The subtitle tells the story of this collection of technology columns from the New York Times.
Appearing in the Times since the late 1990s, the weekly Circuits section began by describing the basic principles and devices on which modern electronics is founded—the chip, the bar code, the laser—then moved on to descriptions of the more sophisticated applications of those fundamental devices: the virtual first-down line on TV football broadcasts, electronic fences that keep pets from straying, or greeting cards that play music. Eschewing a chronological sequence, Fountain (the section’s deputy editor) organizes articles into related sections such as Home, Computers and the Internet, Science and Health. As one might expect, the range of subjects is almost as broad as the electronic revolution itself. Some have become so ubiquitous that many readers use them on an almost daily basis: TV remote controls, supermarket scanners, or ATMs. Others, such as ion propulsion or remote-control surgery, remain esoteric, for the present. Each article includes a graphic overview of its subject in the form of captioned illustrations, with a fuller explanation in the text. The introduction neatly summarizes just how far we have come in the roughly 125 years since Edison began working with the incandescent light bulb. Paradoxically, many modern products (the automobile, the airplane, radio) aren’t new inventions but refinements of items created nearly a century ago that are now smaller, quieter, more efficient. The price of progress is accelerated, often planned obsolescence; a new laptop computer is an antique by the time it leaves the factory, and it’s increasingly difficult to find anyone to repair most household appliances for less than the cost of a replacement.
A clear, readable, fascinating overview of the tools and gadgets of the modern world.