Megan Prelinger, "Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age" (Norton, 2015)


Megan Prelinger's beautiful new book brings together the histories of technology and visuality to ask the question, "What cultural history of electronics can be extrapolated from a close look at the associated graphic art?" Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age (W. W. Norton, 2015) treats the commercial and advertising art of the mid-twentieth century as an archive to explore the social and cultural engagement with electronics technologies during a particularly vibrant moment for the American graphic commercial arts. Incorporating text and image as sources to be read, Prelinger's book moves from the beginnings of FM technology and vacuum tubes, to televisions and quartz crystals, to transistors and circuit boards, to digital computing and into space. Of special interest is the attention Prelinger pays to to the importance of graphic designers and staff artists at major labs and research centers. The book models an innovative and inspiring way to read graphic images as historical documents, and the story is a pleasure to read for specialists and non-experts alike.

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