The Way Things Work

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The Way Things Work
Way things work.jpg
Book cover for The Way Things Work
Author David Macaulay
Neil Ardley
Country United States
Language English
Genre Educational
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Publication date
Pages 400
ISBN 0-395-42857-2
OCLC 17917341
600 19
LC Class T47 .M18 1988

The Way Things Work is a 1988 children's book by David Macaulay with technical text by Neil Ardley. It is an entertaining introduction to everyday machines, describing machines as simple as levers and gears and as complicated as radio telescopes and automatic transmissions. Every page consists primarily of one or more large diagrams describing the operation of the relevant machine. These diagrams are informative but playful, in that most show the machines operated, used upon, or represented by woolly mammoths, and are accompanied by anecdotes of the mammoths' (fictive) role in the operation. The book's concept was later developed into a short-lived animated TV show (produced by Millimages[1] and distributed by Schlessinger Media), a Dorling Kindersley interactive CD-ROM, and a board game. A family "ride" involving animatronics and a 3-D film based on the book was one of the original attractions at the San Francisco Metreon, but closed in 2001.

The New Way Things Work[edit]

A newer version, The New Way Things Work, (released on October 26, 1998,) contains additional text on the workings of computers and digital technology. It also lacks two pages of the first edition; both of which demonstrated the working of a mechanical coin-operated parking meter.

The Way Things Work Now[edit]

A substantially revised edition, The Way Things Work Now, has been published in October 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Dorling Kindersley.

Table of Contents for The New Way Things Work[edit]

Part One—The Mechanics of Movement

Part Two—Harnessing the Elements

Part Three—Working with Waves

Part Four—Electricity and Automation

Part Five—The Digital Domain

  • Making Binary digits
  • Storing Bits
  • Processing Bits
  • Sending Bits
  • Using Bits/Digital Systems
  • Epilogue

Eureka!—The Invention of Machines

Technical Terms


Publishing history[edit]


  1. ^ "Television - THE WAY THINGS WORK". 18 November 2008. Archived from the original on 18 November 2008.