GRAVESTONES ON THE FAMILY plot in Pennsylvania (at left) confirm that my bloodline was on the ground for two interesting innovations one century apart. In both cases, it took some time after the new technologies were introduced before the economic benefits became apparent. In the 1880s in my hometown, it was electricity. Although electrical machinery became widely available in the 1880s, several Lancaster factories were built the old way: multistory buildings with machines crammed into narrow spaces, a design evidenced in ther Straffen Steam Museum where a big steam engine in the basement runs shafts and pulleys all through the factory. Mr. Guinness has three of those engines pumping away in his steam museum. It wasn't until after WWI that businesses started building expansive open-plan factoried with room to shift materials around. In my hometown, that meant factories on the edge of town and new housing developed miles from town centre.
One century later, the same thing happened with information technology. The microprocessor was invented when I was in high school, personal computers hit the market a decade later and offices still ran on carbon paper. By the mid-80s, dedicated word processors gave way to personal computers and secretarial pools disappeared. By the mid-90s, businesses got networked and a whole new level of productivity lifted economies. I wonder if a magic button in the terms of business producitivity waits in the wings for our depressed economy today.
Sent mail2blog using Nokia E90 Typepad service on a free and open wifi node in Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland.