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Eggatron

Of the more unexpected examples, there is the Eggatron. In 1962, a scientific journal announced “an electronic device, inevitably called the ‘Eggatron’, records … data in such a way that [it] can be fed directly into an electronic computer.”[1] In essence the Eggatron was a digital counter that recorded when an egg was laid—the result being recorded on paper tape readable by early generation computers—in an effort to breed hens that laid more than a single egg per day, as per nature dictated. The journal credited the conception of the Eggatron to Dr. P.J. Claringbold of Sydney University’s Veterinary Physiology Department, while its actual design was the labor of Dr. Rathgeber of the Physics Department. Importantly, the device linked biological data to computation, and it was large, centralized computer control systems were the heart of all cyclotronic and phytotronic facilities. In addition, the development of a tron required cooperation with another scientist, significantly a physicist. But most of all—indeed, the most damning fact of all—the declared inevitably of a technoscientific object named with the suffix -tron. 

To understand that strange period of peace lined by imminent nuclear annihilation called the Cold War we need to appreciate the "inevitability" of calling your electronic egg counter an eggatron. The embodied symbol of the suffix -tron signals the centrality of modernism to postwar science, namely that technology would solve social problems and that scientists became technologists to master both nature and society. Notably in the life sciences, modernist trons speak of an era that demanded control, be it control over nature, control over populations, or ultimately control over minds and thoughts, and put its hope for that control in technology. Trons evince a people that sought security and salvation in machines and systems. 

[1]. ‘The Eggatron,’ Rural Research in CSIRO 41 (1962): 36.

david munns