Thursday, February 4, 2010

From the Waterwheel to the Pillars of Civilization

I was doing some research on the history of the computer and found this classic "Connections" by James Burke.  I'd forgotten how truly awesome this show was, and how well science historian Burke integrated concepts and made historical connections.

If you don't have time to watch the entire show, I have transcribed Burke's final sentence, which is Falkneresque in length and may suffice:
So, the trail has brought us from the waterwheel, to the loom and the linen it produced that made paper so cheap it spurred the development of printing of books that made people interested in things like automated organs whose pegged cylinders gave the French silk-weavers the opportunity to run their looms with perforated cards that Hollerith used to count Americans who had once passed through this hall on Ellis Island, gateway to the one country that more than any other would fall apart if it weren’t for Hollerith’s card—used to program the computers without whose help the entire massive structure of the modern world would fall down.
From the waterwheel through underwear to the punchcard and the pillars of civilization.  Only Burke.  Easier to understand than Lost, and something (else) fun to watch this weekend.