Retrotech: Lofting and Machining Components for the T-38 Supersonic Trainer, 1958


A participant writes about the early days of numerical control machining and also discusses how definition of complex aircraft shapes was done prior to the computing era.  Imagine the labor intensiveness of that process, which descended from traditional shipbuilding techniques but surely required a much higher degree of precision when applied to aircraft production.

A Bendix G-15 computer was used for the NC work described at Northrop, with paper punched tape as the communications medium between the computer and the machine tool.  There is a Bendix G-15 at the American Precision Museum in Vermont, along with many machine tools and other interesting exhibits–see my post here.  Recommended visit for those interested in the history of technology.

The Social and Economic Influence of AI and Robotics

…some historical precedents.

There is currently much discussion of the impending effects of artificial intelligence and robotics on employment, the economy, and our society as a whole. (here, for example)  I think it’s useful to look at some historical precedents, always keeping in mind the caution that ‘past results do not guarantee future outcomes.’

Peter Gaskell’s book Artisans and Machinery is about the effects of the industrial revolution, as seen by a contemporary observer.  I reviewed and excerpted it here, along with some much later commentary by the British writer and scientist CP Snow.

My post Attack of the Job-Killing Robots (three-part series) is a 30,000-foot view of the history of automation over the centuries and of some resulting automation panics.

Your thoughts?