Watching an old episode of BBC’s Coast on DVD I came across the story of Major WS Tucker and his sound mirrors, built in some numbers in the ’20s and early ’30s along the south coast as an early warning system of incoming enemy planes. They were relatively sophisticated parabolic reflectors, which concentrated the sound and also enabled direction to be estimated. They were rendered redundant by the development of radar, and Tucker, apparently, was retired early and instructed to dismantle the mirrors. He didn’t completely comply.
And in a strange way, he had the last laugh; the organisation developed by Tucker to manage and respond to the incoming information was taken over wholesale by the radar teams – a reminder that the social and management systems that are developed around technologies are as important as the technology itself.