Game-Changing Technologies That Failed
Many technologies begin life as someone's vision of an ambitious, perhaps audacious, technology that is expected to have a revolutionary impact on consumers-whether families, companies, or societies. However, if this highly touted technology fails 'prematurely' at some point in its life history, it becomes a spectacular flop.
Employing a behavioral perspective, this book presents a sample of twelve spectacular flops encompassing the past three centuries-ranging from the world's first automobile to the nuclear-powered bomber. Because technologies may fail from many different causes, spectacular flops pose a special challenge to the author's long-term project of furnishing generalizations about technological change.
Instead of constructing generalizations that apply to all spectacular flops, this book provides limited generalizations that pertain to particular groups of technologies bounded by parameters such as 'long-term development projects' and 'one-off projects.' The reader need have no prior familiarity with the technologies because basic principles are introduced as needed.
Introduction: Understanding Technological Failures
Secret Project: Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot and the First Automobile
Too Little, Too Late: The Atmospheric Railway
Putting Electromagnetism to Work
Audacious Engineer: Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the Great Eastern Steamship
Ferdinand de Lesseps' Panama Canal
Crackpot Invention? Nikola Tesla's World System
Visionary Inventor: R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion World
The Nuclear-Powered Bomber
Domesticating the Bomb: "Geographical Engineering" and Project Chariot
Chrysler's Turbojet-Powered Automobile
The Concorde: Supersonic Airliner
Fusion, Hot and Cold
Conclusion: Several Limited Generalizations
Michael Brian Schiffer is the Fred A. Riecker Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. His areas of scholarly interest are behavioral archaeology, archaeological method and theory, experimental archaeology, technology and society, ceramic technology, and history of electrical technology.