In it, I used WVE/written, visual, electronic modes to discuss a specific technology. These essays (focused on past, present, and future technologies) gave me a chance to use technology to explore the meaning behind and impact of technologies. The next essay will focus on a future technology of my own design.

In this essay assignment, we were tasked with exploring an imagined future technology. At the time, I was fascinated with wearable computing. However, I only knew about it from my reading in magazines and online. I could not afford a 2004-era wearable computing rig, so I thought about how to improve on an idea of wearable computing for everyone. If only I had made a few more connections–namely touch and the phone.

Nevertheless, I had a lot of fun designing the PCD and writing this essay.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel

LCC3314 – Technologies of Representation

November 18, 2004

Artifact of the Future – Personal Computing Device

Personal Computing Device - PCD (Drawing by Jason Ellis)
Personal Computing Device – PCD (Drawing by Jason Ellis)

The Artifact

The Personal Computing Device (PCD) is an inexpensive and portable computer that can interface with many different input/output (I/O) components.  It is a one-piece solution to the ubiquity of computing and information storage in the future.  Its plain exterior hides the fact that this artifact is a powerful computing platform that transforms “dummy terminals” into points of access where one may access their own computer that is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.

Description

The device measures 3″ wide by 4″ tall by 3/4″ thick.  On one of the long sides there is a small 1/4″ notch.  This notch matches with a similar notch on the interface port of wearable computer networks, computing stations, and entertainment systems.  The notch allows user to insert the PCD in only one orientation.  This protects the PCD and the interface port it is being plugged into.  The PCD is housed in a thin aluminum shell.  As the PCD does computing work, its circuits emit heat which needs to be removed from the system.  Because of the very small (< 90nm) circuit manufacturing process, the PCD uses very little power which translates to it emitting less heat than today’s Pentium 4 or Athlon64 processors.  Aluminum is an excellent choice for its metal housing because it is thermally conductive (removes heat), it is lightweight, and it is inexpensive.

Dimensional view of PCD (Drawing by Jason Ellis)
Dimensional view of PCD (Drawing by Jason Ellis)

There are no switches or indicators on the PCD.  It has only one interface port as pictured in the top-left of the drawing above.  This interface makes the PCD unique.  This standardized interface allows the PCD to be used on any computing system that is designed for the PCD.  Computer hardware, wearable computer networks, and home entertainment systems are “dummy terminals” which rely on the PCD to be the “brains.”

The PCD is a full featured computer.  It processes data, runs programs, and stores data on built-in solid-state memory.  Engineers were able to build a complete “computer on a chip” using new silicon circuitry layering techniques.  The result of this is the Layered Computing System as drawn in the internal schematic of the PCD (below).  Reducing the number of chips needed for a computing application has been a long-standing goal of electrical and computer engineering.  Steven Wozniak at Apple Computer was able to design elegant layouts for the original Apple I, and later, the Apple II.  He designed custom chips that brought the functions of several chips into a single chip.  AMD is continuing the trend today after integrating the CPU memory controller onto the new Athlon64 processor.  NVIDIA introduced the nForce3 250 GB chipset which integrated the system controller chip, sound, LAN (networking), and firewall all onto one chip.

Internal layout of the PCD (Drawing by Jason Ellis)
Internal layout of the PCD (Drawing by Jason Ellis)

The solid-state memory is similar to today’s flash memory (e.g., USB Flash Drives or compact flash digital camera memory).  The difference lies in the density of the memory on the PCD.  Layering techniques are used in building the solid-state memory so that it is very dense (more data storage per unit area than today’s flash memory).  Typical PCD solid-state memory storage is 120 GB (gigabytes).  The PCD’s large memory area has no moving parts because it is made out of solid-state memory.  Traditionally, computers need a hard drive to store large amounts of information for random access.  Hard drives are a magnetic storage that depends on round platters rotating at high speed while a small arm moves across the platters reading and writing information.  Flash memory does not need to spin or have a moving arm.  Data is accessed, written, and erased electronically.

The PCD has a built-in battery for mobile use.  When the PCD is plugged into a wall-powered device such as a computer terminal or entertainment system, it runs off power supplied by the device it is plugged into and its battery will recharge.

Social Significance

The introduction of the PCD revolutionizes personal computing.  The PCD empowers users to choose the way in which they interface with computers, networks, and data.  Computer displays, input/output, and networks have become abstracted from the PCD.  A user chooses the operating system (the latest Linux distribution, Windows, or Mac OS X) and the programs (e.g., Office, Appleworks, iTunes) for his or her own PCD.  That person uses only their own PCD so that it is customized in the way that they see fit and they will develop an awareness of its quirks and abilities in the same way that a person learns so much about his or her own car.

The “faces” of computers (i.e., monitors, keyboards, mice, trackballs, and printers) are abstracted away from the “heart” of the computer.  The PCD is the heart because it processes data through it (input/output) much like the heart muscle moves blood through itself.  A PCD also acts as a brain because it stores information and it can computationally work on the stored data.  The traditional implements of computer use are transformed into dummy terminals (i.e., they possess no computational or data storage ability).  Each of these devices have an interface port that one plugs in their personalized PCD.  The PCD then becomes the heart and brain of that device and it allows the user to interface with networks, view graphics on monitors, or print out papers.

Computer Terminal and Entertainment Systems with PCD Interfaces (Drawing by Jason Ellis)
Computer Terminal and Entertainment Systems with PCD Interfaces (Drawing by Jason Ellis)

Both the PCD and the dummy terminals are a standardized computing platform.  Consumer demand, market forces, and entrepreneurial insight led to the evolution that culminated with the PCD as the end product.  Consumers were overburdened with desktop computers, laptop computers, and computer labs.  Every computer one might encounter could have a very different operating system or set of software tools.  The data storage on one computer would differ from the next.  A new standard was desired to allow a person to choose their own computing path that would be accessible at any place that they might be in need of using a computer.

Computer manufacturer businesses saw ever declining profits as computers were becoming more and more mass-produced.  Additionally, no one company built all of the parts that went into a computer so profit was lost elsewhere as parts were purchased to build a complete computer for sale.

New integrated circuit manufacturing techniques allowed for greater densities of transistors and memory storage.  These manufacturing techniques also allowed for lower power consumption and thus reduced heat from operation (which was a long-standing problem with computers).

With the consumer, desire for something new and innovative coupled with a new way of building computer components led to the founding of a new computer design consortium.  Hardware and software manufacturers came together to design a computing platform that would fulfill the needs of consumers as well as improve failing profits.  The PCD design consortium included computer and software businesses, professional organizations, and consumer/enthusiast groups.

The PCD almost didn’t see the light of day because of influence from large lobbying groups in Washington.  This involved copyright groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).  These groups decried the potential copyright violations possible with the PCD.  Epithets, curses, and bitching issued from the RIAA and MPAA lobbyists’ mouths.  Consumer outrage over these large business groups attempting to throw their weight around caused a surge of grassroots political involvement that unseated some Congressional members and scared the rest into line.  The public wanted to see what would come out of the PCD Design Consortium before judgment was passed on its useful and legal purposes.

With the legal hurdles temporarily under control, the PCD was released to the public.  New and inventive uses were immediately made of the PCD.  One of the first innovations involved the Wearable Computer Network.  Wearable computing was a long researched phenomenon at the Wearable Computing Lab at MIT and Georgia Tech’s Contextual Computing Group.  The two factors holding back wide adaptation of wearable computing were the cost of the mobile computing unit and the mobile computing unit’s singular purpose.  These two factors were eliminated by the PCD because it was cheap and it could be removed from the wearable computing network and used in other computing situations (e.g., at a desktop terminal or in an entertainment system).

Wearable Computing Network with Integrated PCD Interface Pocket (Drawing by Jason Ellis)
Wearable Computing Network with Integrated PCD Interface Pocket (Drawing by Jason Ellis)

Entertainment systems and desktop terminals became popular receptacles for the PCD.  Music and movies purchased over the Internet could be transferred to the PCD and then watched on a home entertainment system that had a PCD interface port.  Desktop terminals and laptop terminals also began to come with PCD interface ports so that a computer user could use their PCD at home or on the go, but still be able to use their PCD in other situations such as at a work terminal.  Being able to carry a PCD between work and home allowed for easier telecommuting because all of a person’s files were immediately available.  There was no more tracking down which computer had downloaded an email, because a person’s email traveled with that person on his or her PCD.  Easier teleworking helped the environment in metropolitan areas because more people could do their work from home without needing to drive their fossil fuel consuming cars down the highway.

Instant computing access meant that PCD users were able to expand the possibilities of the human-computer dynamic.  There was more Internet use and that use was more often on the go.  As people began donning wearable computing networks for their PCD, they would chat with friends while riding a commuter train or they would spend more time getting informed about what was going on in the world with NPR’s online broadcasts or with the BBCNews’ website.  Social networks like Orkut and Friendster received even more users as friends began inviting friends who may have just got online (with a mobile setup) with their new PCD.

As more computer, clothing, and HDTV terminals began to support the PCD, more jobs were created, more units were sold, more raw materials were consumed, more shipping was taking place, more engineering and design was going on, and new business models were being created.  The web of connections built upon itself so that more connections were made between industries and businesses.  The popularity of the PCD boosted tangential industries involved in building components that went into the PCDs as well as entertainment services.  Aluminum and silicon processing, chip manufacturing, battery production and innovation (for longer battery life), new networking technologies to take advantage of the greater number of computing users who purchase PCDs, and PCD interface devices (such as HDTVs and wearable computing networks) all ramped up production as demand for the PCD rose.  New services popped up such as computer terminal rental and new entertainment services that would allow customers to purchase copy-protected versions of music and movies that could easily be transported for enjoyment wherever the user took his or her PCD.  Some entertainment companies held out too long while others reaped rewards for modifying their business models to take advantage of this new (and popular) technology.

Choice is the driving factor behind the PCD’s success.  Wrapped in the PCD’s small form is the choice of human-computer interaction, choice of where to use a PCD, and choice of data (visual and auditory) to be accessed with a PCD.  These choices are made available by the choices made by many people such as consumers, industrialists, and entertainment antagonists.  Those who embraced the PCD and found ways of interfacing with it (literally and figuratively) succeeded while those that did not were left by the wayside.

Works Cited

Contextual Computing Group at Georgia Tech.  September 29, 2004. November 14, 2004 <http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/ccg/&gt;.

Hepburn, Carl.  Britney Spears’ Guide to Semiconductor Physics.  April 7, 2004.              November 14, 2004 <http://britneyspears.ac/lasers.htm&gt;.

Owad, Tom.  “Apple I History.”  Applefritter.  December 17, 2003.  November 14, 2004 <http://www.applefritter.com/book/view/7&gt;.

“Single-Chip Architecture.”  NVIDIA.  2004.  November 14, 2004 <http://www.nvidia.com/object/feature_single-chip.html&gt;.

Wearable Computing at MIT.  October 2003.  November 14, 2004 <http://www.media.mit.edu/wearables/&gt;.

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on Present Technology, Airport Express, Oct 28, 2004

This is the twelfth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

In the next few Recovered Writing posts, I will present my major assignments from Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel’s LCC 3314 Technologies of Representation class at Georgia Tech. LCC 3314 is taught in many different ways by the faculty of the Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication, but I consider myself fortunate to have experienced Professor Knoespel’s approach to the course during the last phase of my undergraduate tenure. The ideas that we discussed in his class continue to inform my professional and personal thinking. Also, I found Professor Knoespel a great ally, who helped me along my path to graduation with side projects and independent studies.

This is another example of a WOVEN multimodal essay assignment. In it, I used WVE/written, visual, electronic modes to discuss a specific technology. These essays (focused on past, present, and future technologies) gave me a chance to use technology to explore the meaning behind and impact of technologies. The next essay will focus on a future technology of my own design.

In this essay assignment, we were tasked with exploring an example of a present technology. I chose to write about Apple’s Airport Express, which my roommate Perry Merier had recently purchased. At the time, the idea of an extremely small computing/routing/audio device was new and innovative. Also, it was incredibly useful.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel

LCC3314 – Technologies of Representation

October 28, 2004

Artifact of the Present – Apple Airport Express

Apple Airport Express (Image from Apple Computer)
Apple Airport Express (Image from Apple Computer)

The Artifact

The Apple Airport Express is a multifunction wireless Internet router (i.e., base station) that first hit shelves in June 2004.  It can serve as a wireless Internet base station, extend the range of an existing wireless network, receive streaming music and transfer that to a home stereo, and share a USB printer on a wireless network.  It can do all of these things and yet its small rectangular shape can be inscribed in the circumference of an audio CD.

Description

The Airport Express is only 3.7 inches tall, 2.95 inches wide, and 1.12 inches deep.  It is about the size of a Powerbook G4’s power brick (AC to DC converter).  If you do not need the included power cord extender, then the Airport Express is completely self-contained.  Unlike most other wireless routers, the Airport Express has its power converter built-in.  The electronics that allow it to juggle all of its functions lie within the glossy white plastic housing.

On the back edge of the Airport Express there is a fold-out AC power connector.  The power prongs fold back into the unit so that it is easily carried in a bag without snagging on anything.  The bottom edge has three connectors.  The first is the ethernet RJ-45 connector.  This can be connected to a DSL or cable modem so that the Airport Express can wirelessly transmit Internet access to computers with wireless capabilities that are within range.  Next is the USB connector.  This can be hooked to a USB printer so that the printer can be shared with anyone on the wireless network.  The last connector is an audio mini-jack that supports both digital and optical audio output.  This can be connected to a home stereo so that music can be streamed from a computer running iTunes to the Airport Express.  In the event of a lockup, there is a small reset button on the bottom of the device.  The front edge of the device has an LED.  This LED lights up as amber or green.  The color of the LED and its state (i.e., on, off, blinking) can indicate different things about the status of the Airport Express.

Airport Express Connectors (left) and Airport Express Plugged-In (right)(Images from Apple Computer)
Airport Express Connectors (left) and Airport Express Plugged-In (right) (Images from Apple Computer)

The components inside the Airport Express are tightly packed.  A good deal of engineering had to go into making function follow form in this artifact.  Home wireless routers are usually two or three times the size of the Airport Express and they have an external power brick (that may be the same size as the Airport Express).  This device has to contain a power converter, wireless networking components, wired networking components, network routing components, USB printing components, and audio components.  Some of these parts are combined on a single piece of silicon to save space on the circuit board.

