Sunday, January 08, 2006

Form Follows Failure

posted by Tim Walters @ 8:38 PM

Henry Petroski, The Evolution Of Useful Things.

Did you know that the can was invented decades before the can opener? Neither did I. Petroski sets out to debunk the maxim "form follows function," and succeeds--although it does seem like a bit of a straw man, as I always understood that maxim to be an aesthetic prescription rather than a theory of technological development. In any case, he paints a vivid picture of generations of inventors getting fed up with the limitations of everyday objects, and fixing them--for a while.


At 12:51 PM, Blogger Indeterminacy said...

I wonder if they egg carton were invented before the eggs?

I remember seeing a documentary about the first cans. I think they used lead or something and people got food poisoning, as well.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Tim Walters said...

Before noses were invented, people had to hold their glasses on with their fingers. Very inconvenient.

As I recall, lead cans are at least partially implicated in the sad fate of the Franklin expedition (famed in folk song).


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