Reviewed by Chelsy Scherba for Reader Views (06/21)
“Encountering Technology” by George Gerstman will take you on an intriguing journey through eighty years of innovation. Televisions, radios, computers, cellphones, telephones, even credit cards have evolved very quickly over the last several decades. Mr. Gerstman offers a unique perspective of technology from its origins to the present day. He not only used the majority of the tech he describes, but throughout his law career, he also helped inventors patent their ideas and protect their intellectual property rights.
I really enjoyed reading about all the ways technology has evolved since the 1940s. Mr. Gerstman describes every item with great detail; from the way it looks to how it operates. I especially loved seeing the black and white photographs and illustrations of the technology on nearly every page. Although this book is his personal encounter with technology, Mr. Gerstman is quite impressive with the amount of history and encyclopedic knowledge he has about the subject. Computer users in the past had to sit through dial-up, text only screens, and use html to design a website. I was honestly amazed to see how well the author took to coding and designing websites at age fifty, during the dawn of the personal computer. But then, Gerstman is a natural; he’d been using those huge computers with the blinking lights and programming them since the 1950s!
I also enjoyed learning new things about the technology that was being used before my time. I had no idea that kids in the 1940s were still using ink wells to write! It seems like ballpoint pens have been around forever, so this tidbit really surprised me. I also loved revisiting the VHS tapes, camcorders, and Polaroid cameras that I saw during my childhood. Technology often moves too fast for me; still, I enjoyed seeing the documentation of the progression of technology over the years, and just how much has changed for the author since he was born.
There really was so much fascinating information and technology to see and read about; I can’t even describe it all. I learned a lot about so many things I take for granted today. I didn’t realize Amazon started out just selling books. I also learned how to get a better score on a mechanical pinball machine, and that a digital clock display used to be a really big deal. I never thought about the origins of credit cards, so I found it very interesting to see photographs of what credit cards looked like before they really came into their own. Shoe stores also used to use x-rays to sell shoes!
Mr. Gerstman is really insightful; his personal knowledge and the descriptions of the technology he used are enjoyable to read and study. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes technology, history, and hearing a few fun personal stories. The author has a warm tone, enthusiasm for his subject, and in my view, he has compiled a unique historical book about technology that few people would fail to enjoy.