Extraordinary Ordinary Objects

Image of a green calculator
Deceptively modest inventions

“To live is to count and to count is to calculate.”  But before we plugged in the computer to express this ethos, we pulled out the pocket calculator. It became a monarch of mathematics that sparked a computing revolution. But it’s not the only deceptively modest innovation that changed how we work and live. Find out how sewing a scrap of fabric into clothing helped define private life and how adding lines to paper helped build an Empire. Plus, does every invention entail irrevocable cultural loss?


  • Keith Houston – author of “Empire of the Sum: The Rise and Reign of the Pocket Calculator.”
  • Hannah Carlson – teaches dress history and material culture at the Rhode Island School of Design, author of “Pockets: An Intimate History of How We Keep Things Close.”
  • Dominic Riley – bookbinder in the U.K.

Featuring music by Dewey Dellay and Jun Miyake

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