The Evolution Of Useful Things by Henry Petroski

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   How did the table fork acquire a fourth tine?  What advantage does the Phillips-head screw have over its single-grooved predecessor? Why does the paper clip look the way it does? What makes Scotch tape Scotch?

   In this delightful book Henry, Petroski takes a microscopic look at artifacts that most of us count on but rarely contemplate, including such icons of the everyday as pins, Post-its, and fast-food "clamshell" containers.  At the same time, he offers a convincing new theory of technological innovation as a response to the perceived failures of existing products—suggesting that irritation, and not necessity, is the mother of invention.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Henry Petroski

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Henry Petroski's previous books include To Engineer Is Human, which was developed into a BBC television documentary; The Pencil; The Evolution of Useful Things; and Engineers of Dreams. Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University.
Published December 1, 2010 by Vintage. 304 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Science & Math, History, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Petroski proposes, however, that form follows shortcomings in function: The original two-tined fork may work well enough for carving a roast, but it won't do for spearing a sardine, so the four-tined sardine fork is invented--and thus the pastry fork, salad fork, oyster fork, and so on.

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The Independent

Edison once said, after making heavy work of making light work: 'I failed my way to success.' Petroski is anxious to promote the image of careful, repetitious labour over any melodramatic flashes of inspiration: he shows us pictures of the different attempts to clip paper together without tearing...

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A Patchwork of Books

This way if parents are doing something else the kids can have a book out and have a computer read it to them, and parents can interact from the kitchen or the driver’s seat (“What’s the picture of?” “What kind of sound does that animal make?” etc) without having to take their eyes off the stove ...

Apr 15 2013 | Read Full Review of The Evolution Of Useful Things

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