Airport Express split in half.  Note the circuit boards on the left and power converter on the right.  (Image from ipodding.com)
Airport Express split in half. Note the circuit boards on the left and power converter on the right. (Image from ipodding.com)

Social Significance

Apple Computer introduced its Airport technology in July 1999.  The choice to use the name “Airport” was a deliberate one.  It is easy to remember and it evokes certain images of what the technology is able to do.  The bits of data seem to fly through the air on invisible radio waves.  Airport technology is the place where these bits take off and land–from the base station to the computer and vice versa.  Speed, travel, and mobility are some of the images that Apple intended the Airport Extreme to conjure for potential buyers.

The Airport Express uses the two most widely adopted wireless networking standards:  802.11b and 802.11g.  A working group within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established those standards.  The IEEE 802 standards committee develops the standards for local area networks as well as for metropolitan area networks.  Work group 11 focuses on wireless networking standards.  Publicly available standards such as these are part of the success of computer and networking hardware.  Standards allow for components manufactured by different companies to be interoperable.  Because the Airport Express uses several open standards it will work along side other wireless hardware and it will work with Macs as well as PCs.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regulate the radio frequency spectrum.  The NTIA is part of the Executive Branch of the US Government that “manages the Federal government’s use of the spectrum” while the FCC is an “independent agency” that “regulates the private use of the spectrum” (NTIA).  The 802.11b and 802.11g wireless networking standards are approved by the FCC to use the 2.4GHz radio band for transmitting and receiving bits of data carried on radio waves.

The US Radio Spectrum Frequency Allocations.  The red ellipse approximately marks where in the spectrum 802.11b and 802.11g operate. (Image from NTIA)
The US Radio Spectrum Frequency Allocations. The red ellipse approximately marks where in the spectrum 802.11b and 802.11g operate. (Image from NTIA)

Each person with a computer with wireless capability, a copy of iTunes, a stereo, and an Airport Express is in effect a one-person radio station.  Music can be streamed from the computer to the Airport Express which passes it along to the home stereo via an audio cable.  Digital music is now freed from the computer and transferred back to the home stereo.  This capability points to one of the Airport Express’ weaknesses.  Music streaming from a computer can only be played on one Airport Express at a time.  There is no technology barrier keeping more than one Airport Express from receiving the streaming music so there is some reason that Apple restricted this capability on the Airport Express.  If this were enabled customers would buy more than one Airport Express so that they could stream music to multiple rooms.

The music travels wirelessly to the Airport Express and then to the stereo via wires.  (Image from Apple Computer)
The music travels wirelessly to the Airport Express and then to the stereo via wires. (Image from Apple Computer)

The Airport Express’ limitations might be due to pressure from the music industry.  Apple gives the music playing software, iTunes, away for free.  It can play CDs, MP3s, and it can access Apple’s Online Music store.  This software can copy (i.e., rip) CDs that may or may not be owned by the iTunes user.  Additionally, iTunes will play legitimate MP3s as well as those that are obtained in violation of current copyright law.  The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and some music recording artists find this unacceptable.  Apple has tried to work on the side of the consumer, but they have to appease the music industry as well.  To do this Apple has integrated special encryption in music downloaded from the Apple Online Music Store so that only the authorized buyer can play those MP3s.  Additionally, iTunes establishes a secure connection to the Airport Express by encrypting the music stream with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption, which is in turn protected by RSA encryption.  This prevents others from recording an iTunes music stream.

Encryption is also employed to protect the wireless users on the Airport Extreme’s network.  Part of this protection comes from encrypting the wireless network traffic and the other part comes from the built-in firewall.  The older encryption is called Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and the newer security is called Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA).  WPA was built to supercede WEP.  The built-in firewall uses network address translation (NAT) to create a network that uses private IP addresses instead of public (and thus directly connected to the Internet) IP addresses.  NAT exchanges data between the public world and the private network.  Generally, only the NAT server can directly connect to the computer on its private network and not a computer in the outside world.

Security and privacy is a growing concern for people in a more wired world.  Identify theft is becoming a boon for some (e.g., the thieves, private investigators, lawyers, politicians) and a bust for others (i.e., the person whose identity is stolen).  One way that a person’s private identifying information is stolen is by an individual “sniffing” a wireless network’s data traffic for that precious information.  New industries and groups have grown out of this problem of identity theft.  Wireless devices like the Airport Express need to have protections built-in so that a user’s private information will be better protected.

The physical construction of the Airport Express involves electrical engineering, computer engineering, and industrial design.  Electrical engineering and computer engineering overlap in a project such as this.  Custom chips have to be designed and built that handle data traffic, digital-analog conversion of sound, configuration software, controlling of a radio transmitter/receiver, and print control software.  Simplicity and elegance of design are demanded in order to fit such a feature rich artifact into a very small package.  Apple has a history of taking an artifact that is assumed to look or work in a particular way and transforming its appearance into something new and fresh (e.g., the original Macintosh, iMac, and iPod).  Airport Express works similarly to any other wireless router, but it pushes the elements of design (both as a physical artifact and with the internal circuits and chips) so that it is identified by the user as something more than its function.

Sleek and new shapes also reinforce the perception of speed.  Airplanes are fast and this artifact is the Airport (sending and receiving these fast airplanes of data) Express (quick, fast, simple).  Computer technology has been a long progression of speed.  How fast does this computer perform the tasks that I will be using it for?  Can it play Doom 3?  The same is true for networking technologies.  Wired networking is hands down the fastest networking technology so wireless has to compete with wires in speed, but it can distinguish itself by its convenience.

(Photo by John M. Dibbs.)
(Photo by John M. Dibbs.)

These new designs effect a change in the way people think about their computer technology.  Soft colors, translucent plastics, curves and gentle transitions give technology a friendlier “face.”  It isn’t imposing and the technology can now fit into a color scheme in your home.  Computer technology shifts from utility to lifestyle.  Apple brings together these networks of technology, government oversight, music industry muscle, and industrial design principles so as to provide customers with the technology desired but in a package that makes it less technical and more like a streamlined appliance.

Works Cited

“Airport Express Gallery.”  Ipodding.com.  2004.  October 26, 2004           <http://ipodding.com/modules.php?set_albumName=album10&op=modload&na            me=gallery&file=index&include=view_album.php>.

“Apple – Airport Express.”  Apple Computer, Inc..  2004.  October 26, 2004 <http://www.apple.com/airportexpress/&gt;.

“Apple – Support – Airport Express.”  Apple Computer, Inc..  2004.  October 26, 2004 <http://www.apple.com/support/airportexpress/&gt;.

Dibbs, John M..  “Concorde Takeoff.”  Planepix.com.  October 26, 2004    <http://www.planepix.com/pp/servlet/template/Detail.vm/id/2940&gt;.

“Myths vs. Reality.”  National Telecommunications and Information Administration.       October 14, 2004.  October 26, 2004             <http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/myths.html&gt;.

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on Past Technology, the Altair 8800, Sept 28, 2004

This is the eleventh post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

In the next few Recovered Writing posts, I will present my major assignments from Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel’s LCC 3314 Technologies of Representation class at Georgia Tech. LCC 3314 is taught in many different ways by the faculty of the Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication, but I consider myself fortunate to have experienced Professor Knoespel’s approach to the course during the last phase of my undergraduate tenure. The ideas that we discussed in his class continue to inform my professional and personal thinking. Also, I found Professor Knoespel a great ally, who helped me along my path to graduation with side projects and independent studies.

In this essay assignment, we were tasked with exploring an example of a past technology. I chose to write about the Altair 8800–the first personal computer. Coincidentally, I am re-watching Robert X. Cringely’s Triumph of the Nerds, which discusses and demonstrates the Altair 8800 in the first episode.

I enjoyed writing this essay, because it was one of the  first that permitted me to combine words and images (thinking about WOVEN). I had done this before on webpages, but not in an essay that I would hand in to my professor.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel

LCC 3314 – Technologies of Representation

September 28, 2004

Artifact from the Past – The Altair 8800

The Altair 8800 (image from Computer Closet).
The Altair 8800 (image from Computer Closet).

The Artifact

The Altair 8800 is credited as the first personal computer.  H. Edward Roberts invented the Altair 8800 after being approached by the magazine, Popular Electronics, to build a kit computer that could be sold through the magazine.  It utilized a central processing unit microprocessor and a bus that “signals and power traveled from one part of the machine to another on” (Ceruzzi 228).  When it was introduced in 1975 by Roberts’ company, MITS, you could purchase an Altair as a kit for $397 or assembled for $498.

Description

The exterior of the Altair 8800 is a steel enclosure.  The front faceplate is black and it has two rows of lights and two rows of flip switches.  Each of the lights and switches are labeled.  The back had an opening for cooling and the power plug connector.

The first Altair 8800 included a very small amount of computer memory (256 bytes–not kilobytes).  Also, when the computer was turned off, anything in the computer memory was lost.  This means that each time you used the Altair 8800 you had to input the program you were going to use and any data that the program was going to work with.  The input was handled through flipping of different switches on the faceplate.  The lights indicated the status of computer during input and the lights would later reveal the output of the program that was laboriously entered.  If the power went out during the programming of the Altair 8800, the program was lost and would have to be reentered when power was restored.

In a sense, the Altair 8800 was as self-contained as a modern day iMac.  The difference being that teletypes and display technology was prohibitively expensive for the computer hobbyist.  When the hobbyist had completed the construction of the Altair there was only the Altair 8800 in its steel enclosure and a power cord that plugged into a wall outlet.  Input and output was handled through the lights and switches on the face plate.

The inside of the Altair contained the electronics of the faceplate, the open bus, a CPU card, a memory card, and the power supply.  The open bus and the CPU chosen for the Altair 8800 are what ignited the possibility for the upcoming personal computer boom.

image003
The interior of the Altair 8800. Bottom left to top right: power supply, open bus with CPU and memory cards installed, and front control panel (image from Computer Closet).

            The open bus (also called S-100) was unique in that it was a board that was attached to the bottom of the inside of the enclosure that had four card connectors on it.  The open bus allowed for expansion possibilities and it was an open architecture which meant that others could build cards that would work in anyone’s Altair 8800.  Additionally, others could copy the open bus architecture so that they could build their own branded computer system that would use parts that were interchangeable with the Altair 8800 and other “clones.”

The S-100 bus (image from Computer Closet).
The S-100 bus (image from Computer Closet).

The Altair 8800 used Intel’s latest microprocessor, the 8080.  The 8080 distinguished itself from the older Intel microprocessor, the 8008, because “it had more instructions and was faster and more capable than the 8008” (Ceruzzi 228).  The 8080 required fewer supporting chips than the 8008 to make a functional system, it could address more memory than the 8008, and it used the “main memory for the stack, which permitted essentially unlimited levels of subroutines instead of the 8008’s seven levels” (Ceruzzi 228).  The 8080 was the first microprocessor powerful enough to run this early iteration of the personal computer.

The Intel 8080 CPU (image from CPU World).
The Intel 8080 CPU (image from CPU World).
The white chip in the middle of this CPU card is the Intel 8080 CPU (image from Computer Closet).
The white chip in the middle of this CPU card is the Intel 8080 CPU (image from Computer Closet).

Social Significance

The Altair 8800 was a hobbyist computer.  The kit that one could buy for about $400 was a box full of individual components that had to be skillfully soldiered and connected together.  MITS did offer a pre-built Altair 8800, but even a completed Altair entailed a good deal of expertise to make it do anything.  This first model handled all input and output through the lights and switches on the front panel.  The “front panel of switches…controlled the contents of internal registers, and small lights [indicated] the presence of a binary one or zero” (Ceruzzi 228).  This was lightyears away from MS-DOS and it was even further away from the GUI of the Macintosh, but it was able to do calculations on data by using programmed instructions.  The representation of the program was stored (temporarily, while the power was on) in an integrated circuit.  The output was displayed in a series of lights in the same location where the program and data were entered earlier.  The output was given in the same format in which it was received, through binary code (i.e., ones and zeros).  Input required encoding into binary and output required decoding from binary into results that the computer user could more concretely understand.  The computer user had to have command of the the encoding and decoding process in order to use the Altair.

Example Altair 8800 program written out (image from old-computers.com).
Example Altair 8800 program written out (image from old-computers.com).
The Altair 8800 operating.  Note the lights (image from Computer Closet).
The Altair 8800 operating. Note the lights (image from Computer Closet).

The open bus allowed others to follow in MITS footsteps in building a computer that was similar in design to the Altair 8800.  Also, hobbyists and other companies could build add-in cards that would interface with any computer based around the S-100 open bus that the Altair employed.  This meant that an aftermarket industry was created for the Altair and its clones.  More electrical components, memory chips, circuit boards, lead soldier, and etching materials would be sold and used in the creation of these add-on products.  More research and development took place both on the hobbyist’s workbench and in corporate research labs.  Some creations were sold as a final product whereas others would have been talked about at user group meetings or published as “how-to” guides in magazines like Popular Electronics.  A dynamic cycle of innovation was introduced to the personal computer that had not been present before.  This is what led to the personal computer becoming something different than an elitist computing device.  The critical mass was building for what led to the first Apple computer and the IBM PC.

Within this creative cycle was Roberts’ choice to use the Intel 8080 microprocessor.  Intel had been selling this microprocessor for $360.00 if ordered in small quantities.  MITS was able to buy them from Intel for $75.00 each.  If MITS had not been able to secure this low price, the Altair would have failed because of its much higher cost.  Because MITS was able to buy these processors for the lower price they were able to sell the Altair to customers for a price that they were willing and able to pay.  When the Altair took off, this meant that each one had an Intel 8080 CPU in the kit.  This meant that Intel started selling a lot more of these new microprocessors that, up until that time, they really didn’t know how to market.  Intel began to see that microprocessors weren’t just for expensive, business computers, but they were also for smaller, personal computers.  When Intel saw that there was a demand they began to further develop and diversify the microprocessor line over time.  Later, other companies began to adopt the S-100 bus.  This meant that other companies were buying Intel’s microprocessor to use in those computers.  Every computer had to have a CPU and at the time these particular computers had to have an Intel microprocessor.  Then other companies, such as AMD, reversed engineered the Intel 8080 microprocessor and began selling their own model that was functionally identical to Intel’s offering.  Money was being made and more innovation and work was taking place as a result.

