Sunday, January 27, 2013

Early Adopters Pay a High Price

The Return, A Steve Dancy Tale is an unusual Western because Dancy and his friends go to New York City to make a business call on Thomas Edison. Those who have read Murder at Thumb Butte know what Dancy wants from the Wizard of Menlo Park. 

What struck me during my research was the aggressiveness of entrepreneurs when a new technology emerges. This seems to be a constant throughout our country's history. From this distance in time, we think Edison invented the light bulb and everybody bought this miraculous device from him. Not true. Just as in the early days of personal computers or during the dot-com craze, there were an untold number of start-ups vying for customers in every city in America. It was chaos.

The reason for the overhead rat's nest in the above photograph is that each company had to string their own wires. (This photo was taken to show the effects of a snow storm, not the wiring mess. Sky-blocking wires were considered normal.) 

In each new phase of the computer revolution, thousands of company jumped into the field, but they were soon ruthlessly trimmed to a few giants. The same thing happened with electricity. In less than a decade, most of these unsightly wires were gone from New York City. A single supplier had been chosen. It eventually became known as Consolidated Edison, or Con Ed.

You might also like Dueling Entrepreneurs.

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