You might not ever get rich
July 2, 2001 3:48 AM   Subscribe

You might not ever get rich ...but let me tell you - it's better than digging a ditch.
Larry Downes in The Standard on the saga of the Suez canal and the 'long-now' view of the Internet.
posted by blackbeltjones (9 comments total)
 
This is good. one of the best links ive seen. At first it looked like another long-winded "impossible dream" story....but. The parallel is better then one (I) thought of(Not sure if my analogy had been put into the net, so not sure if it is mine) The canal analogy is good. Looking at the net in 94-95, and relooking at 2001, much has changed. In American Heritage(almost all mags for that matter) the advertisements for a 1994 issue has no web sight info. none. today your local video store has a site.(im holding out for the scratch and sniff software) I liken this industry to the heedy days of the auto(1901-1945) i'm sure analogies have been drawn between the auto and internet(computers in general) but each piece of data about financial and mechanical progress in the early auto seems to fit in with internet and it's problems. I drive past a house Charlie Nash owned for a spell(next door to the two-story brick office building that was the first H.Q. of General Motors) We lost our empire but i still look at that house and think of a man who stuffed cushions for buggys and went on to be one of the captains of industry. You can see the sweat in his portrait(enter corny soundtrack) and that building still stands, a secret to most. As a kid, my father met Preston Tucker(his machine shop was about 25 miles from where my dad was apprenticed) in Jackson MI. he recalls the surety of the man and his product. The dream oozed from him and he inspired many kids. It was the adults who told Tucker no. We need more articles like this one. Articles that keep you (and your pioneers in your own right) hopeful.
posted by clavdivs at 6:58 AM on July 2, 2001


> ... Preston Tucker (his machine shop was about 25 miles
> from where my dad was apprenticed) in Jackson MI. he
> recalls the surety of the man and his product. The dream
> oozed from him and he inspired many kids.

Sounds like John DeLorean. What on earth was cool about Tucker? He was just the umpty-umpteenth guy trying to do an automotive manufacturing startup, about 50 years too late for the U.S., and his product differed from everyone else's in ways that weren't significant. Sure it had the engine in the rear, but it was still a great big thudding engine driving a great big thudding overweight 1940s-American style tank, I mean car.

At the same time Tucker was failing, quite a number of Japanese and European companies were doing automobile-manufacture startups that succeeded, with a design model that really was significantly different: itty-bitty, low weight, high mileage runabouts. The automotive future belonged to the VW Beetle and its siblings and no amount of inspiring personality or believing-in-the-dream was going to change that.

Is there an application of the historical parallel here? I'd say there is, and it's that basing www profitability plans on magazine-style subscriptions and/or magazine-style ad sales is on all fours with building yet another two-ton car in 1948. Not revolutionary, and not gonna work.


> We need more articles like this one. Articles that keep
> you (and your pioneers in your own right) hopeful.

Hopeful for who, your grandchildren? If it takes the www 50 years to become profitable, like the canal, and the www has been around (we'll be generous) 10 years, then you'll need a day job flipping burgers until 2041. If you're 25 now, you'll be 65...
posted by jfuller at 7:52 AM on July 2, 2001


Hopeful for who, your grandchildren?

Did the Wright brothers profit more from their work than the CEO of United Airlines does now? Thinking in terms of a pure cost return is precisely the kind of short-termism that fuels boom-and-bust.
posted by holgate at 8:02 AM on July 2, 2001


> Did the Wright brothers profit more from their work than
> the CEO of United Airlines does now? Thinking in terms
> of a pure cost return is precisely the kind of short-
> termism that fuels boom-and-bust.

Wonderful example. The Wright brothers had basically zero in the way of a business plan for making money off the flyer. They did the aeronautic development work for fun and supported themselves (and the flyer) off their day jobs, first a printing company and then a bicycle sales/repair/manufacturing concern.

Just exactly the way the web should be run...
posted by jfuller at 8:28 AM on July 2, 2001


I don't know if it's my euro-socialist tendencies or the fact that Aneurin Bevan is a welshman, but there's something about ridiculous, doomed to lose money, socially responsible projects which gives me a warm glow inside.

Some things can't be priced in dollars and cents
posted by fullerine at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2001


head or gut. i like the head. After W.W.II this countries citizens were tired and wanted new cars(none were built for commercial use for several years during the war. The Tucker was called the Tin Goose. Yeah, nothing earth shaking in innovative tech. (four wheel suspension, popout windsheild, a neato yet unpractical head lamp, disk brakes?) The first autos had rear engines, tucker thought this should be the way the power train should work. Tucker went against the Big 3 and that is worthy in-it-self. They destroyed his ideas because the re-tooling would cost them millions. Noone wanted to drive some compact car after the war. They wanted style and power. The VW is probably the worlds greatest auto as far as engineering is concerned (air-cooled?- genius) We had a 68' VW wagen, the first car i drove(steered really). AND the u.s. gave the Europeans a boost to produce cars again. The japanese? go read your history. They owe there industrial infra-structure to us, their ingenuity and work ethic made the cars a success(not until the 60's and 70's). The magazine analogy is an example how these companies did not see websites as important enough to put on the advertisements. Grant you it was far reaching but non-the less true. If the 3 really wanted safety and innovation, they would have done it then Advertised it. G.M. (billy durant) almost bought Ford(twice) the only reason he did'nt was that the bankers would not pony up so much cash for an industry that they thought had no immediate future. Tucker was a good guy for standing up to the big 3, losing and still going on with it. He was designing cars up until he died. The net will explode in about 2 years and you, well tell your grandkids. (thanks for the career tip and the math lesson though i'm 34.)
posted by clavdivs at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2001


I like "the head" too...
posted by fullerine at 8:39 AM on July 2, 2001


as a sideline. The new super crays cost what, 100M$. Peanuts. G.M. has a die that stamps hoods that cost over a billion. Automotive Infrastructure outdistances the computer field in my view. When we can drive as much computer as car, then i will be completely impressed.
posted by clavdivs at 8:54 AM on July 2, 2001


Grrrrrrrrrr..... Goddam, this is close to plagarism. Just take a different canal by the same engineer.
posted by ed at 1:22 PM on July 2, 2001


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