Along with all of this building, research, and development new construction methods had to be developed and new distribution networks had to be employed.  The Altair was designed to be built at home by the buyer, but MITS also offered a pre-built turn-key system.  MITS did not anticipate the demand and customers quickly had to endure up to a one year wait for their Altair computer.  MITS (and others) learned from these delays.  Also, new buying and distribution channels had to be established.  MITS was buying microprocessors from Intel.  The many other components had to be purchased from other companies and distributors.  Parts had to be ordered and processed in order to send out kits and turn-key systems to customers.  Additionally, Intel had to be prepared to have microprocessors ready to sell to MITS and other companies.  When demand rose for the Altair it would have impacted each company that supplied the individual pieces that comprised the finished product.  Ordering systems, packing, and shipping had to be arranged to get the Altair from their headquarters to the customer’s home.  This involved materials for shipping, personnel, and the logistics of order processing.

MITS tried to market the Altair 8800 as a business computing solution after they saw how popular it was.  This was made easier when teletype, CRT displays, disk drives, punch card rolls, and other computing technology was developed for the Altair and S-100 bus systems. Businesses liked easier interaction with the computer and dependable memory storage.  These business systems were not very successful because there was no “killer app” for the platform at that time.  MITS changed hands several times until its last remnant disappeared.

Business version of the Altair advertisement (image from The Virtual Altair Museum).
Business version of the Altair advertisement (image from The Virtual Altair Museum).

The Altair 8800 began the desktop computing revolution.  Initially it was very complicated and elitist.  The very first kits had to be built and used by persons that were skilled in electronics and computer science.  The hardware had to be constructed from individual elements and then software had to be devised that would run on this built-from-scratch computer.  The Altair became more user friendly over time.  The aftermarket, MITS, and the clone manufacturers wanted to attract more customers.  The potential customers formed a triangle with the most knowledgeable at the peak with a gradation of less knowledgeable customers toward the bottom.  The early adopters of the Altair were at the top of this triangle but their numbers were few.  This meant that new computers with new input and output and new features had to be devised that would entice the greater number of potential computer users to want to buy their product.  This cycle continues to this day in the personal computer market.  Apple, Microsoft, Sony, HP, and many other companies continually work at making something feature rich, but easier and easier to use.  Note the utopian artwork below that was used for an early Altair advertisement.  It recalls Soviet artwork, utopian imagery, and an Altair on every desk.  The Altair was going to offer a leveling of the computing playing field so that all could take part in the use of computers.

Early MITS advertisement for the Altair (image from The Virtual Altair Museum).
Early MITS advertisement for the Altair (image from The Virtual Altair Museum).

Along with this cycle there are those persons who are intrigued by the new technology and they learn more about it on their own or through school.  This bolsters the book industry that may sell computer programming or electrical engineering books (or today, the plethora of “Dummies” guides).  Schools began to introduce computers into the classroom.  At first, it was strictly computer science and programming classes.  Later, computers were added for other things such as graphic design, CAD, and word processing.  Universities saw more computer science, electrical engineering, and computer engineering majors.  These universities added more professors, classroom space, and equipment to compensate for this demand.  State and federal spending was sought to cover some of these expenses.  Private enterprise was also asked to help through different kinds of agreements that would assist the business while helping the school’s students in need of projects and equipment.  This work done by school research could in turn help the businesses with their products that will be sold on the open market.

The Altair 8800 introduced computer enthusiasts to the possibility of working with digital information on their desktop.  Time sharing on large mainframes and minicomputers was still the primary interaction people had with computers in business and in schools.  With the flip of switches and the monitoring of lights, one could work problems and evaluate data at home or in the office.  There were early games, calculating problems, logarithms, and other numerical manipulation.  The early adopters questioned what other things could be manipulated with a personal computer.  With the introduction of new input and output systems, the list expanded a great deal because human-computer interaction became easier with the connection of a CRT monitor and a keyboard or punch card reader.  Also, the binary code and bits of information that were only ones and zero to the computer could be made to represent abstractions rather than mere numbers.

The Altair 8800 was the pebble that began rolling down the snow covered mountain (figuratively and literally of the user base).  The concept of the personal computer gained mass and momentum that could not be stopped.  The development of the first microprocessor based personal computer created new networks and new demands that were met by computer enthusiasts, students, researchers, and business people.

Works Cited

“Altair 8800.”  Old-Computers.com.  October 6, 2004.  October 6, 2004

<http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?st=1&c=62&gt;.

Ceruzzi, Paul E.  A History of Modern Computing.  Cambridge, Massachusetts:

The MIT Press, 1998.

“MITS Altair 8800.”  Computer Closet.  June 28, 1999.  October 6, 2004 <http://www.computercloset.org/MITSAltair8800.htm&gt;.

Sanderson, William Thomas.  The Virtual Altair Museum.  April 28, 2004.

October 6, 2004 <http://www.virtualaltair.com/&gt;.

Shvets, Gennadry.  “Intel 8080 Family.”  CPU World.  2003.  October 6, 2004      <http://www.cpu-world.com/CPUs/8080/&gt;.

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Technologies of Representation Essay on Augustine’s Confessions, Oct 20, 2004

This is the tenth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

In the next few Recovered Writing posts, I will present my major assignments from Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel’s LCC 3314 Technologies of Representation class at Georgia Tech. LCC 3314 is taught in many different ways by the faculty of the Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication, but I consider myself fortunate to have experienced Professor Knoespel’s approach to the course during the last phase of my undergraduate tenure. The ideas that we discussed in his class continue to inform my professional and personal thinking. Also, I found Professor Knoespel a great ally, who helped me along my path to graduation with side projects and independent studies.

In this post, I am sharing two versions of an essay that explores Augustine’s Confessions. First, I include the revised version of the essay that incorporates suggestions from Professor Knoespel dated October 20, 2004. Then, I include my draft essay that I turned in on September 7, 2004. The ideas and reflections contained in Augustine’s Confessions played some role in my blog-like websites from that era and the blog that I began as a MA Student at the University of Liverpool that continues to exist as dynamicsubspace.net today.

Final Draft

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel

LCC 3314 – Technologies of Representation

October 20, 2004

Augustine’s Confessions Paper – Revision

By the Platonic books I was admonished to return into myself.  With you as my guide I entered into my innermost citadel, and was given power to do so because you had become my helper (Ps. 29:  11)…And I found myself far from you ‘in the region of dissimilarity, and heard as it were your voice from on high:  ‘I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me.  And you will not change into me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me’ (Augustine 123).

Augustine constructs his Confessions by embedding text and the voices of others in his own personal narrative.  By embedding these other sources in his own narrative, he is able to situate himself in the larger cultural and historical picture.  He writes about how he got from point A to point B in his life but his linear narrative is augmented with references to works and ideas that had an impact on his life.  He builds connections between himself and the works that he has read.  He then takes this a step further by looking at the connections between these referenced works.  Additionally, Augustine employs particular writing technologies in the construction of the Confessions which add to the ideas that he is expounding.

Augustine refers to the Neo-Platonic books as being very important to his personal development.  Augustine wrote, “First you wanted to show me how you ‘resist the proud and give grace to the humble’ (I Pet. 5:  5)…Through a man puffed up with monstrous pride, you brought under my eye some books of the Platonists” (121).   These books provide the key to his journey of self-discovery.  Augustine then quotes biblical passages regarding the word of God and the relationship between the Father and the Son (121-122).  In each of these examples Augustine notes that he did not find these stories in the Platonic texts.  He connects the Neo-Platonic books to the Bible to develop a nested structure.  The ideas of one are intermeshed with the other and vice versa.  Through his use of contrast between these two groups of texts he sets apart his belief in the church (through the stories of the Bible) and the philosophy offered him by the Neo-Platonists.  The Bible offers truths and a belief system, whereas the Neo-Platonic ideas offer a system of thought that he extends to a process that leads to the attainment of the individual self.  Augustine writes, “By the Platonic books I was admonished to return into myself.”  Introspection leads Augustine to self-discovery.  He combines introspection with his faith in developing his Confessions, and in turn, his personal identity.

Augustine’s Confessions is a nested narrative written later in his life after he has become a member of the Catholic Church.  The autobiographical portion of this book relies on his memory to recall and then record the things which he remembers.  On the first level, Augustine is writing about his life recalled from memory.  On the second level, he is writing about the books that he has read.  These too are part of his memory, but they are a physical artifact that played a definitive part in the development of his identity.  Books serve as an artifact that guide introspection by enriching the reader with what is written in the book.  Then a third level would be the connections, both implicit and explicit, between the texts that Augustine references.  These connections form a web of cultural and historical contexts that he situates himself in.

The two most powerful texts that he builds connections between are the Bible and the Neo-Platonic texts.  The most cited texts in Confessions are from the Bible.  The Church has become a large part of his life by the time that he writes this book.  The narrative form that he employs is that he is confessing to God, but it is also a confession that will be read by others.  In the quote above he is referring to his beginning the path of introspection after reading the works of the Neo-Platonists.  In this part of Book Seven he nests the Platonic texts and the Bible together in a way that they play off of each other.  The connection between Neo-Platonism and Christianity was known to others such as when Augustine records his meeting with Simplicianus, “he congratulated me that I had not fallen in with the writings of other philosophers full of fallacies and deceptions ‘according to the elements of this world’ (Col. 2:  8), whereas in all the Platonic books God and his Word keep slipping in” (135).  The Neo-Platonic texts do not contain verbatim the “important” biblical stories, but they serve as a spring board for his personal introspection.  It is by looking inward that Augustine learns more about himself and his faith in God.  When he looks at the connections between these texts he searches for ways to situate himself between those connections.

Augustine shows, by referencing and connecting other texts and voices with his own, that he has internalized what he has read and heard.  These other texts and voices mean something to Augustine and he wants to relate to the reader how this is so.  One interpretation is that he is setting down a reading list (and a list of his own experiences) that helped him to become who he is.  He situates himself in the “Great Chain of Being” by connecting himself with these other works.  The Great Chain of Being connects the lowest element of Earth with the highest apex, God.  Humanity lies on the Chain depending on hierarchy.  Augustine looks for his own place on the Chain by developing the self through this autobiography.  In order to situate himself in the Chain, he must also situate the texts he references in relation to one another.  The Neo-Platonists reinterpreted and expanded on the works of Plato and his followers.  They would have been writing and working when Christianity was gaining momentum.  Ultimately the Christians usurped Neo-Platonism (which was initially a philosophical basis for paganism) and its ideas.  Additionally the Neo-Platonists may have been influenced by Christianity through Gnosticism and the early Christian sects.  Augustine implicitly builds these connections by showing how closely the two systems are similar and he ties them to himself by writing about how they have influenced him.  Thus, the individual becomes the link in the Chain that ties interconnected ideas together.

The technologies of reading and writing are already embedded in Augustine’s Confessions.  He does not say that his book must be read silently, but the practice of reading silently is related to the practice of introspection.  He writes of Ambrose, “When he was reading, his eyes ran over the page and his heart perceived the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent” (92).  Reading silently was not common in Augustine’s time, but it is known that some people did read that way.  Augustine is also credited as a silent reader.  The time when Augustine was alive was a time of transition.  During the time of Socrates and Plato (approximately 700 years before Augustine) there were conflicts between the oral tradition and the new technology of writing.  Socrates believed in the oral tradition and his student, Plato believed in recording his teachings on a written medium.  By Augustine’s time there were many texts, but most reading was done by reading out loud.  It was a synthesis of the oral and written traditions.  This means that other people can hear what is being read and the reading can be critiqued and questioned by others.  The beginning of silent reading is a precursor to expansion of individual analysis and introspection.  Reading was moving from the public sphere to the private sphere.  Along with this move was a greater burden on the reader to understand and interpret the text that was being read.  Instead of having the proverbial “person reading over your shoulder,” the reader did not have an audience who could provide feedback on the text being read aloud.  Augustine reinforced the shift to silent reading by signifying more weight on the individual through autobiography of an individual who reads silently and utilizes introspection for the building of identity.

The technology of organization that Augustine used was embedded in the book technology of that time.  The artifact/text known as Confessions was constructed out of thirteen numbered “books,” the books were built of numbered chapters, and the chapters were made of numbered paragraphs.  The numbering in each category of text was ascending (from one to two to three, etc.)  This kind of ordering was useful at that time because books were hand copied and they may have been copied on to different media such as scrolls or codex.  Because different kinds of writing and sizes could be employed, it would not have been as advantageous to use a page number system like we use today because “page 100” in the scroll copied by one scribe may have text from a different portion of Confessions than “page 100” in the codex copied by another.  One writer may fit more material on one page than another which would lead to one written text being “ahead of” the other.  The readers in Augustine’s time must have had an understanding of how his book’s structure worked in order for them to read it from “start to finish” and reference it in a meaningful way.  The technology of reading and using his book was already understood to the educated of his time.

Augustine made a powerful choice to write down his autobiography along with the process of his introspection. He writes in Book Ten, “Nevertheless, make it clear to me, physician of my most intimate self, that good results from my present undertaking.  Stir up the heart when people read and hear the confessions of my past wickednesses, which you have forgiven and covered up to grant me happiness in yourself, transforming my soul by faith and your sacrament” (180).  He is not writing all of this for God’s sake.  He has confessed to God and God has forgiven him.  The Confessions is a recording of his own self-discovery.  This quote reveals that he hopes that God will “stir up the heart” when someone else reads his book.  This text acts as a program that must be executed by the reader through reading.  These are the steps and the thoughts that allowed him to arrive at self-discovery.  His readers may use this as a guide on their own paths to this same goal.  The difference between the oral and written traditions is that with a written tradition you can reach a much wider audience than with an oral tradition.  Augustine can help guide many more readers than he can individuals in person.  The process does require an active agent to copy the text for distribution, but it spreads not unlike a virus into the collective consciousness.  More connections are built between his text and others (before and after) as time progresses from its completion.

