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Extra info for Computers: Information Technology in Perspective (9th Edition)
Technology, once a means of production, is becoming a chemistry. In attempting to come up with a theory of technology, our first challenge will be to see if we can say something general about it. It is not clear a priori that we can. Hydroelectric power, the process of plastic injection molding, and beekeeping, to choose three technologies at random, seem to have nothing in common. But we will see in the next chapter that technologies do share a common logic in the way they are put together. And this will tell us much about how combination has to work, how technologies come into being, how they subsequently develop, and how they evolve.
The first will be the one I have been talking about: that technologies, all technologies, are combinations. This simply means that individual technologies are constructed or put together—combined—from components or assemblies or subsystems at hand. The second will be that each component of technology is itself in miniature a technology. This sounds odd and I will have to justify it, but for now think of it as meaning that because components carry out specific purposes just as overall technologies do, they too qualify as technologies.
How Technologies Are Structured I want now to come back to the question I posed at the end of the last chapter. Do technologies—individual ones—share any common logic? In particular, do they share any common structure in the way they are organized? The answer, as I said, does not look promising. Nevertheless, we shall see shortly that technologies do share a common anatomical structure. Technologies in this regard are like some category of animals—vertebrates, say. Vertebrates differ widely in their anatomical plans and outside appearance; a hippopotamus looks nothing like a snake.