The City: The Last Switch

In popular imagination, the 20th century metropolis is an indestructible giant —all those skyscrapers and subways, all that steel, stone and glass, all that raw, corpuscular power. But the modern city, New York included, is really a huge, rubbery shell. In the dead of night it collapses just like a deflated balloon, and each morning it is pumped back to life again, not with air but electricity. As little Reddy Kilowatt—the power companies' coy public-relations name for juice —swarms all over town, subways scuttle, elevators shoot, lamps light, machines sew, write, add,...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!