Almost any part of a technical complex will point to and symbolize a whole series of relationships within that complex. Take the various types of writing pen. The goose-quill pen, sharpened by the user, is a typical eotechnic product: it indicates the handicraft basis of industry and the close connection with agriculture. Economically it is cheap; technically it is crude, but easily adapted to the style of the user. The steel pen stands equally for the paleotechnic phase: cheap and uniform, if not durable, it is a typical product of the mine, the steel mill and of mass-production. Technically, it is an improvement upon the quill-pen; but to approximate the same adaptability it must be made in half a dozen different standard points and shapes. And finally the fountain pen – though invented as early as the seventeenth century – is a typical neotechnic product. With its barrel of rubber or synthetic resin, with its gold pen, with its automatic action, it points to the finer neotechnic economy: and in its use of the durable iridium tip the fountain pen characteristically lengthens the service of the point and reduces the need for replacement. These respective characteristics are reflected at a hundred points in the typical environment of each phase; for though the various parts of a complex may be invented at various times, the complex itself will not be in working order until its major parts are all assembled. Even today the neotechnic complex still awaits a number of inventions necessary to its perfection: in particular an accumulator with six times the voltage and at least the present amperage of the existing types of cell. (Mumford 1934:110)
MUMFORD, Lewis. 1934. Technique and civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.