Volume 14, No. 2
April 2002

Mercurial Matters

SHOT 2002 in Toronto

Graduate Student Bonus

Survey of Local TV History

News of Mercurians and their Projects

Citizens (Band) of France Unite!

Printing a Revolution?

The End of Books

Reading Red Ochre: Parting Thoughts on Mixed Receptions

Dishing It Up: Really Big Antennas

Journal Announcements

Communications Under the Seas

Contact Us

mercurians back button


News of Mercurians and Their Projects

David C. Arnold, Major, USAF, is just about to complete his dissertation at Auburn University, “Supporting New Horizons: The Evolution of the Military Satellite Command and Control System, 1944-1969.” He concludes that, like every large technological system, military or civilian, the Air Force Satellite Control Facility evolved because of the interaction of human beings with technology. The Air Force Satellite Control Facility did not simply turn out the way it did because the technology evolved autonomously. The U.S. Air Force purposefully built the Air Force Satellite Control Facility to support the National Reconnaissance Program. The Air Force Satellite Control Facility had a unique relationship with the National Reconnaissance Office, a secret organization that the government officially concealed into the 1990s. In the special relationship between the National Reconnaissance Office and the Air Force Satellite Control Facility, one sees a social construction of technology at the behest of a particular interest group most clearly revealed. Therefore, this dissertation will show the Air Force Satellite Control Facility evolved as a social construction, according to the Hughes model, solely to support satellite-based reconnaissance.

Richard F. Bellaver, with John M. Lusa, published Knowledge Management Strategy and Technology in January (Boston: Artech House, 2002). This resource details the techniques needed to identify, manage, control the flow, store, and share access to information. Utilizing real-world case studies and in-depth discussions, the book suggests ways to develop strategies for implementing programs to employ the power of knowledge, to create systems to make knowledge readily available throughout organizations, and to prepare directory systems that provide a source for locating and interacting with knowledge workers and automating the sharing of knowledge. The goal is an effective knowledge management policy that addresses technological, organizational, and process factors.

After retiring from AT&T, Bellaver became associate director of the Center for Information and Communication Science, Ball State University. He teaches courses in the history of information and communications, telecommunications management, strategic planning for information systems, human factors in technology, and knowledge management.

Hugh R. Slotten’s Radio and Television Regulation: Broadcast Technology in the United States, 1920-1960 has been getting some great press of late (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000). A rave review in the American Historical Review (February 2002) includes phrases like “absorbing features” and “powerful documentation.” Similarly, an online review for <EH.Net> in March, praised Radio and Television Regulation for its “detail about the nature and importance of the input provided to the Radio Commission and the Federal Communications Commission by engineers and the numerous disagreements among engineers and between them and non-engineers and the reasons for this conflict.” Technology & Culture’s review (January 2002) lays out Slotten’s “central thesis [which] is that broadcast policymaking is shaped by a tension between what he calls technocratic and nontechnocratic perspectives.” Mercurian Christopher H. Sterling also gives Slotten a positive reading in the Journal of American History (March 2002), emphasizing the “interplay between industry and government officials” evinced throughout the cases. Slotten focuses, in his own words, “on the intersection of technical issues and the social, political, legal, and economic components of decision making.” In examining the introductions of AM, FM, and television, both monochrome and color, he hopes to help “illuminate the complex interplay between technical issues and such fundamental concerns as monopoly concentration, patent structure, and control of information.”

Congratulations to Aristotle Tympas for completing his dissertation, “The Computer and the Analyst: Computing and Power, 1880s-1960s.” This study of the historical relationship between electrification and computation focuses on the computation of the transmission part of an electric power network, which was the defining component of what came to be known as “power analysis.” Power analysis was determined by the tradeoff between the pursuit of increased social profit by the lengthening and interconnection of transmission lines and the corresponding decrease of technical instability. Tympas divides the period under consideration into three sub-periods, and he finds that computing the stability of electric power transmission during these sub-periods was marked by the development and use of the artificial line, the network analyzer, and the mainframe electronic computer respectively. Other computing artifacts were used as well in power analysis, some quite extensively (slide rules), others relatively little (calculating-tabulating machines). Within a scheme of expanded reproduction of the capitalist mode of computing production, there existed continuity—ideological, political, economic—during the transition from local to regional and from regional to interregional electric power networks. Tympas studied under Steve Usselman at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received fellowships from Georgia Tech, the IEEE, the Hagley Museum and Library, and the Smithsonian. He currently teaches at the Business School, University of the Aegean, Chios, and in the Political Science and History Department, Panteion University of Athens.