Daniela Rosner, University of Washington
Samantha Shorey, University of Washington


This workshop uses a moment in engineering history to examine craftwork’s intellectual contribution to innovation—how craftwork becomes hardware manufacturing and hardware manufacturing becomes craftwork. During the Cold War, magnetic-core memory was the principal mechanism with which computers stored and retrieved information. The Apollo mission computers stored information in core memory ropes—threaded wires, passed through or around magnetized metal rings. NASA engineers nicknamed this hardware “LOL memory” for the “little old ladies” who carefully wove wires around the electro-magnetic ferrite cores by hand. Drawing on this weaving process, participants in this workshop will create a collaborative quilt made up of core computing memory “patches” to re-materialize the work of the core memory weavers. The participants will be given “patch kits” comprising a simple metal matrix, beads and conductive threads (in place of ferrite core and wire). Plugging the patches into the electronic quilt triggers the quilt to play firsthand accounts of 1960s core memory production while sending tweets via our @lolweavers account. By collectively weaving core memory patches, the workshops explores the contributions of embodied, gendered forms of knowledge that allow innovators to imagine new ways of making, remembering and performing engineering histories. Beyond filling gaps in histories of innovation, the project uses craft to imagine our relationships to technology afresh, with its intersections of theory and practice, activism and understanding, and intervention and insight.

      

 

Daniela Rosner is an assistant professor at the University of Washington.