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am 25. Januar 1999
When I saw this book listed as number 13 on the Amazon bestsellers list for General Science, I felt compelled to warn others about this book. The only merit to the book is that the author provides some interesting information about the history of Post-It notes, paperclips, tableware and such--THAT'S ALL! The style of writing is rambling and redundant. The level of detail in places is enough to bore the most die-hard fan of this topic. At times, I wondered if this book was even proofread by anyone before being published. The author does not do a very good job of making a case for his theories about design--and it is simplistic case to begin with. I normally find merits to almost every book I read and with this one it was difficult. This is the only 1 star review I've ever submitted. Only buy this book if you are an absolutely die hard fan of the topic of design or the history of everyday items. If you do buy it then don't even think about reading it before going to bed--unless you have insomnia. The tragedy is that the topic could have been very interesting and entertaining. The author obviously has the necessary subject matter expertise.
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am 11. Oktober 1998
Things get improved because in their current form, they do not work properly. Henry Petroski's book, The Evolution of Useful Things, traces the development of objects in our everyday life, including detailed histories of the development of the staple, the zipper, silverware, and hand tools. The book is interesting, although Petroski does tend to shy away from offering a theory of development, and instead offers a conjectures about how things might have developed. He explains, but he does not offer a theory or an argument that explains everything. Overall, though, a goos book, well researched, well illustrated, and interesting on many levels.
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am 10. Mai 1999
Petroski introduces some wonderful and introducing ideas about the develop and baroque-ing of ordinary objects, as well as illuminating the whole notion of "things" that seem self-evident after they were invented. Okay, the man needs an editor. Please, someone, convince him. His book The Pencil suffers from the same needless and enormous repetition. Both books could have been 1/2 to 1/3 of their sizes and been enormously improved. His saving grace is his solidity of research and his interesting ideas.
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am 20. August 1997
Although the subject is fascinating, I did not like this book very much at all. First of all, it contains far too few illustrations. Not like I need a picture book, but the book is *about* how things look. In fact, at one point the author mentions that a device is clearly depicted in a (presumably famous) painting, but then fails to show it to us! To compensate, he attempts to use highly descriptive language. However, the word choices are often obscure and the sentences difficult to parse. In any case, variations on the saw (for example) are easier to show than tell. He also exaggerates the properties of inventions to bolster his arguments. For example, although weaker than tin cans, modern aluminum cans are hardly "collapsible cream puffs" (p.190), while the chapter on the evolution of silverware would have you believe that eating something without its dedicated fork variant is practically
impossible.

The "message" of this book is that the statement "Form follows function" is false, and that it should be, "Form follows failure". He means that the current form of an object is determined by analysis of the failures of previous forms. Yet the revised form is determined by the function of the object, so this seems to be merely a rewording of the original saying. As he elaborates, it becomes increasingly clear that the issue is semantics, not the process of engineering.

This book would be greatly improved if the author had left out the weak "moral", stuck to the history of the inventions, and replaced many of the long descriptions with diagrams.
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am 24. August 1998
Henry Petroski uses many examples to drive home REPEATEDLY his points that Irritation is the Mother of Invention, and that function doesn't dictate form. His presentation is convincing, and I enjoyed his discussion of the evolution of the paperclip. By the time he got to the trials of inventing the zipper it had begun to drag.
Of course it does take multiple examples to prove a point. But my real objection to the book isn't what it includes, but what it leaves out. Irritation may be the reason many inventions get started, but Mr. Petroski leaves out all mention of why they get finished, the sublime joy of coming up with something new and actually seeing it work.
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am 27. Juli 1999
If you like to read the fine print in contracts, you'll find this book interesting. If you're a fan of "How Things Work" and similar titles, steer clear of this snoozer.
The book should have been a pamphlet reading "form follows failure." I'd be interested in getting an electronic version of the book to find out just how often that phrase is repeated, it must appear fifty times per chapter.
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am 29. Juli 1998
Ok, although it's true this book has very few illustrations, I strongly recommend it to industrial designers. Even if Petroski can't forget his engineer point of view, he has written good material here. After reading Donald Norman, you should give this book a try. (Ok, and after Giedion, Munari, Alexander, etc)... but do read it!
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am 19. Februar 1998
This book contains snipets of information about the development of everyday items. Is generaly easy to read and informative, but it could have been better.
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am 4. Februar 1998
There is a lot of interesting information and many good insights buried in this book. But I only recommend it to speed readers or the truly determined.
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