Sunday, January 30, 2005

Cheaper, Faster, Better

Pick two. Or so the old business bromide goes. You can have any two attributes at the expense of a third. Every once in a while, something comes along that is so revolutionary, so original in concept that this “law” is shattered to bits.

Chester Carlson worked on perfecting Xeroxgraphy for over twenty years. When it went on the market in 1960, it was so much faster, cheaper AND better than any other method of copying that it changed this office procedure forever. The current world has a lot of new products, but instead of cheaper, faster, better, they are just different. Marketing usually drives change, not any true innovation. Pick a new technology - Digital Photography? It is getting better, the new Canon 16 meg camera is said to have "film resolution". It costs $8000 for the body alone - plus computers, hard drives, archiving, cost of hard copy ($8000 equals about 400 rolls of film WITH processing, prints AND CDs ). DVDs? They have a bit higher resolution, are much cheaper to make (but not to buy) and are very fragile (and will be obsolete in about 4 years). TVs? The high end ones are so expensive that the midline ones at ONLY $1000 start to look like bargains. Still no standards, you will end up buying another box. Audio? Mp3's are the dominant new format, and are definitely a step backwards in quality, and even legal downloads are somewhat pricey. Cars? Faster, yes -certainly not cheaper or better (worse gas mileage). Computers seem to be the exception to this - they definitely have all three bases covered - (but not the software to run them.)

So it seems that not every advance is all that it is touted to be. And Chester Carlson'’s invention? It is estimated that over 500 copies per every person in the world are made each year by Xeroxgraphy (laser printers use the same basic technology.) That's not bad for a 45 year old invention that was turned down by many major corporations as ‘unnecessary and impractical’.

By Professor Batty


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