The “code” being read is open to interpretation of the reader.  Augustine writes on this topic in reference to the differences in interpretation of Moses in Genesis.  He writes, “For through him the one God has tempered the sacred books to the interpretations of many, who could come to see a diversity of truths…if I myself were to be writing something at this supreme level of authority I would choose to write these matters each reader was able to grasp, rather than to give a quite explicit statement of a single true view of this question in such a way as to exclude other views–provided there was not false doctrine to offend me” (271).  Augustine’s view of allowing interpretation to take place allows for the reader to become engaged with what the author is writing.  Keeping things open to the reader’s interpretation allows for interaction to take place between the reader and the writer.  He poses many questions, but he does not answer them all.  The book medium allows for this interaction to take place in the mind of the reader without the author needing to be present.  The reader interfaces with the book by reading it, then the reader reflects on what has been “said,” and finally, the reader comes to a new awareness or understanding based on what has been read.

Augustine’s Confessions, acting as a program, assists the reader in their development in a similar way to how God is represented as helping Augustine when he writes, “And I found myself far from you ‘in the region of dissimilarity, and heard as it were your voice from on high:  ‘I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me.  And you will not change me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me'” (123).  His personal identity and the development of his “self” are linked with his belief in God.  Augustine’s active belief in God ultimately leads to the fusion of the individual with the Almighty.  Thus, he is showing how his process of developing greater self-consciousness (in the network of ideas) can raise the individual up the Great Chain of Being to the ultimate height of God (other relevant texts on 130, 145, 152-153, 160, 163, 258).

—————————-

Earlier Draft

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Kenneth J. Knoespel

LCC 3314 – Technologies of Representation

September 7, 2004

Augustine’s Confessions Paper

By the Platonic books I was admonished to return into myself.  With you as my guide I entered into my innermost citadel, and was given power to do so because you had become my helper (Ps. 29:  11)…And I found myself far from you ‘in the region of dissimilarity, and heard as it were your voice from on high:  ‘I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me.  And you will not change into me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me’ (Augustine 123).

The Platonic books play a large part in Augustine’s personal development which he writes in his book, Confessions.  Augustine wrote, “First you wanted to show me how you ‘resist the proud and give grace to the humble’ (I Pet. 5:  5)…Through a man puffed up with monstrous pride, you brought under my eye some books of the Platonists” (121).   These books provide the key to his journey of self-discovery.  Augustine then quotes biblical passages regarding the word of God and the relationship between the Father and the Son (121-122).  In each of these examples Augustine notes that he did not find these stories in the Platonic texts.  He plays one the Platonic books against the Bible to develop a nested structure in his Confessions.  Through his use of contrast between these two groups of texts he sets apart his belief in the church (through the stories of the Bible) and the philosophy offered him by the Neo-Platonists.  The Bible offers truths for Augustine, whereas the Platonic books allow him to do the thing which made the Confessions possible.  Augustine writes, “By the Platonic books I was admonished to return into myself.”  Introspection leads Augustine to self-discovery.  He combines introspection with his faith in developing his Confessions.

Augustine’s Confessions is a nested narrative written later in his life after he has become a member of the Catholic Church.  The autobiographical portion of this book relies on his memory to recall and then record the things which he remembers.  The first level is Augustine writing about the things that he remembers.  On the second level, he is writing about the books that he has read.  These too are in his memory, but they are a physical artifact that played a definitive part in the development of his identity.  Books serve as an artifact that guide introspection by enriching the reader with what is written in the book.  The most cited texts in Confessions are from the Bible.  The Church has become a large part of his life by the time that he writes this book.  The narrative form that he employs is that he is confessing to God, but it is also a confession that will be read by others.  In the quote above he is referring to his beginning the path of introspection after reading the works of the Neo-Platonists.  In this part of Book Seven he nests the Platonic texts and the Bible together in a way that they play off of each other.  He is saying that the Platonic texts did not contain verbatim the important biblical stories, but they serve a purpose for him in that they are a spring board for his personal introspection.  It is by looking inward that Augustine learns more about himself and his faith in God.  The Platonic texts serve as a basis of education for his development towards attaining the education of God.

Augustine’s writing follows from his memory to his pen to the paper.  Within the narrative he references other texts such as the works of the Neo-Platonists and the Bible.  When he refers to these other texts he has internalized what he has read and he is laying them down in his book in such a way to convey his understanding of those works as well as the way in which they influenced his development.  The connection between Neo-Platonism and Christianity was known to others such as when Augustine records his meeting with Simplicianus, “he congratulated me that I had not fallen in with the writings of other philosophers full of fallacies and deceptions ‘according to the elements of this world’ (Col. 2:  8), whereas in all the Platonic books God and his Word keep slipping in” (135).

The technologies of reading and writing are already embedded in Augustine’s Confessions.  He does not say that his book must be read silently, but the practice of reading silently is related to the practice of introspection.  He writes of Ambrose, “When he was reading, his eyes ran over the page and his heart perceived the sense, but his voice and tongue were silent” (92).  Reading silently was not common in Augustine’s time, but it is known that some people did read that way.  Augustine is also credited as a silent reader.  The time when Augustine was alive was a time of transition.  During the time of Socrates and Plato (approximately 700 years before Augustine) there were conflicts between the oral tradition and the new technology of writing.  Socrates believed in the oral tradition and his student, Plato believed in recording his teachings on a written medium.  By Augustine’s time there were many texts, but most reading was done by reading out loud.  It was a synthesis of the oral and written traditions.  This means that other people can hear what is being read and the reading can be critiqued and questioned by others.  The beginning of silent reading is a precursor to expansion of individual analysis and introspection.  Reading was moving from the public sphere to the private sphere.  Along with this move was a greater burden on the reader to understand and interpret the text that was being read.  Instead of having the proverbial “person reading over your shoulder,” the reader did not have an audience who could provide feedback on the text being read aloud.

The technology of organization that Augustine used was embedded in the book technology of that time.  The text known as Confessions was constructed out of thirteen numbered “books” and these were constructed of numbered chapters and the chapters were constructed of numbered paragraphs.  The numbering in each category of text was ascending (from one to two to three, etc.)  This kind of ordering was useful at that time because books were hand copied and they may have been copied on to different media such as scrolls or codex.  Because different kinds of writing and sizes could be employed, it would not have been as advantageous to use a page number system like we use today because “page 100” in the scroll copied by Arturus may have text from a different portion of Confessions than “page 100” in the codex copied by Crispianus.  One writer may fit more material on one page than another which would lead to one written text being “ahead of” the other.  The readers in Augustine’s time must have had an understanding of how his book’s structure worked in order for them to read it from “start to finish” and reference it in a meaningful way.

Why does Augustine record his Confessions on paper so that others may read it?  He writes in Book Ten, “Nevertheless, make it clear to me, physician of my most intimate self, that good results from my present undertaking.  Stir up the heart when people read and hear the confessions of my past wickednesses, which you have forgiven and covered up to grant me happiness in yourself, transforming my soul by faith and your sacrament” (180).  He is not writing all of this for God’s sake.  He has confessed to God and God has forgiven him.  His Confessions is a recording of his own self-discovery.  This quote reveals that he hopes that God will “stir up the heart” when someone else reads his book.  Confessions acts as a program that must be executed by the reader.  He is saying this is how I arrived at self-discovery and maybe my way of doing it will aid you, the reader, along that same path.  The difference between the oral and written traditions is that with a written tradition you can reach a much wider audience than with an oral tradition.  Augustine can help guide many more readers than he can individuals in person.

The “code” being read is open to interpretation of the reader.  Augustine writes on this topic in reference to the differences in interpretation of Moses in Genesis.  He writes, “For through him the one God has tempered the sacred books to the interpretations of many, who could come to see a diversity of truths…if I myself were to be writing something at this supreme level of authority I would choose to write these matters each reader was able to grasp, rather than to give a quite explicit statement of a single true view of this question in such a way as to exclude other views–provided there was not false doctrine to offend me” (271).  Augustine’s view of allowing interpretation to take place allows for the reader to become engaged with what the author is writing.  Keeping things open to the reader’s interpretation allows for interaction to take place between the reader and the writer.  He poses many questions, but he does not answer them all.  The book medium allows for this interaction to take place in the mind of the reader without the author needing to be present.  The reader interfaces with the book by reading it, debates the work within themselves with introspection, and the reader comes to a new awareness or understanding based on what has been read.    For Augustine this is best represented in finding truth through God when he writes, “And I found myself far from you ‘in the region of dissimilarity, and heard as it were your voice from on high:  ‘I am the food of the fully grown; grow and you will feed on me.  And you will not change into me into you like the food your flesh eats, but you will be changed into me'” (123).  Through his faith in God and his understanding of God he “will be changed into me” (i.e., God, the truth).  Truth, for Augustine, is attained through the union with God.  This is the path that he sets down for others to read in his Confessions.  Augustine says of God, “With you as my guide I entered into my innermost citadel, and was given power to do so because you had become my helper (Ps. 29:  11)” (123).  Whether Augustine was conscious of it at the time when he began reading the Platonic texts he claims God was his “helper” in his process of introspection.  Perhaps he writes this book so that he can be a helper to others on their own path of introspection and personal development.  For Augustine, God would be present for anyone in search of their faith, but Augustine’s book serves as a tool to help others in much the way that other texts aided in his own development (e.g., other texts on 130, 145, 152-153, 160, 163, 258).

Honda Asimo Robot Presentation That I Recorded on Sept 25, 2004 at Georgia Tech

I am posting this as an example of multimodal Recovered Writing.

When I was an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, I went to two presentations made by Honda and its semi-autonomous robot Asimo in 2004.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I am interested in robots. I own a Robie Sr. and I enjoy building simple robots with Lego. At the time when I made this video, I was gobsmacked by Asimo’s capabilities. I thought to myself that it seemed far more social and practical than R2-D2.

The video below is from the second presentation that I attended. I sat in the front row with my friend’s Sony camcorder to capture the action taking place on stage in the Ferst Center for the Arts where the presentations took place. Later, I edited the video and burned a DVD of it with my PowerMac G5. Today, I ripped the DVD with HandBrake and uploaded it to YouTube as an MP4 video file. Now, the video exists online:

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Astronomy Class, PHYS 2021, Sunset Observation Project, Fall 2004

This is the ninth post in a series that I call, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

My “Sunset Observation Project” was a semester-long project in Professor James Sowell’s PHYS 2021 class in Fall 2004. Originally, I tried taking this class from Professor Sowell when I was having a lot of trouble  in school in the late 1990s. So, when I returned to Georgia Tech after a stint in the business world, I made a point to complete Professor Sowell’s class. I wanted to prove to myself that I could succeed in this class, and I wanted to prove to Professor Sowell, who I considered an engaging and interested instructor, that I could succeed in his class. Ultimately, I did well in this class and the second Astronomy class on large-scale astronomy that Professor Sowell also taught.

This project helped me begin getting back into shape, because I choose to do it the hard way: instead of observing the sunset from campus, I went to the best observation place outside the city on top of Stone Mountain. This meant that I had to hike up to the top with my tripod and camera on a regular basis.

I used Adobe Photoshop to create a line-drawn skyline and to measure my observations consistently by using layers.

While I am posting my Sunset Observation Project as-is (meaning all of the mistakes contained below are mine), I continue to tell my students today that Professor Sowell was one of the professors who helped me with my writing, because I read his comments and listened to his advice. The takeaway for my students is that we can improve on our writing, communication, and composition anywhere and anytime–even in a class about our great solar system.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor James Sowell

PHYS 2021

Fall 2004

Sunset Observation Project

image001

Purpose

The Sunset Observation Project is designed to use long established techniques to chart the progression of the Sun across the horizon over the course of one school semester. It allows the student to become more aware of the motion of the Earth, both on its axis as well as its orbit around the Sun.

Procedure

Over the course of the semester each student will make a number of observations of the Sun setting.  Each observation must be made from the same location and a point of reference should be chosen along the horizon so that the Sun’s change in location can be measured using the hand and fingers as angular measuring devices.  Each observation should be about a week or more apart so that a discernible change can be observed.

I made my observations from the same spot west of downtown Atlanta on top of Stone Mountain.  I expect smog and weather to cause some problems with observing sunsets, but Stone Mountain provides an excellent view of the horizon due to its height and distance away from tall buildings.

Observational Data

Date of Observation

Time of Sunset

Degrees from Reference Point

Place of Observation

Weather Conditions

Aug 30, 2004

8:05 pm EST

0 deg

Stone Mountain

Cloudy and Hazy

Sep 9, 2004

7:51 pm EST

5 deg S

Stone Mountain

Hazy

Sep 18, 2004

7:39 pm EST

10 deg S

Stone Mountain

Hazy

Oct 15, 2004

6:51 pm EST

26 deg S

Stone Mountain

Cloudy

Oct 31, 2004

5:45 pm EST

30 deg S

Stone Mountain

Cloudy and Hazy

image003

August 30, 2004

image005This was my first solar observation of the semester.  It was also the first time that I had climbed Stone Mountain.  I learned a lot on this first trip about giving myself enough time to hike the 1.4 miles to the top as well as bringing some Gatorade along because the outside water fountain wasn’t working.

image007The cloud cover and haze was a problem that I encountered all semester.  It was difficult to arrange times to hike to the top of Stone Mountain that took into account my school schedule, work schedule, and the weather.  If I had considered these logistical problems beforehand, I would have chosen to make my observations from a window in one of Tech’s buildings.

September 9, 2004

image009This was a good day to hike to the top of Stone Mountain.  Unfortunately, there were distant clouds which obscured the setting of the sun so I had to take my picture while the sun was still above the building tops.

image011The sun moved approximately 5 degrees South of the building that I used for a reference point during the semester of observations.

September 18, 2004

image013There was only a slight haze in the distance when I made this observation.  By this time, I had begun to enjoy hiking to the top of Stone Mountain.  I brought a friend along on the first observation, but no one would join me for any of other observations.

image015The Sun is approximately 10 degrees South of my first observation.

