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Power Button

Power Button: A History Of Pleasure, Panic, And The Politics Of Pushing


A look at the origins of an American button-pushing society and the illusion of effortless control at the touch of a finger.Push a button and turn on the television; tap a button and get a ride; click a button and like something. The touch of a finger can set an appliance, a car, or a system in motion, even if the user doesn't understand the underlying mechanisms or algorithms. How did buttons become so ubiquitous? Why do people love them, loathe them, and fear them? In Power Button, Rachel Plotnick traces the origins of today's push-button society by examining how buttons have been made, distributed, used, rejected, and refashioned throughout history. Focusing on the period between 1880 and 1925, when technologies of the hand proliferated (including typewriters, telegraphs, and fingerprinting), Plotnick describes the ways that button pushing became a means for digital command, which promised effortless, discreet, and fool-proof control. Emphasizing the doubly digital nature of button pushing as an act of the finger and a binary activity (on/off, up/down) Plotnick suggests that the tenets of precomputational digital command anticipate contemporary ideas of computer users.Plotnick discusses the uses of early push buttons to call servants, and the growing tensions between those who work with their hands and those who command with their fingers; automation as automagic, enabling command at a distance; instant gratification, and the victory of light over darkness; and early twentieth-century imaginings of a future push-button culture. Push buttons, Plotnick tells us, have demonstrated remarkable staying power, despite efforts to cast button pushers as lazy, privileged, and even dangerous.



  • Condition: --
    HPB condition ratings
    • New: Item is brand new, unused and unmarked, in flawless condition.
    • Fine/Like New (F): No defects, little usage. May show remainder marks. Older books may show minor flaws.
    • Very Good (VG): Shows some signs of wear and is no longer fresh. Attractive. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
    • Good (G): Average used book with all pages present. Possible loose bindings, highlighting, cocked spine or torn dust jackets. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
    • Fair (FR): Obviously well-worn, but no text pages missing. May be without endpapers or title page. Markings do not interfere with readability. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
    • Poor (P): All text is legible but may be soiled and have binding defects. Reading copies and binding copies fall into this category. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
    Conditions Guide
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Sold by: --
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Mit Pr
  • ISBN-13: 9780262038232
  • ISBN: 0262038234
  • Publication Year: 2018
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HPB condition ratings
  • New: Item is brand new, unused and unmarked, in flawless condition.
  • Fine/Like New (F): No defects, little usage. May show remainder marks. Older books may show minor flaws.
  • Very Good (VG): Shows some signs of wear and is no longer fresh. Attractive. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Good (G): Average used book with all pages present. Possible loose bindings, highlighting, cocked spine or torn dust jackets. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Fair (FR): Obviously well-worn, but no text pages missing. May be without endpapers or title page. Markings do not interfere with readability. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
  • Poor (P): All text is legible but may be soiled and have binding defects. Reading copies and binding copies fall into this category. Used textbooks do not come with supplemental materials.
Conditions Guide
HPB condition ratings
  • New: Mint condition or still sealed (SS). Absolutely perfect in every way. New.
  • Fine/Like New (EX): No defects, little sign of use, well cared for. Plays perfectly. Close to new. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. Could be an unopened promotional or cut item. Sometimes called: mint-minus.
  • Very Good (VG): Will show some signs that it was played and otherwise handled by a previous owner who took good care of it.
  • Good (G): Attractive and well cared for, but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, scuffing or scratching, but will play almost perfectly. For vinyl: barely detectable crackles or pops.
  • Fair (FR): This item is in okay condition. For vinyl: good is not so good and the record may have low level crackles or pops when playing. CD: one or more tracks may skip.
  • Poor (P): Obviously well-worn and handled. Most vinyl collectors will not buy good or below, but some tracks on CD or vinyl will play.
Conditions Guide
HPB condition ratings
  • New: This movie is unopened and brand new.
  • Fine/Like New (EX): Near new. No defects, little sign of use. Plays perfectly. Not necessarily sealed or unused, but close. No skipping; no fuzzy or snowy frames in VHS.
  • Very Good (VG): Attractive and well cared for but no longer fresh. Minor signs of wear, but will play almost perfectly. For VHS: barely detectable distortion or very few fuzzy or snowy frames.
  • Good (G): This item is in okay condition and basically works well. There may be some minor distortion on VHS tape; slight scratching or wear on DVD.
  • Fair (FR): Basically plays, but may be obviously well-worn with some scratching or tape distortion.
  • Poor (P): Disc or tape is intact, but may be scratched or stretched. There may be skips or distortion or product defects.
Conditions Guide
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