The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artefacts - from Forks and Pins to Paperclips and Zippers - Came to be as They are by Henry Petroski (Paperback, 1997)

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Throughout the book familiar objects serve to illustrate the general principles behind the evolution of all products of invention and engineering. Petroski shows, by way of these examples as well as a probing look at the patent process, that the single most important driving force behind technological change is the failure of existing devices to live up to their promise.