[LINK] GE Announces Advancement in Incandescent

Stewart Fist stewart_fist at optusnet.com.au
Thu Mar 1 14:34:01 AEDT 2007

Jan appears apologetic, when she doesn't need to be

> I agree as to general development of the concept of
> industrialisation, but we were talking about the electrification
> roll-out. That's what he systematised and industrialised as several
> other linkers have pointed out. I didn't mean he developed the entire
> construct. Sorry if I wasn't clear. Henry Ford, on the other hand....

The Americans often appear to be exaggerating their inventiveness,  But this
is partly because of an insularity in education until recently.

However, in their defense, the founding fathers (mainly Jefferson) had the
sense to devise a patent law system that encouraged invention, instead of
obstructing it.  In England and Europe, patents had hardly evolved past
being a form of priviledge granted by the Kings.

In my opinion the American system went too far - it allowed patents to be
issued (or perhaps really interpreted by courts) for the 'telephonic
carriage' of voice, rather than just for a device which generated
'undulating waves of electricity' (the microphone). This wider
interpretation created something close to a monopoly in the USA, and made
for endless court battles when they tried to extend into Europe.

But if you look at the extraordinary flourishing of inventions, and the
consequent rapid development of US industry in the 1800s, it was almost all
due to the ability of the working class kids like Edison to gain some
protection for their ideas, fairly cheaply, and then become very wealthy.

That didn't happen in England.  Patents were only for the wealthy, or for
working-class people like Watt who managed to find wealthy backers (Boulton)

The fact that American inventors then became ruthless and driving
entrepreneurs had both good and bad consequences. Cooke and Wheatstone in
the UK couldn't get anything done with their (stolen from the Germans)
telegraph invention, while Morse (who was an idiot, but had political
muscle) managed to dominate the telegraphy business.

 But we should recognise that for most of a century, Americans outstripped
the rest of the world in inventiveness and in industrialisation.  And we
should give them their due.  Edison was the tallest of the tall poppies in
this group.  

Ford was also a brilliant mechanic, and an even greater businessman in a
time of trusts in everything from oil to railroads.  He reallised that
assembly line processes could be used to make cars -- and he realised that
this could only happen if he made them cheap enough so that they could be
built in quantity.  He didn't invent either cars or assembly lines, but all
'inventions' are congregations of old ideas, so in this sense he invented
modern car making.  And he invented a car that all of us can afford.

I don't think Australians can afford to be critical when we can only boast
about the stump-jump plough, the Hills hoist, and Victa lawnmower.

Stewart Fist, writer, journalist, film-maker
70 Middle Harbour Road, LINDFIELD, 2070, NSW, Australia
Ph +61 (2) 9416 7458

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