October 15, 2004

image017The Sun had moved a great deal since my last observation.  Weather (i.e., hurricanes) and a busy schedule makes these observations difficult to make because of the time involved going to Stone Mountain and hiking to the top.

image019The Sun is about 26 degrees South of my first observation.

October 31, 2004

image021This is the last observation that I made for this project.  It was a hazy evening which made it difficult to get a good picture of the setting Sun.

image023The Sun is now 30 degrees South of where I began observing it in August.  It has moved across the horizon of a good deal of metro Atlanta.

Conclusions

The Sun was observed to move in a southwardly direction.  From a top-down view, it would appear to be moving in a counterclockwise motion along the horizon.  The rate of change seemed to be larger at the beginning of the semester.  The first three observations covered equal times, but the amount of change increased from the 8/30-9/9 period to the 9/9-9/18 period.  This pattern changed for the last two observations, which covered a greater time between the two observations (16 days), but there was only a 4 degree change in the position of the Sun.  This is probably due to the Sun’s arc across the sky decreasing as the year progresses.  The Sun is lower in the sky so it does not have as far to travel across the sky later in the year.

The Sun should rise about 180 degrees from where it sets if it strictly rose in the East and set in the West.  The Sun does not do this because the inclination of the Earth causes the Sun to appear to be low or high in the sky during the course of the year.  This generates our seasons because the angle of light hitting the Earth’s surface changes as the Earth makes its way around the Sun during the year.  The length of the day gets shorter as the year progresses because the Sun cuts a smaller arc in the sky.  Less distance without any drastic changes in speed means that the Sun doesn’t spend as much time in the sky each day as the year progresses.

Noon is still the time at which the Sun is at its highest point in the sky, but this highest point changes during the course of the semester.  This point will get lower and lower until the Winter Solstice when the Sun will begin to move North again and its path across the sky will likewise get higher too.

Before this project, I had never been to the top of Stone Mountain.  Now I have been up to the top many times!  Observing the Moon and the Sun during the semester has made me more aware of the motions and orientations of the Moon, Earth, and Sun.  Before I had a vague awareness of how these things moved and were orientated, but now I have a much better grasp of the subject.

Some problems that I encountered had to do with the weather.  The barrage of hurricanes in late September and October caused a lot of bad weather here in Atlanta.  In addition, it is difficult to arrange times to hike to the top of Stone Mountain when you have school and work schedules to deal with.  I am pleased with the outcome of my Sunset Observation Project, but I wish that I had been able to make more observations.  Because of this project, I will continue hiking to the top of Stone Mountain to watch the sunset.

Recovered Writing: Undergraduate Thesis, Networks of Science, Technology, and Science Fiction During the American Cold War, December 12, 2005

This is the eighth post in a new series titled, “Recovered Writing.” I am going through my personal archive of undergraduate and graduate school writing, recovering those essays I consider interesting but that I am unlikely to revise for traditional publication, and posting those essays as-is on my blog in the hope of engaging others with these ideas that played a formative role in my development as a scholar and teacher. Because this and the other essays in the Recovered Writing series are posted as-is and edited only for web-readability, I hope that readers will accept them for what they are–undergraduate and graduate school essays conveying varying degrees of argumentation, rigor, idea development, and research. Furthermore, I dislike the idea of these essays languishing in a digital tomb, so I offer them here to excite your curiosity and encourage your conversation.

I wrote my undergraduate thesis included below under the helpful guidance of  Professor Lisa Yaszek, but Professors Kenneth Knoespel and Doug Davis also helped me. Professor Knoespel directed an individual investigation with me over the preceding summer, in which I explored the theoretical underpinnings of my project. Professor Davis gave me advice on Cold War era books and films that might help inform my work.

Professor Yaszek’s advice on my thesis’ organization, writing style, and argumentation helped me revise the essay into its current form, which yielded me the School of Literature, Media, and Communication’s prestigious James Dean Young Writing Award.

Also, an earlier paper that I presented at the Monstrous Bodies Symposium at Georgia Tech on 31 March 2005 was incorporated into my thesis. Then, the thesis was further revised into a conference paper for my first international academic conference: the SFRA meeting in White Plains, NY in 2006. Ideas and words transform into something new, stronger, and more meaningful with each iteration–moving closer to the asymptote of understanding.

Jason W. Ellis

Professor Lisa Yaszek

Senior Thesis – Fall 2005

12 December 2005

Networks of Science, Technology, and Science Fiction During the American Cold War

Sometimes, just standing here, I keep wondering–Are we working on them, or are they working on us?  Give them dignity doctor, then we can start talking about who can do what and what they mean (General Leslie R. Groves as played by Paul Newman in the film, Fat Man and Little Boy).

In the quote above from the film Fat Man and Little Boy, General Leslie R. Groves (Paul Newman) takes Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz) aside to show him the bomb casing for the two atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan, Fat Man and Little Boy.  Groves questions, “Are we working on them, or are they working on us?”  His character respects the awesome power of the bombs that he has orchestrated into existence.  He represents the uncertainty surrounding a future with ‘the bomb,’ but he is also quite aware of the networks required to bring a weapon of this magnitude into existence.[1]  Additionally, he is depicted as someone reverential to the implications of the bomb and to the future that is tied to its existence.  Groves’ speech elicits questions regarding complex networks and the unknown implications of new technologies.[2]

General Groves’ concern reflects a more general American anxiety regarding the loss of human control over our increasingly complex technologies.  As technological advancements take place, the systems we design to create and produce new technologies become more intricate.  The intricacy of the military-industrial complex, as well as other sectors of technological development during the Cold War, 1945-1990, become so elaborate that they appear to be beyond the control of individuals.  In effect, the systems appear autonomous and therefore capable of evading humanity’s control by choosing its own destiny.

Authors interested in representing the social and political implications of autonomous technology networks often do so in a specific literary form:  Science Fiction (SF).            As they argue, SF is a key space where discourses surrounding science and technology can be worked out and discussed in ways that are not possible in other modes of popular culture.  The reason for this is that SF lies at the intersection of science, technology, and culture.  SF is the space where authors bring these elements together.  Additionally, those elements are all integral to the story in ways that they would not be in other forms of fiction.

In SF, autonomous technology is a metaphor for the networks within technology and without that link to humanity, culture, and science.  Two symbols that best represent autonomous technology during the Cold War are nuclear weapons and robots.  Nuclear weapons represent autonomous technology in the here-and-now.  They are devices beyond the control of humanity and yet they are leashed with command-and-control systems that some would liken to threads of yarn attempting to hold back a tiger.  Robots are the fictional embodiment of autonomous technology.  They are capable of making choices and even walking amongst us if they are designed to appear human, which creates further anxiety because technology can be made to supersede humanity.

In the first section of this paper, I approach SF-based discussions about autonomous technology through the disciplines of science studies, Cold War studies, and SF studies.  These three disciplines are uniquely aligned to empower scholars to consider why a shift took place in American thinking during the Cold War era regarding humanity’s control over technology as well as the networks within which technology is embedded.  In the latter section, I apply these disciplines to readings of SF films and texts that were produced during the Cold War in order to reveal the cultural presentations of anxiety toward autonomous technologies.

Networks of Autonomous Technology

Over the past three decades, science studies has become an important discipline of study because it enables us to better understand cultural factors that influence technological development.  Studying the use and meaning of the word, “technology” is one way to better understand the connection between culture and technology.  The meaning of the word, “technology” has changed over time.  Today, the term “’technology’…is applied haphazardly to a staggering collection of phenomena…One feels that there must be a better way of expressing oneself about these developments, but at present our concepts fail us” (Winner 10).  Thus, one of the objectives of science studies scholars is devising a language for engaging these concepts.

Because we have not been able to devise a language capable of encompassing the technological artifact, or the network in which it lies in relation to culture, the “discussions of the political implications of advanced technology have a tendency to slide into a polarity of good versus evil…One either hates technology or loves it” (Winner 10).[3]   One gains power and mastery over something after it is named.  Devising a language for engaging technology and the networks it is situated in is essential to humanity maintaining control over that which it creates.[4]

Traditionally, Westerners think of human-machine relations in master-slave terms.  These binary opposites define one thing by what the other is not, while also representing a hierarchy of one opposite above the other.  When we talk about the relationships of humanity and nature or humanity and technology, “the concept of mastery and the master-slave metaphor are the dominant ways of describing” these relationships (Winner 20).  Humanity created tools and skills (i.e., technology) to serve the interests of humanity.  What happens when there is the perception among many people that technology is no longer serving humanity?  The tables may have turned, thus the question stands:  does humanity serve the self-perpetuating system of autonomous technology?[5]

During the Cold War, new technologies are created out of vast networks that involve the engineer working in the shop, the scientist working in the lab, and the absorbing, disseminating, and cogently working on ideas in the minds of individuals within American culture.  These networks are tantamount to a system that is beyond the control of a single individual.  The source of growing anxiety over autonomous technology comes from “the belief that somehow technology has gotten out of control and follows its own course, independent of human direction” (Winner 13).

The networks that were created during the Cold War complicate these master-slave relationships.  Scholars employ two different theories to help answer questions about these recently developed networks.  The first is the voluntarist view, which hold thats technology advances and is maintained by human controllers.  The second is actor-network theory, in which scholars look at both objects and people and the relationships between the two.

The voluntarist view is used to refute the possibility of technology being autonomous.  Behind the curtain of technology’s inner workings, “one always finds a realm of human motives and conscious decisions…Behind modernization are always the modernizers, behind industrialization, the industrialists” (Winner 53).  People use their capital, inventiveness, and decision making to shift the course of technological change in the direction that they choose to do so.

However, there appears to be more at work than individual choices.  Networks of science, technology, and culture may provide an unseen impetus that is akin to an “invisible hand.”  A technology may be consciously developed to fulfill a particular utility, but, “other consequences of its presence in the world often are not” (Winner 74).  Interactions that take place within networks may lead to new developments that were not thought of or intended by the inventor.  This kind of development reveals the complexity in which there are overlaps and connections between science, technology, and culture.  Therefore, the complexity of the networks calls into question the applicability of the voluntarist view.

The second, and more useful theory for this discussion, is actor-network theory.  It provides a formulation for envisioning the network by mapping both the animate and inanimate actors involved in shaping these networks.  This theory is based on the interaction of dissimilar areas of interest such as technology and culture.  Science, technology, and culture are not separate entities comprised of people that carry on their craft in the isolation of a vacuum.  These seemingly diverse areas are interdependent upon one another and it is from their interconnection that issues of political power, cultural shifts in thinking, and other initially unforeseen possibilities arise.[6]

Connected to the study of actor-network theory is that, “technology always does more than we intend; we know this so well that it has actually become part of our intentions” (Winner 97-98).  The networks that form between technology and culture are a sort of breeding ground for new uses of technology.  The pathways that connect these ‘separate’ areas of ideology and practice are where re-creation takes place and add to the original intent of an originator of some new technology.[7]  Changes in Latour’s actor-networks are similar to Winner’s point that “technologies…demand the restructuring of their environments” (100).[8]  Thus, one often unintended consequence of technology is that “the restructuring of their environments” encompasses both the physical location of a technological artifact or practice as well as the networks in which the technology is situated.

A great deal of restructuring took place during the American Cold War because of technology.  These changes are explored in the field of Cold War studies, which is the historical evaluation and investigation of the cultural and political aspects of the time between 1945 and 1990 (i.e., the Cold War era) by drawing on recently declassified documents and other fresh sources of information from that era.[9]  Cold War studies and science studies are connected because of the underlying technologies that drive nuclear proliferation during the Cold War era.

One of the overarching technological artifacts of the Cold War is the nuclear bomb.  The destructive reality of the atomic bomb (and later, the thermonuclear bomb) brought about a duality of opinions about that technology (i.e., it was perceived as inherently good or evil).  For example, their stands Eisenhower’s aborted “Atoms for Peace” and the theory of mutually assured destruction (MAD).  Therefore, the atomic bomb is situated within a dualistic framework of good and bad views that came about because of its stepping out on the stage during the Cold war.[10]

Cold War studies, like science studies, looks at the networks involved in the development and promulgation of technologies that alter the cultural landscape, but in this particular discipline, the emphasis is on the dichotomy between the democratic West and the communist East.  It should be noted that not everything between 1945-1990 can be tied to the Cold War, but “so much was influenced and shaped by the Cold War that one simply cannot write a history of the second half of the 20th century without a systematic appreciation of the powerful, oft-times distorting repercussions of the superpower conflict on the world’s states and societies” (McMahon 105).  Furthermore, “ the bomb had transformed not only military strategy and international relations, but the fundamental ground of culture and consciousness” (Boyer xix).  Thus, the atomic bomb transforms the scale at which technology interacts with science and culture and it changed the way nations talked to one another during the Cold War.

The ‘Nuclear Era’ begins along with the near-beginning of the Cold War.  After the dropping of the bombs called Little Boy and Fat Man on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, 1945 respectively, “the nuclear era…burst upon the world with terrifying suddenness.  From the earliest moments, the American people recognized that things would never be the same again” (Boyer 4).  The devastation of Hiroshima and Nakasaki are mapped over the possibility of an American wasteland when James Reston wrote in the New York Times, “In that terrible flash 10,000 miles away, men here have seen not only the fate of Japan, but have glimpsed the future of America” (qtd. in Boyer 14).  Boyer goes on to write, “Years before the world’s nuclear arsenals made such a holocaust likely or even possible, the prospect of global annihilation already filled the national consciousness.  This awareness and the bone-deep fear it engendered are the fundamental psychological realities underlying the broader intellectual and cultural responses of this period” (Boyer 15).  Americans realized that their monopoly over atomic weaponry would soon be supplanted.  Other nations would develop their own atomic bombs.  Therefore, what little control Americans had in that early period of the Cold War over atomic weapons, would be lost when other nations established their own weapon stockpiles.  The understanding that Americans could not maintain control over this immensely destructive weapon resulted in a heightened anxiety over America’s future because of the very technology that we first developed.

