Birth of Production Control
Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road was not a book about the birth of computerised production planning, but the emergence of new types of knowledge is used as a metaphor.
‘Just such a piece was now in production, designed specifically for the NAPE conference: a brief, straightforward sales message entitled “Speaking of Production Control.” As the branch manager would see, this document relied on no slick format, no fancy artwork or advertising jargon to tell its story. Crisply printed in large, easy-to-read type, in black and white, it had all the immediacy of plain talk. It would “give the NAPE delegate nothing more or less than what he wants, colon: the facts.”
After putting a new belt in the Dictaphone machine, he leaned back again and said “Copy for Veritype. Heading: Speaking of Production Control, dot, dot, dot. Paragraph. Production control is comma, after all, comma nothing more or less than the job of putting the right materials in the right place at the right time, comma, according to a varying schedule. Period, paragraph. This is simple arithmetic, period. Given all the variables, comma, a man can do it with a pencil and paper, period. But the Knox ‘500’Electronic Computer can do it-dash-thousands of times faster, period. That’s why …”
“Coming down for coffee, Franklin?”
“I guess not, Jack. I better finish this thing.”
And he did finish it, though it took him all morning. Fingering through the papers from the central file with his free hand, lifting a sentence here and a paragraph there, he continued to recite into the Dictaphone until he’d explained all the advantages of using a computer to coordinate the details of factory production. It sounded very authoritative when he played it back (“Once the bill of materials has been exploded,” he heard his own voice saying, “the computer’s next step is to scan the updated parts inventory”). No one could have told that he didn’t quite know what he was talking about.’
Excerpt from “Revolutionary Road”, Richard Yates, 1961.