Introductions -- Restless Device Podcast

Dave Unger's picture

Hi All!

To continue the round of introductions, I thought I'd say 'hello.' My name's Dave Unger, and I have a history and philosophy of technology podcast called Restless Device. You can find it at, or by searching on iTunes or with any podcatcher.

A little bit about me: My PhD is from Harvard in the history of science, and I work in museums and public history. These days I'm at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle.

About Restless Device: The tagline is, "a podcast about extraordinary technology." In each episode I spin out a bit of the story of a technology that seems especially evocative. So far I have episodes about perpetual motion, the Lisp programming language, and 3D printing, and I'm planning future episodes about stage magic, kinematic diagrams, precision agriculture, and cryptography. In each episode I try to explain the basics of how the technology works, tell some part of the technology's story, and explore some things the technology might say about larger issues. I'm trying to pitch all of it to a general audience. The episodes are pretty research and production intensive, so it takes a while to do each one. I'm hoping to settle out to about 6 episodes per year. Not great for audience building, but it is what it is.

I'm glad to have a chance to connect with other folks working on podcasts. I imagine we're all more or less figuring it out as we go along. It'll be great to compare notes and give and recieve feedback on the work. I'd love to hear what folks think of my work, and I'm looking forward to hearing what you all are up to.

Until soon!
Dave Unger
Restless Device Podcast


Hi Dave,

I finally got around to checking out Restless Device, and it is exquisite. I listened to all 3.5 episodes back to back this morning after an early morning drive to the airport and want to share a couple of thoughts:

  • I really like your use of music to tell the stories, like the pulsating ambient tune on the perpetual motion machine episode and the way that you use different music each time to set the tone. And I was thrilled to learn about the Free Music Archive. What a fantastic resource! I'm throwing this up under the Resources & Tips section. (I hope others will contribute links to similar resources by posting to the network or replying to this thread.)
  • More generally, I am enjoying the narrative structure in these early episodes a lot: the way that you don't skimp on the technical descriptions, but nest them within sections about the larger questions and ideas they raise, and then cushion them with music and pauses in the narration. With the perpetual motion machine episode, for example, the description of why perpetual motion machines are impossible according to the laws of thermodynamics is followed, after a dramatic pause that sounds like a whirring machine, by discussion of the kinds of worldviews the longing for such machines accompanied. (I would likely assign this in an art history survey that dealt with the 19th century.) Or with the Lisp episode, how descriptions of  the Lisp programming language morph into discussions about the connection between computers and how people learn, and then how those ideas have been adopted in science teaching standards. It's pretty elaborate storytelling. Would you say that the process is similar to researching and writing an academic paper? Could you share something about your process in building these episodes?

You also mention that you are a public historian working at a museum. I wonder, are you producing these on your own, or as part of your job? I'm looking forward to future episodes!



Hi Yelena,

I'm glad you enjoyed my podcast, and thank you for the kind words! Very encouraging. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't gotten to Art of the Review, yet. It's next on my list!

Yes, Free Music Archive is amazing. I lose hours to listening through stuff. I've also found some good stuff at Are a lot of other resources out there for "podsafe" music, but I haven't used them yet.

I started out trying to match up the rhythm of the speaking with the music. I added in all of these little pauses. It took forever. Then I ended up turning the music way down in the mix for most of the episode. Good practice with Audacity, I suppose. Now I listen to the music for a while before I record, then it's kind of in my ear and I find myself kind of talking in the right rhythm.

For process, for me, it is basically like writing a paper, though it's all a bit looser and more impressionistic. That's partly because of time-- since I'm jumping around topics and not travelling to archives, there's only so deep I can go. The difference is also in my own process. I wanted to do the podcast as a way to do some initial exploring in areas that I'm curious about. I think some of this stuff will lead to longer more involved research projects. For others its just nice to scratch the itch. I'm recently playing with adding another layer of blog posts to start thinking pulling together even earlier and more partial thoughts.

I do end up writing a whole script and reading it. I've experimented with talking extemporaneously, but I can't get that to work. Some how it sounds even less natural than reading. There are some episodes I'd like to do as conversations, but I've been having trouble wrapping my head around how to get that to work. I'd love to hear about how people manage that process and end up with something coherent.

I started Restless Device when I was between jobs (as they say). Now that I'm working again, I've decided that, for the time being, I want to keep it as a personal project. I really like not having to answer to anyone, or align it to a strategic plan :). That said, it is hard to fit the work into nights and weekends. Maybe someday I'll figure out a way to spend more time on it.

Anyway, I'd love to hear from other folks: How do you think about the relationship between your podcast and other sorts of work/output? How do you prepare for recording? Do you write scripts or just notes?