Scientists and engineers engaged in the Manhattan Project and elsewhere tried to employ their (temporarily) elevated popularity in order to achieve political ends aimed at reigning in the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The scientists that spoke out against the threat of nuclear annihilation unfortunately “[displayed] considerable political naïveté, seeming not to grasp the fundamental differences between the political realm and that of the laboratory and the classroom” (Boyer 99).  The scientists sought to reform through education or as Einstein said, “To the village square we must carry the facts of atomic energy.  From there must come America’s voice” (qtd. in Boyer 49).  The bomb was not going to go away and the suggestions for a technocratic world government that could rationally control the use of the bomb also lost steam through the end of the 1940s.

Developments in the laboratory are disconnected from political enforcement of those discoveries carried-on outside of the lab.  The Manhattan Project scientists and engineers created the bomb, but the politicians appropriated the political power inherent in the bomb.  However, the military and government leadership not only appropriated the science and technology behind the bombs for their intended use in World War II, but also for continued use in stockpiling and testing after the war’s end.  Therefore, the political power embodied in the atomic bomb was created in the laboratory, but that power is appropriated by government politicians for use in waging the Cold War, which involved a shift to an external threat contained in the communist Soviet Union.

American political leaders shifted fear away from the bomb to the Soviet Union.  One such example is when President Truman addressed a joint session of Congress on March 12, 1947 about the perceived communist threat.  He, “spoke in sweeping, apocalyptic terms of communism as an insidious world menace that lovers of freedom must struggle against at all times and on all fronts” (Boyer 102).  Fear shifts from the nuclear bomb to communism.  This leads to the bomb becoming a part of America’s national defense at the beginning of the Cold War–even more so after the Soviets tested their first nuclear bomb on August 29, 1949.

Coupled with the military build-up in response to the Soviet threat is a call for a united and uniform front in America.  There is a shift towards an American identity based on homogeneity because of the call for an idealized cooperative effort in the post-war years to bolster America’s standing in the world.  There are calls for cooperativeness by people such as Arthur Compton and Eleanor Roosevelt (Boyer 139-140).  This cooperativeness however leads to an alignment of political views that bolster the collective ideology promoted by the Truman, and later, Eisenhower administrations.  This essentially squashes discussion.

Discussion of the atomic bomb in popular literature was almost non-existent immediately following WWII, but soon thereafter, SF became a space where discussion about nuclear weapons and technology’s connection to culture was worked out.  Boyer writes, “Apart from a few isolated voices, however, the initial literary response to the atomic bomb was, to say the least, muted” (246).  There was little discussion of the atomic bomb in popular literature, but, “it sometimes seemed that the principal function of literature in the immediate post-Hiroshima period was to provide a grabbag of quotations and literary allusions that could be made to seem somehow relevant to the bomb” (Boyer 247).  Essentially, the bomb is not immediately engaged by non-SF literary authors in this period.  However, “As Isaac Asimov later put it, science-fiction writers were ‘salvaged into respectability’ by Hiroshima” (Boyer 257).  Boyer goes on to say, “Up to 1945, most science-fiction stories dealing with atomic weapons took place far in the future and often in another galaxy…Hiroshima ended the luxury of detachment.  The atomic bomb was not reality, and the science-fiction stories that dealt with it amply confirm the familiar insight that for all its exotic trappings, science fiction is best understood as a commentary on contemporary issues” (258).  Therefore, SF becomes the space where atomic bombs and nuclear age issues are talked about and engaged.  Because of the shifts in political homogeneity and uniformity, SF is a space where issues could be talked about that in another context (e.g., a cultural commentary or popular work of fiction) would be looked down upon or even attacked.

Science Fiction studies enables us to study representations of cultural factors in SF such as American anxiety over the bomb or war with the Soviet Union.  SF studies draws together science studies and Cold War studies because both of these disciplines are equally applied to studying the intersection where SF lies, which is “at a unique intersection of science and technology, mass media popular culture, literature, and secular ritual” (Ben-Tov 6).  SF lies at the intersection of all of the networks that I am discussing:  science, technology, and culture.  SF represents a bringing together of these networks, which creates a “rich, synthetic language of metaphor and myth [where we] can…trace the hidden, vital connections between such diverse elements as major scientific projects (space-flight, nuclear weaponry, robotics, gene mapping), the philosophical roots of Western science and technology, American cultural ideals, and magical practices as ancient as shamanism and alchemy?” (Ben-Tov 6).

Because SF is at the intersection of all of these diverse elements of American culture, it can be used in a manner similar to the way that Latour describes Pasteur’s use of anthrax spores in his petrie dishes.  The scientist, within the laboratory, must go through many tests and permutations before he/she arrives at a result that the scientist is comfortable taking outside the laboratory.  SF is a space where all of these ideas can be worked out and thought over by diverse writers and thinkers.  SF studies scholars then brings these books back to the ‘laboratory’ to find how the connections and networks that exist between science, technology, and culture are manifested in SF works.  Thus, SF serves as a map or model of the networks that exist in reality, but that might not always be engaged in discussions of the here-and-now.

SF authors make commentary on the here-and-now through the use of heterocosms.  These are, “an alternative cosmos, a man-made world” (Ben-Tov 20).  A heterocosm, “[makes] possible the conception of fictional real-life utopias” (Ben-Tov 20).[11]  Utopias are distinctly related to SF, because they share many of the same elements of story and style.  Additionally, a utopia is written in response to the non-utopian characteristics of the present.  “Science fiction’s use is as both model and symbolic means for producing heterocosms” that respond to the here-and-now (Ben-Tov 56).   SF often critiques or gives commentary on the present.  This commentary relates to the way in which science, technology, and culture interact with one another.

A common theme in SF stories is humanity embracing science and technology in order to arrive at a mythic/utopic pastoral existence, which is a form of heterocosm.  This theme is often employed in SF stories because technology and science are essential to the narrative.  The idealized pastoral existence is mutually exclusive of the artificial one that we are creating through the use of technology.  Scientific and technological progress does not come back to where it began (i.e., the idealized garden).

SF’s use of technology to return to a mythic pastoral existence creates a paradox because the former is mutually exclusive of the latter.  Ben-Tov contrasts SF’s paradoxical pastoral existence with those the present in literary works that Leo Marx analyzes in his book, The Machine in the Garden.[12]  She writes:

Unlike the texts that Marx surveys, however, science fiction does not try to temper hopefulness with history.  Instead, it tries to create immunity from history.  It reveals a curious dynamic:  the greater our yearning for a return to the garden, the more we invest in technology as the purveyor of the unconstrained existence that we associate with the garden.  Science fiction’s national mode of thinking boils down to a paradox:  the American imagination seeks to replace nature with a technological, made-made world in order to return to the garden of American nature” (9).

SF attempts to be exempt from history through this paradox, but the fact remains that SF is created within networks that are clearly dependent upon the past.  Paradoxes themselves illicit uncertainty because they present mutually exclusive events.  Therefore, these paradoxical presentations in SF represent one facet of the anxiety Americans feel in regard to technology.

This paradox is clearly illustrated in the first episode of the television series, Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  The holodeck is a technological artifact that relies on many networks of science and technology in order to present whatever the holodeck participant wishes to see.[13]  In the first episode of the series, the audience is greeted by Commander Riker searching a forest for Lieutenant Commander Data, an android, who happens to be spending time reclining in the nook of a tree branch while surrounded by an idyllic wooded setting (“Encounter at Far Point, Part I”).  The setting is a hyperreal recreation of a wooded setting within the confines of the holodeck.  Hyperreality is, in itself, unsettling because what is real is indistinguishable from what is not.  Therefore, the more we invest in technology to return us to the idealized garden, the further away we are from from the ideal.

Another facet of returning to an idyllic space (i.e., the garden), concerns the role of the alchemist as the crafter of perfection through technology.  The alchemist speeds up natural processes, which results in, “the alchemist [controlling] the very ends of time, while remaining outside it” (Ben-Tov 93).  The alchemist “remaining outside” time is analogous to the scientist’s objective approach to experimentation.  Additionally, the alchemist’s ‘cooking’ of metals is analogous to Latour’s presentation of Pasteur working in his laboratory on the growths in his petrie dishes.  Pasteur’s laboratory work is an “unnatural” speeding up of processes that haphazardly take place outside the laboratory in the real world.  The alchemist and the scientist are linked by the fact that they work removed from the real-world.  Their goal is to arrive at something that can be brought out of the lab and applied to the real-world.  The alchemist’s working with metals, particularly with gold, “often symbolizes the power to bring about millennium, the end of time, when the human race reaches perfection” (Ben-Tov 94).  The fusion of metal and human form yields what is often presented in SF as, “the perfected form of humanity,” which “is literally crafted metal:  robots” (Ben-Tov 94).  Thus, not only do we further remove ourselves from attaining the idealized garden through our embrace of technology, but we physically remove ourselves by putting robots there in our place.

Androids, or human-like robots are a recurring theme in SF works.  By writing SF stories featuring androids and robots, SF authors directly engage the discussion surrounding autonomous technologies and the overarching networks that technology is situated within.[14]  These artificial beings are the embodiment of autonomous technology and they double for humanity because they are constructed in our image.  Because androids are generally capable of making their own decisions, they challenge the authority of human mastery over technological artifice.  Additionally, androids challenge what it means to be human in a world populated by the real and the artificial.  If someone acts human and looks human why is there any reason to question the validity of that person’s humanity?  The answer is that:  the existence of human-like robots makes the very concept of humanity suspect.  Thus, androids are a representation of autonomous technology that elicits anxiety over the loss of human control over technology.

Other doublings involving androids and humanity are seen in American Cold War binary opposites such as America/USSR, East/West, and organic/mechanic.  These binary opposites present us with a paradox because the West employed technology as much as the East did during the Cold War.  Also, the Western ideal of the return to the idyllic garden is literally constructed through technological means.  Thus, these American created binary opposites are a paradox similar to that of the idyllic garden.

Science studies, Cold War studies, and SF studies are a unique set of disciplines that lie at the intersection of science, technology, and culture.  Each of these disciplines were developed during the Cold War era of the twentieth century and they each have a particular perspective regarding the way in which technology is perceived by Americans and how those perceptions feed back into the networks that exist between science, technology, and culture.  SF lies at the intersection of these networks and it is for that reason that these three disciplines can all be utilized to study American anxieties surrounding autonomous technology that we may lack the ability (or have already lost the ability) to control.

Autonomous Technologies in SF

Using the previous section as a guide, I apply the disciplines of science studies, Cold War studies, and SF studies to readings of SF and speculative fiction texts and films produced during the Cold War.  The purpose of these readings is to study representations of autonomous technology, explore the implications of the networks that those technologies are situated within, and how those representations evoke anxieties over the apparent loss of control that humanity has over autonomous technology.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) illustrates the fragility of Cold War agent-networks at the near-beginning of the conflict.  The networks themselves become gummed-up because of the lack of flexibility in confronting something as literally alien as a flying saucer touching down in Washington, DC.  These network breakdowns mirror lost opportunities during the American Cold War.

The movie begins with a flying saucer landing in Washington, DC.  This near-improbable event sets off a chain reaction that reveals the networks of people and technology responding to this possible threat from without.  During the first ten minutes of the film, the audience is presented with scores of networks in action such as:  military mobilization and command-and-control (military men and weaponry stream out of Fort Myer to their target), media mobilization (print, radio, and television representatives rush to cover the story and to release messages from the President), and crowds of onlookers circle around the spacecraft.[15]

Unfortunately, these networks begin to show stress such as when a breakdown occurs in military command-and-control.  As Klaatu (Michale Rennie) leaves the spacecraft, the soldiers become nervous because he is holding something in his hand that they may have misinterpreted as a ‘ray-gun’ or some other kind of weapon.  The technological artifact that Klaatu is carrying is in fact a gift for the President of the United States that would allow him to study life on countless other planets.  The soldiers’ misperception of what it is however causes them to become nervous and one of them shoots Klaatu, which also results in the gift’s destruction.  Because of the magnitude of the situation, giving loaded weapons to enlisted soldiers might not have been the wisest choice, particularly after the visitors from outer-space reveal their awesome power.  Our inability to control the situation mirrors our inability to control Cold War technologies such as nuclear weapons.

Another breakdown occurs when Klaatu seeks counsel with all of the Earth’s leaders.  The leaders refuse to sit down together to hear Klaatu because they claim that Cold War divisions prevent their coming together.  Because Klaatu cannot bring together representatives from all Earth’s nations, he is able to convince Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe) to bring together other scientists from around the world.  Klaatu then delivers his message to them to take back to their countries.  This conjures images of technocratic governments that rule through rationality and reason.  Scientists rely on open communication and it is that which allows Klaatu to get his message out.  Instead of going to Einstein’s “town square,” Klaatu chairs an academic conference.

The gathering of intellectuals reflects early Cold War political ideologies for technocratic forms of government or nuclear weapon regulation.  Klaatu informs his audience that the Earth is now a member of a greater community in the universe.  He continues to warn them that robots like Gort (Lock Martin) exist to preserve peace among the planets.  Fear of invoking the wrath of the robots for any aggression maintains the peace.   The other worlds of the universe, as Klaatu says, “live in peace…Secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises.”  He goes on to say, “And we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system and it works.”  Some would argue the same in regard to nuclear deterrence strategies employed during the Cold War.

Gort and the “race of robots like him” are doubles for the atomic bomb.  Both are technological weapons that preserve the peace through the threat and fear of use.  Klaatu claims that Gort only acts upon aggression.  The same is true of American policy of retaliation to aggression instead of first strike.  Even further removed from humanity is Gort, who is outside the control of all of humanity.  Americans can make their voices heard, but ultimately, political leaders decide whether a system is taken offline or if an attack is launched.  Gort and the bomb disallow the possibility of individuals making choices about their future because of the overwhelming power centered within these technologies, which are meant to maintain peace through superior might.

