The Business Art of Science


Megan Prelinger's Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age (W.W. Norton) is simultaneously a pop-science walk through the wondrous gadgets that human command of electrons produced in the 20th century; a history of the industries that brought them to us; and the story of how advertisers copping high-art techniques taught Americans how to understand and use cathode ray tubes, quartz crystals, transistors, circuit boards, computers, and bionic technologies to expand the human sensorium across the globe and then off it.

From the Renaissance on, artistic energy often drifts to where the money is. This book shows tech advertising is often as meaningful, beautiful, and even avant-garde as any fine art. And it shows art and technology moving in lockstep toward "dematerialization": As circuits shrink, conceptual and electronic art in turn moves beyond the grossly physical, signaling our power to do more and more with less and less.