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The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition … is … the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.

Adam Smith

Creole technology

Software production has got worryingly complicated, in large measure the result of applying standard strategies of industrialisation – divide and simplify – to what more often might be treated better as a craft.

In the vast workshop districts of Ghana, known as ‘magazines’, motor vehicles from the industrialised world have for decades been adapted and refitted for rugged African conditions. They can be maintained indefinitely in this new state, using only simple parts, a sophisticated improvisation that Edgerton calls ‘creolisation’. ‘At dusk,’ he writes, ‘bright intermittent light from welding illuminates streets all over the world, issuing from maintenance workshops which might also make simple equipment.’

From “A Place for Hype”, Edward Tenner’s review in the London Review of Books 10 May 2007 of The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 by David Edgerton

Crafts are characterised by deep study and practice, small teams and relatively simple tools, well understood. The smartest programmers I know work alone and with a simple text editor and a OS console. What are the rest of us missing?

  • software
© 2003-2020 Stephen Taylor
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