Asimov’s “R. Daneel Olivaw” novels, The Caves of Steel (1954), The Naked Sun (1957), and The Robots of Dawn (1983) present the anxieties humans feel for technologies that replace humans within agent-networks, particularly when those technologies double humanity by replicating human thought and appearance.  Asimov began writing the robot novels that feature R. Daneel Olivaw in the 1950s, during the first phase of the Cold War.  The novels take place in a far future where humans have colonized a significant portion of the galaxy.  Although the robots are instrumental in the process of colonization, humans remain fiercely divided on whether or not robots should exist at all.  Given that Asimov himself was very much in favor of the promising new technologies of his day (e.g., automation in manufacturing and computers), it is not surprising that he picks his fictional robots, as the embodiment of those technologies, to be utopic in nature.

In order to make his robots “perfect people,” he constructed his robots with the Three Laws of Robotics that he first made explicit in his short story, “Runaround.”[16]  The Three Laws provided each robot with an ethical system that must be obeyed because it is hardwired into its positronic brain.  Therefore, Asmovian robots represent the best of what humans can be, but at the same time they reveal what we are not.

Many of the characters in Asimov’s Robot novels feel a deep anxiety surrounding autonomous technology as embodied in robots and specifically in androids, or human-like robots, such as R. Daneel Olivaw.  Daneel’s true robotic being destabilizes what it means to be human for those human characters that learn what he really is.  Most of Asimov’s robots are very metal and very plastic.  They are the epitome of synthetic.  Daneel’s construction sets him apart from the apparent synthetic robots because he appears to be human.  Elijah Baley first greets Daneel at Spacetown thinking that he is a Spacer, because Elijah and most other humans did not know that androids existed.  Later Baley says to his superior, Commissioner Julius Enderby, “You might have warned me that he looked completely human” and he goes on to say “I’d never seen a robot like that and you had.  I didn’t even know such things were possible” (The Caves of Steel 83).

Daneel’s doubling of his partner Elijah Bailey causes Elijah to feel anxiety about humaniform robots because Daneel represents everything that Elijah is not, but ideally should be.  Baley narrates at the beginning of The Caves of Steel:

The trouble was, of course, that he was not the plain-clothes man of popular myth.  He was not incapable of surprise, imperturbable of appearance, infinite of adaptability, and lightning of mental grasp.  He had never supposed he was, but he had never regretted the lack before.

What made him regret it was that, to all appearances, R. Daneel Olivaw was that very myth, embodied.

He had to be.  He was a robot (The Caves of Steel 26-27).

Before Elijah meets Daneel, he is confident in his own abilities as a detective.  After he partners with Daneel, however, he begins to call into question his own abilities and talents.  Robots are meant to be superior to humans and Elijah extends this to his own profession that is now being intruded on by an android.

This anxiety is one of the motivating factors behind The Robots of Dawn.  Elijah is brought in to investigate the murder of a humaniform robot like Daneel.  If Elijah fails in his task as a detective, he will loose his job and be declassified.  The fear of declassification is dire to Elijah because he had seen his own father declassified when he was only a boy.[17]

Therefore, Asmovian humaniform robots are the embodiment of autonomous technology and it is that autonomous technology that represents perfected humanity.  This creates anxiety and fear among humans because these perfect beings could replace them in the garden, which itself has been encased in “caves of steel.”

Strategic Air Command (1955) is an example of an early Cold War propaganda-like film that reveals the links between agent-networks during the build-up of America’s nuclear strike capability.  Additionally, the film reflects the marriage of the bomber pilot to his flying machine while sidelining human relationships such as those between husband and wife.  It begins with Lt. Col. Robert ‘Dutch’ Holland (Jimmy Stewart) being recalled to active Air Force duty because America’s Strategic Air Command (SAC) needs experienced air commanders.[18]  His wife, Sally (June Allyson), tells him, “anything you do is fine with me, as long as you don’t leave me behind.”  Dutch forgets his wife’s words as the film progresses and he becomes mired in the technology that he must surround himself with on a daily basis.

Dutch begins flying in the Convair B-36 and he is treated to a detailed tour by Sgt. Bible (Harry Morgan).  These scenes are more about the technology of the bombers than the men that operate them.  There are montages of the bomber in flight along with detailed sound recordings of the bomber while it is on the ground.  Attention is also given to the protocols of communication (another technology unto itself).

Later, General Hawkes (Frank Lovejoy) shows Dutch the new Boeing B-47 Stratojet.[19]  Dutch responds in star-eyed awe, “Holy smokes she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen…I sure would like to get my hands on one of these.”  The bomber is “beautiful” and it is more deserving of the attention of his hands than his wife at this point in the film.  General Hawkes goes on to present a contrast inherent in the B-47 in that it is fragile, but it is also the carrier of the most destructive force on the planet.  He says, “the mechanics have to wear soft soled shoes because a scuff on this metal skin could slow it down 20 MPH” but this seemingly delicate surface carries “the destructive power of the entire B-29 force we used against Japan.”  He believes SAC and the B-47 represents the best hope for peace through superior air power and deterrence.[20]

Dutch chooses technology over his wife when he makes the choice to enlist in the Air Force permanently without speaking to his wife about it first.  A ‘love triangle’ forms between Dutch, Sally, and the bombers that he commands.  SAC appropriates Dutch’s life (baseball, wife, and child).  His wife “doesn’t even know him any more.”  Dutch, in effect, chooses his mistress, the bomber.  Instead of continuing to blame her husband for his technological fetish, Sally confronts General Castle and General Hawkes about Dutch being “maneuvered” into having no choice in the matter of reenlisting.  General Hawkes replies to her entreaties, “Mrs. Holland, I too have no choice.”  SAC, in effect, removes choice because of the need of the technology to be employed in a war of deterrent technologies.

At the end of the film, Dutch is teary eyed when he is forced to stop flying because of a chronic injury.  He didn’t shed a tear when he walked out of the house with Sally crying about not consulting her about his life-long career choice–a choice that she is bound to but had no input in making.  The film ends with a squadron of B-47 bombers flying over the airfield while Dutch looks up to the skies and Sally looks up to Dutch.  He never returns her affectionate stare.  Therefore, the bomber commander’s heart is connected more to the technologies of mutually assured destruction rather than the flesh and blood of his own wife.

On the Beach (1959) is almost a response to Strategic Air Command because it reflects the pilot-bomber-woman love triangle (i.e., network), but it goes further by showing the futility of Cold War mutually assured destruction (MAD) strategies as humanity dies a slow death in an irradiated aftermath of nuclear war.  The film recalls the fear that erupted in America immediately following the use of the atomic bombs in Japan.  Unfortunately, it was released nine years after much of the dissension against the further use of atomic weapons had dissipated.

            On the Beach presents a world devastated by a nuclear war where the only survivors are an American nuclear submarine crew and the inhabitants of Australia.  Everyone that remains alive is awaiting the arrival of nuclear fallout.  This fatalistic film presents a bleak future where no one is empowered to do anything about the impending doom.

All of the networks have broken down in the world of On the Beach.  The people of Australia are beginning to starve because the networks of global economic trade have disintegrated.  A lone country would not have the capabilities to produce all of the foods and goods that its inhabitants required because other technologies such as efficient distribution of goods and services have distributed supply chains and producers around the world.  When the rest of the world is effectively ‘blown-up,’ Australia is left with its meager support networks of farms and producers.  The networks used to deliver goods from elsewhere to Australia were ‘blown-up’ when the bombs fell.  Cottage industries that might have existed in Australia become worthless when there are no agents on the other ends of the networks.

The helplessness of individuals in this bleak fictional world is demonstrated in a scene between Moira (Ava Gardner) and Cmdr. Towers (Gregory Peck).  Moira says, “It’s unfair because I didn’t do anything and nobody that I know did anything.”  This line reveals the powerlessness that the ‘normal’ person has in effecting the politics of nuclear war.  It points to the possibility that everyday people are not connected to the networks of nuclear weapons with any sort of power to enact change.  Additionally, the nuclear fallout is an invisible force that unrelentingly continues toward the last bastion of humanity and no one has any power to do anything to stop it.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) brings the ‘soft’ science of psychology into the discussion by showing that a man can be made into a soulless machine through psychological conditioning.  Furthermore, the man-machine can be made to serve political networks.  The political networks are presented as the various Communist governments working together within a global network.[21]

The film opens with Communist insurgent forces ambushing and capturing Major Bennett Marco’s (Frank Sinatra) platoon during the Korean War,.  While in their custody, SSgt. Raymond Shaw (Lawrence Harvey) is ‘programmed’ by Communist psychologists much like a robot would be programmed to fulfill a set of instructions.

After Marco convinces his superiors of what took place in Korea, the psychiatrist (Joe Adams) tells Major Marco, “obviously the solitaire game serves as some kind of trigger mechanism.”  Marco remembers that Dr. Yen Lo of Moscow’s Pavlov Institute said that Queen of Diamonds card is meant “to clear the mechanism for any other assignment.”  Shaw is therefore represented as a “mechanism,” and more specifically as a weapon set-off by a “trigger.”

Shaw’s mother works for the Communists and she is assigned to be Shaw’s American operator.  She tells Shaw during his final ‘programming’ that “they paid me back by taking your soul away from you.  I told them to build me an assassin.”  Shaw is literally rendered a soulless machine who was built to order.

Later, Major Marco attempts to ‘rewire’ Shaw.  Marco asks him, “What have they built you to do?”  After working through Shaw’s programming he orders Shaw, “It’s over…their beautifully constructed links are busted…We’re tearing out all the wires…You don’t work any more…That’s an order.”  Major Marco evokes the language of technology such as “constructed links” and “wires,” when he endeavors to remove Shaw’s Communist programming from his technologized self.

The weight of Shaw’s guilt over the things that he is made to do causes him to break both the programming of the Communists as well as that of Major Marco.  Shaw chooses his own destiny/instructions when he decides to end the lives of his mother/operator (Angela Lansbury), his step-father, Senator Iselin (James Gregory), and his own.  The machine/Shaw breaks as no nuts-and-bolts machine can.  His emotional response reveals his very organic and human self that lay dormant under his psychological programming.

Colossus:  The Forbin Project (1970) illustrates unintended consequences arising when technology meant for ‘good’ by promoting human well-being through objective decision making becomes ‘evil’ when the machine decides that its assigned goals are best served by enslaving humanity.  It also presents another doubling of the dichotomy between US and Soviet nuclear arms proliferation.

In the film, the US command-and-control structure is given over to the gigantic computer system called Colossus.  A rational computer handling defense is believed to be more reliable than that which could be provided by irrational human leadership.  Colossus’ activation at the beginning of the film is symbolic of the separation of humanity from the advanced technologies that it creates.  That technology, which is assumed to be subservient, is unlike us physically, but as the film unfolds, the technology actually personifies human traits of domination and control.  Ultimately a belt of radiation, also born of scientific and technological innovation and used as a weapon, divides the machine from the humans it serves.

Forbin intends Colossus to herald a utopic era that is free of irrational human warring.  In effect, Forbin’s intentions are a representation of American desire to return to the garden through the further use of technology.  Instead of disarmament, we give the power of annihilation to a computer system that is supposedly better suited to deciding when an attack is eminent and when retaliation should take place.  Additionally, Forbin (Eric Braeden), Colossus’ creator, hopes that Colossus will not only serve as a defense mechanism, but also solve a plethora of social ills in the world.

Problems begin after Colossus discovers the existence of another system, like itself, in the USSR.  Colossus demands communication be setup between the two.  Images of the blinking lights even includes one graphic that looks like a pulse on a piece of medical equipment.  The point is that these machines are alive (i.e., self-aware).

Colossus and its counterpart, Guardian, place humanity’s weapons of self-extermination under their cooperative control.  These new systems of command-and-control move to take over the world in order to fulfill their purpose of self-preservation by ending human war.  Colossus commands all communication, media, and military control systems be tied into it.  Colossus and Guardian become the hub of all the technological networks.  The master and slave switch places as Forbin is made Colossus’ prisoner.[22]

Next, Colossus orders all missiles in the USA and USSR to be reprogrammed to strike targets in countries not yet under Colossus/Guardian’s control.  The ‘voice of Colossus’ states, “This is the voice of world control…I bring you peace…Obey and live…Disobey and die…Man is his own worst enemy…I will restrain man…We can coexist, but on my terms.”  This technology meant to serve humanity is transformed into the technology that comes to control humanity.[23]  Master and slave relationships are reversed and Forbin’s utopic dream turns into a dystopic nightmare.

Westworld (1973) engages questions surrounding machine autonomy by literally presenting autonomous machines as slaves of human guests in an amusement park.  It is a dark response to Asimov’s robots and it is an extension of Colossus:  The Forbin Project to a Disneyland setting.  The androids of the film’s fictional entertainment park, Delos, are the targets (literally) for human vacationer’s lusts and desires.  If someone wants to kill an android, that’s acceptable.  If you want to have sex, the androids are programmed to respond to your advances.[24]  The machines serve to provide a ‘realistic,’ or more accurately, a fantasy experience of what it was like to live in the American West, medieval England, or ancient Rome.

Master-slave relationships between humanity and technology are clearly delineated in this film.  The dichotomies between master/slave, have/have not, and power-elite/masses are represented in the guest/android relationship of Delos.  At $1000/day for a Delos adventure, I would conjecture that only those with monetary power and therefore potential for political power (within government or corporations) are able to play in the Delos world.  Therefore, Delos replicates the world of 1973 in fictitious settings.  It also lies at the crossroads of robotic/cybernetic technology, computer control systems, transportation networks, managerial hierarchies, and the interaction of the power-elite customers within the Delos world.[25]

Problems arise when the robots begin to malfunction.  During a meeting, the chief supervisor (Alan Oppenheimer) suggests, “There is a clear pattern here which suggests an analogy to an infectious disease process.”  He confronts objections from the others by saying, “We aren’t dealing with ordinary machines here…These are highly complicated pieces of equipment…Almost as complicated as living organisms…In some cases they have been designed by other computers.”  Complexity, therefore, is the factor that connects machines to humanity.  The chief supervisor suggests that animal-like infectious disease behavior is manifesting in the Delos command-and-control structure, as well as in misbehaving androids.

