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Original Edison Electric Light Sign | by davidflanders
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Original Edison Electric Light Sign

Clive gave this to me (I think he found it in the British Museum when he was a London bobby?), which I felt was a priceless piece of ephemeral: demonstrating the fear people had of the "new technology" called "electricity". Perhaps much like our fear of mobile phones or even of the internet itself.


This image also reminds me of this passage in Friedman's book "The World is Flat":


In the pathbreaking 1989 essay, “Computer and Dynamo: the Modern Productivity Paradox in a Not-Too Distant Mirror,” the economic historian Paul A. David explained such a lag by pointing to a historical precedent. He noted that while the lightbulb was invented in 1879, it took several decades for electrification to kick in and have a big economic and productivity impact. Why? Because it was not enough just to install electric motors and scrap the old technology – steam engines. The whole way of doing manufacturing had to be reconfigured. In the case of electricity, David pointed out, the key breakthrough was in how buildings, and assembly lines, were designed and managed. Factories in the steam age tended to be heavy, costly multistory buildings designed to brace the weighty belts and other big transmission devices needed to drive steam-powered systems. Once small, powerful electric motors were introduced, everyone hoped for a quick productivity boost. It took time, though. To get all the savings, you needed to redesign enough buildings with small electric motors powering machines of all sizes. Only when there was a critical mass of experienced factory architects and electrical engineers and managers, who understood the complementarities among the production line, did electrification really deliver the productivity breakthrough in manufacturing, David wrote.


(ctrl C&V from here)


Paul A. David's research paper here.



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Taken on January 22, 2007