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Dallas
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How we got to now is both a book and a video series on PBS that trace how past inventions took us to the modern age.

How harvesting ice in New England in the 1700's and the Inuits eating habits in the early 1900's led (on a convoluted path) to the election of Ronald Reagan.

How Galileo's observation of light fixtures in a Cathedral led to GPS systems and computers

and much more.

With all the steps in between.

A few of the videos are expiring in 2-3 days (sorry, just heard about it yesterday) so take a look, its really very interesting.

http://video.pbs.org/program/how-we-got-now/
 

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An excellent series along these same lines was James Burke's Connections and its several sequels. All are available on YouTube.
 
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