Money Beats Efficiency For Innovation Every Time

August 22, 2012

by — Posted in Personal Writing


The other day Boing Boing posted an article titled – How The Refrigerator Got It’s Hum.   The information in the post is gathered from an article written in 1985 in a technical journal  The article is about how the electric humming refrigerator managed to beat the natural gas-powered silent refrigerator to lead to the world we have today.

I was aware natural gas-powered refrigerators existed, but it always seemed an unnecessary luxury item to me.   I also was not aware that these ran silently.   The article goes into the early inventions of refrigerators and the acceptance of them into the general population.   Natural gas refrigerators didn’t have the backing of a gung-ho electric company.  They also were built by companies that didn’t have the same deep pockets for marketing.  This all leads up to where we are today with an appliance that is probably more costly to run and is not completely silent.

The interesting thing is the other inventions that had a similar fate included in the article.   The ones that stood out are whole house vacuum cleaners, home composting straight from the garbage disposal, and chemical toilets.   All of these things still exist, but it seems we are just now rediscovering them.  The green age could have started over a hundred years ago.    Americans were just taken in by the marketing of the electric company stating their items were better.

Imagine if all homes in American today including home composting and chemical toilets.   How would the culture change if these items had been standard for our whole lives?   Another option was home based incinerators, yet with the pollution problem – I’m not sure this would be a great thing in the market today.

While most the piece is based on the invention of refrigerator and the expansion into the consumer market in the twenties and thirties, it is quite interesting.    If you have an extra fifteen minutes you should check it (original link is below).   You can also sit and question, what might have been?

To read the original article click here. You will need to rotate the PDF clockwise.

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