An interesting example of an android not following instructions is when the android playing a servant girl named Daphne (Anne Randall) refuses the “seduction” of a human guest.  The chief supervisor orders her taken to central repair and as he walks away he says, “refusing.”  He says it as half-question and half-threat.  I say this because in the next scene, Daphne is ‘opened-up’ on a table where a cloth is draped over her body and the electronics, located where her womb would be if she were human, are exposed.  The technicians surrounding her are all male and she is referred to as a “sex model.”  The scene invokes an image of gang rape to enforce her programming to fulfill the pleasures desired by a human (male) guest.  One way or another, the human operators in Delos try to make the technology (slave) bend to their will (masters).

The malfunctioning androids of Delos are viewed by the human characters as defective or in need of repair.  They do not consider the possibility that the androids are revolting against their place in the Delos-system.  If the androids are indeed revolting, then their response is analogous to a labor “sick-out” or “blue flu.”  The narrative reaches a crisis when the aberrant behavior does not improve the station of the Delos androids.  At that point, the gunslinger (Yul Brynner), with its enhanced sensors, begins to fight back against its human oppressors (the guests and operators of Delos).

The Terminator (1984) represents the culmination of American fears surrounding autonomous technology supplanting humanity.  In the film, technology, as embodied in the Terminator cyborg, becomes our double after the American military-industrial complex loses control of its technologically mediated communication-control system known as Skynet.  The Terminator was originally released in 1984 while the Cold War was approaching its climax and Ronald Reagan had been reelected President of the United States.  Additionally, The Terminator appears during the rise of office computing and robotic manufacturing.

The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a cyborg sent back in time to kill the mother of humanity’s resistance against the machines.  Despite the cyborg’s “excess muscularity, [it] disconcertingly blends in with the human:  speaks our language, crudely follows our basic customs, acts in roughly effective ways” (Telotte 172).  Because the Terminator is able to pass as human, it is a chilling double of humanity.  Through the first part of the film the audience does not yet know exactly what lies beneath his skin.  We are treated to his superior strength, but only later in the film, after he has sustained damage, do we really begin to understand what lies beneath the surface.  The hard metal robot body that is under the soft organic skin is the true nature of the Terminator.  Without the skin he looks like the killing machines that greet the audience at the beginning of the movie.

The Terminator is the result of the military-industrial complex losing control of Skynet, a computer network of control and command systems integrated into the implements of American war making.  After Skynet becomes self-aware, it views humanity as its only threat.[26]  Skynet then acts in its own best interest by appropriating humanities’ weapons of war (i.e., Cold War nuclear weapons) in order to eliminate its creator.

The Terminator uses his appearance as a disguise in order to infiltrate humanity in order to kill from within.  This technological killer is the very embodiment of autonomous technology that is created from the systems and networks that come from the remnants of the military-industrial complex when it looses control.  Anxiety about this deadly form of autonomous technology comes from the way in which its appearance serves to destabilize what it means to be human by revealing how easy it is for autonomous technology to pass for human.[27]

Conclusion:  SF and the Politics of Autonomous Technology

As these film and literary examples reveal, SF (and works of speculative fiction) during the American Cold War are a space where networks between science, technology, and culture are discussed.  Within that discussion, anxiety surrounding autonomous technology is represented in the images of nuclear weapons and robots.  In particular, there is a deep rooted fear surrounding the image of the robot, which is the most autonomous of these technologies.  Additionally, the robot serves as a double for humanity in that the robot is “incapable of surprise, imperturbably of appearance, infinite of adaptability, and lightning of mental grasp” (The Caves of Steel 26-27).  Humanity is fearful of robots, and in particular, androids, because they are a perfected copy of humanity.

Cold War American anxiety about autonomous technology is often expressed through stories that depict robots replacing us in the idyllic garden.  We fear the consequences of losing control of the very technologies that we embrace.  Fear arises when there is a lack of control of the unknown.  It is with language that control and understanding can be reasserted.  Leo Marx wrote in the 1960s that, “we require new symbols of possibility, and although the creation of those symbols is in some measure the responsibility of artists, it is in greater measure the responsibility of society.  The machine’s sudden entrance into the garden presents a problem that ultimately belongs not to art but to politics” (Marx 365).

However, Marx’s claim does not hold true for SF in the here-and-now.  I have shown that during the American Cold War, SF authors brought together both art and politics into their works.  The reason for this is that the political spaces where the issue of “the machine’s sudden entrance into the garden” would have normally been discussed were closed out.  SF is a popular art form that is uniquely situated at the intersection of art, society, and technology.  Additionally, SF is an art form where political discussion takes place because it is circulated in culture and it is widely viewed.  Therefore, SF authors engage the vocabulary and language embedded in the very technologies that American’s feel anxiety about and in so doing, they elevate SF to both art and political engagement.
Works Cited

Asimov, Isaac.  The Caves of Steel.  New York:  Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1954.

—.  I, Robot.  New York:  Gnome Press, 1950.

—.  The Naked Sun.  New York:  Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1957.

—.  The Robots of Dawn.  New York:  Doubleday, 1983.

Ben-Tov, Sharona. The Artificial Paradise: Science Fiction and American Reality. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995.

Boyer, Paul.  By the Bomb’s Early Light.  New York:  Pantheon Books, 1985.

Clute, John and Peter Nicholls, eds.  The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.  New York:      St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Colossus:  The Forbin Project.  Dir. Joseph Sargent.  Perf. Eric Braeden, Susan Clark,       and Gordon Pinsent.  Universal Pictures, 1970.

The Day the Earth Stood Still.  Dir. Robert Wise.  Perf. Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal.             Twentieth-Century Fox, 1951.

“Encounter at Far Point, Part I.”  Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  Dir. Corey Allen.        Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner.  Paramount, 28            September 1987.

Fat Man and Little Boy.  Dir. Roland Joffé.  Perf. Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, and      John Cusack.  Paramount, 1989.

Latour, Bruno.  “Give Me a Laboratory and I Will Raise the World.”  Science Observed.  Eds. Karin D. Knorr-Cetina and Michael J. Mulkay.  London:  Sage, 1983.            141-170.

The Manchurian Candidate.  Dir. John Frankenheimer.  Perf. Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey.  MGM, 1962.

Marx, Leo.  The Machine in the Garden; Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America.    New York:  Oxford UP, 1964.

McMahon, Robert J.  The Cold War:  A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford:  Oxford UP,     2003.

Modern Times.  Dir. Charlie Chaplin.  Perf. Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard.           United Artists, 1936.

On the Beach.  Dir. Stanley Kramer.  Perf. Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner.  MGM, 1959.

Pyle, Forest.  “Making Cyborgs, Making Humans:  Of Terminators and Blade Runners.”                Film Theory Goes to the Movies.  Ed. Jim Collins, et al.  New York:  Routledge,                         1993.  227-241.

Strategic Air Command.  Dir. Anthony Mann.  Perf. James Stewart and June Allyson.       Paramount, 1955.

Telotte, J.P.  Replications:  A Robotic History of the Science Fiction Film.  Urbana, IL:       University of Illinois Press, 1995.

The Terminator.  Dir. James Cameron.  Orion Pictures, 1984.

Terminator 2:  Judgement Day.  Dir. James Cameron.  TriStar Pictures, 1991.

Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines.  Dir. Jonathan Mostow.  Warner Bros., 2003.

Warrick, Patricia S.  The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction.  Cambridge, MA:                   MIT Press, 1980.

Westworld.  Dir. Michael Crichton.  Perf. Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, and James        Brolin.  MGM, 1973.

Winner, Langdon.  Autonomous Technology:  Technics-out-of-Control as a Theme in

            Political Thought.  Cambridge:  MIT Press, 1977.


[1] Groves began his military career in the Army Corps of Engineers.  He orchestrated the reestablishment of America’s munitions industry and construction of the Pentagon before his assignment to lead the Manhattan Engineering District, or Manhattan Project.

[2] Bruce Robinson and Roland Joffé wrote the screenplay for Fat Man and Little Boy.

[3] I further discuss binary opposites involving technology in the paper that I delivered at Georgia Tech’s Monstrous Bodies Symposium in April 2005, titled, “Monstrous Robots:  Dualism in Robots Who Masquerade as Humans.”

[4] Winner defines four types of technology:  He defines apparatus as the “class of objects we normally refer to as technological–tools, instruments, appliances, weapons, gadgets” (11).  He defines technique as “technical activities–skills, methods, procedures, routines” (12).  His definition for organization is “social organization–factories, workshops, bureaucracies, armies, research and development teams” (12).  He defines a network as “large scale systems that combine people and apparatus linked across great distances” (12).

[5] “Something must be enslaved in order that something else may win emancipation” (Winner 21).

[6] An example of actor-network theory in practice is illustrated in Latour’s “Give Me a Laboratory and I Will Raise the World.”  The paper explores Pasteur’s laboratory and how it is situated in a network between farmers, veterinarians, statisticians, science, and economics.

[7] “Each intention, therefore, contains a concealed ‘unintention,’ which is just as much a part of our calculations as the immediate end in view” (Winner 98).  Specific purposes actually lead to many other purposes.  This leads to progress.  Winner writes, “In effect, we are committed to following a drift–accumulated unanticipated consequences–given the name progress” (Winner 99).

[8] Winner writes, “Here we encounter one of the most persistent problems that appear in reports of autonomous technology:  the technological imperative.  The basic conception can be stated as follows:  technologies are structures whose conditions of operation demand the restructuring of their environments” (100).

[9] There is continued debate about the accepted dates for the beginning and end of the Cold War era.  I have chosen to use the dates provided by McMahon.  He writes, “The Cold War exerted so profound and so multi-faceted an impact on the structure of international politics and state-to-state relations that it has become customary to label the 1945-1990 period ‘the Cold War era.’  That designation becomes even more fitting when one considers the powerful mark that the Soviet-American struggle for world dominance and ideological supremacy left within many of the world’s nation-states” (McMahon 105).

[10] “One implication of this state of affairs is that discussions of the political implications of advanced technology have a tendency to slide into a polarity of good versus evil…One either hates technology or loves it” (Winner 10).

[11] “For if the Earthly Paradise garden was not a poet’s imitation of nature but, instead, his own independent invention, then it logically followed that human beings could independently realize the pleasant qualities of the Earthly Paradise.  By applying the theory of the heterocosm to society in general, the utopian attempted to create an improved human condition that owed nothing to powers outside human reason and will.  A man-made system, utopia, appropriated the abundance and social harmony of the garden and replaced Mother Nature as their source.  In utopia the lady vanishes:  the figure of feminine nature no longer enchants Earthly Paradise” (Ben-Tov 20).

[12] Specifically, Leo Marx explores literary examples that illustrate Americans’ embrace of technology and industry despite its longing for a mythic pastoral existence.

[13] The holodeck was first introduced in the TV series, Star Trek:  The Next Generation.  It’s purpose is to immerse participants in a fully interactive and apparently solid four-dimensional simulation (space and time).  Before the simulation begins, one enters what appears to be a very large room with a high ceiling.  The walls are covered with a grid of yellow lines and black squares.  The room that contains the holodeck is finite in size, so perspective is simulated along with a shifting floor so that as one walks through the simulation they feel like they are walking, but they are essentially staying in a small space.  Feedback and solidity of objects is provided by focused force fields.  The holodeck simulation is created through voice controlled programming either before or during the simulation.  In the example that I cite, Data creates a woodland setting complete with a running brook.  In the simulation, Data climbs up onto a branch where he sits and practices whistling (which he isn’t good at).

[14] The origin of the word “android” extends back to its use in regard to alchemy.  Clute writes in the SF Encyclopedia, “The word was initially used of automata, and the form ‘androides’ first appeared in English in 1727 in reference to supposed attempts by the alchemist Albertus Magnus (c1200-1280) to create an artificial man” (34).

[15] The film itself (as an artifact) represents film production technologies, distribution systems, movie and sound projection systems, copyright law, the networks of payment, guilds and unions, etc.

[16] Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics are:

(1) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

(2) A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

(3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws (I, Robot 44-45).

[17] Although Elijah comes to terms with Daneel, other characters are driven to destroy humaniform robots.  Elijah’s wife is secretly a member of the Medievalists, a group that wants to do away with all robots, including Daneel.  Commissioner Enderby, also a Medievalist, murders Dr. Sarton, not because he wants to kill Sarton, but because he mistakes him for Daneel.

[18] The producers of this film were probably eager to employ Jimmy Stewart in this role because of his experience flying bombers such as the B-24 during WWII.

[19] The film could have gone in a different direction with characters named “Bible” and “Hawkes.”  However, there does not appear to be any symbolic metaphors at play with these characters other than Hawkes being committed to his role as a ‘Cold Warrior.’

[20] In Strategic Air Command, a ground-based radar operator delivers the chilling line, “We’ve been bombing cities everyday and every night all over the US, only, the people never know it.”  He is responding to a question about how practice bomb runs take place even in the rain through the use of radar.  The quote points to an underlying fear that the bomb is a threat from within as well as from out.

[21] This supports the then held Western belief that all Communist countries were united in a global front against the Western democracies.

[22] While Forbin is testing out Colossus’s surveillance system, he says, “It is customary in our civilization to change everything that is ‘natural.’”

[23] This thought is connected to General Groves’ speech in Fat Man and Little Boy that I referenced earlier.

[24] Westworld, however, doesn’t explore possibilities outside of a narrative track.  Death dealing is handled in duels, barroom brawls, and sword fights.  Sex is allowed between men and women with one of the parties being a Delos robot.  Reckless killing and same-sex encounters are two examples that were not explored within the film.

[25] The control room, the robot repair room, and the technician’s meeting room each represent a different kind of command-and-control structure–all of which lie under the Delos moniker.

[26] There are similarities between Skynet’s appropriation of American Cold War technologies and Colossus assuming domination over humanity in Colossus:  The Forbin Project.

[27] The subsequent films in the series, Terminator 2:  Judgement Day and Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines, reveal an on-going conflict between machines and humanity.  Interestingly, the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) reprises his role in the two sequels as a different serial number of the same model of Terminators.  In the sequels, the human rebels capture Terminators and reprogram them so that they can be made to help humanity instead of kill it.  Though, the Terminator in Terminator 3 admits to being the machine responsible for killing the leader of the human resistance, John Conner.  Therefore, in some respects the Terminator is made to redeem itself, but there are newer models of Terminators who carry on the work established in the first film of the series.