The programmable logic controller : its prehistory, emergence and application

Walker, Mark John (2012). The programmable logic controller : its prehistory, emergence and application. PhD thesis The Open University.



Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) are widely used devices controlling industrial machines and processes and many other diverse applications, requiring primarily, combinatorial logic and sequential control. The PLC is a hidden technology, little known by the general public and overlooked in academic historical studies of technology. The research reported in this thesis aims to address this lack of awareness. The thesis explores the development of sequential and combinatorial logic control technologies, the emergence of the PLC, its subsequent development and its industrial applications. Patents and first- hand accounts and experiences from senior industrial engineers in a number of diverse manufacturing industries have been used as the primary research sources since, as a hidden technology, academic historical accounts are sparse. This approach illustrates, through using the PLC as an example, a potential method of studying other, unrelated hidden technologies. The research has revealed the influence of geography, industrial settings and earlier engineering practices on the design, selection and application of PLC control technologies, and comments on the how these influences define specific communities of practice.

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