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Dawn of the Electronic Age: Electrical Technologies in the Shaping of the Modern World, 1914 to 1945

ISBN: 978-0-470-40974-9
320 pages
May 2009, Wiley-IEEE Press
Dawn of the Electronic Age: Electrical Technologies in the Shaping of the Modern World, 1914 to 1945  (0470409746) cover image
A comprehensive and fascinating account of electrical and electronics history

Much of the infrastructure of today's industrialized world arose in the period from the outbreak of World War I to the conclusion of World War II. It was during these years that the capabilities of traditional electrical engineering—generators, power transmission, motors, electric lighting and heating, home appliances, and so on—became ubiquitous. Even more importantly, it was during this time that a new type of electrical engineering—electronics—emerged. Because of its applications in communications (both wire-based and wireless), entertainment (notably radio, the phonograph, and sound movies), industry, science and medicine, and the military, the electronics industry became a major part of the economy.

Dawn of the Electronic Age?explores how this engineering knowledge and its main applications developed in various scientific, economic, and social contexts, and explains how each was profoundly affected by electrical technologies. It takes an international perspective and a narrative approach, unfolding the story chronologically.

Though a scholarly study (with sources of information given in endnotes for engineers and historians of science and technology), the book is intended for the general public.?Ultimately, it tells the story of the development of a new realm of engineering and its widespread applications during the remarkable and tragic period of two world wars and the decades in between.

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1. The Great War and Wireless Communications.

1.1 Land-Bound Communications.

1.2 Communication Through the Ether.

1.4 The Art and Science of Radio.

2. Electrical Technologies in Total War.

2.1 Remote and Automatic Control.

2.2 Military Research and Development.

2.3 Mobilization for Total War.

3. Electrifi cation in the Interwar Period.

3.1 Lenin’s Program of Development Through Electric Power.

3.2 Generators, Power Lines, and Motors.

3.3 Power Engineering.

3.4 Technology Transfer to the Soviet Union.

3.5 Worldwide Dissemination of Technology.

3.6 Rural Electrifi cation.

4. The Jazz Age and Radio Broadcasting.

4.1 Radio in the Twenties.

4.2 The Establishment of Broadcasting in the United States.

4.3 The Establishment of Broadcasting in Other Countries.

4.4 Radio Engineering.

4.5 How Good is this Radio?

4.6 Radio’s Golden Age.

5. Postwar Recovery and the Great Depression: Electrical Technologies in Industry and Commerce.

5.1 Electrifying the Factory.

5.2 Processing Information.

5.3 Electrifying Transportation.

5.4 Fostering Economic Growth.

6. Electrical Technologies and the Consumer Culture.

6.1 Electricity in the Home.

6.2 Mass Entertainment.

6.3 The Consumer Culture.

7. Communication Technologies in Democratic and Totalitarian Countries.

7.1 New Communication Technologies.

7.2 Telephone Technologies and Services.

7.3 Technology, Politics, and Governance.

8. Electrical Engineering in an Age of Science.

8.1 An Age of Science.

8.2 Measuring and Imaging Instruments.

8.3 Calculating Machines.

8.4 The Profession of Electrical Engineering.

9. World War II and Electrical Technology.

9.1 The World War Resumed.

9.2 Electrical Technology in Battle.

9.3 Control Systems and Computers.

9.4 The Battle of the Atlantic, Codebreaking, and Sonar.

10. Radar, the Weapon That Decided the War.

10.1 The Battle of Britain.

10.2 Radar Countermeasures.

10.3 The Proximity Fuse.

10.4 The Radar-Computer Combination.

10.5 Electronic Navigation.

10.6 Government-Industry-Academia Collaboration.

Conclusion: Dawn of the Electronic Age.

Notes on the Illustrations.



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Frederik Nebeker, PhD, is currently Senior Research Historian at the IEEE History Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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?The volume provides a broad spectrum of nearly 700 (mostly secondary) references and enough background material for dozens of student papers.? (CHOICE, October 2009)

"Many readers will appreciate the way in which Nebeker explains how the technologies worked without using complicated mathematics.... Throughout there are excellent quotes from engineers, scientists and historians giving fantastic insight into their thoughts." (Engineering and Technology, June 2009)

"The Dawn of The Electronic Age is easily one of the most interesting books I have read in some time." (BlogCritics, June 2009)

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