20 People Who Changed Tech: James Watt
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User Rank: Apprentice
3/18/2013 | 7:48:12 PM
re: 20 People Who Changed Tech: James Watt
Absolutely the Industrial revolution was what started the, though unbeknownst to the inventors at the time, the computer age as well. It is the invention of interchangeable parts and assembly lines that makes having computers for everyone a possibility. I would love to see what that steam engine looked like and how big it was and imagine how out of place it must have been in 1776. It also sounds as if Watt was responsible for shaping many of todayG«÷s industries.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 10:49:53 PM
re: 20 People Who Changed Tech: James Watt
It's hard to know where to begin.

Indeed the German chemical industry was founded on synthetic dies (the 'A' in "BASF" is for "anilin") but the knowledge and skill required was imported to Germany from aristocrat-infested Britain where the first aniline dyes were developed. And this was in the 1850's, by the way.

But enough about your mischaracterization of British science and engineering. Your materials science is poor, too. Iron, certainly the kind available to Watt, was not in most respects a superior engineering material to bronze. It is more brittle than bronze (notoriously so), less hardwearing, more prone to corrosion. It's only merit, at the time, was that it is very, very cheap.

By the way, Watt and Boulton mainly leased their engines to the operators of tin and coal mines. In the mid-to-late 1800s already Britain was tending to import iron ore.

And so on. Really, I would expect a professor at MIT to have done better research than this. And I would expect InformationWeek to do some fact-checking (and run your article through a sub-editor).

There are some very good points to be made about the symbiotic relationship between technologists and business people. You don't make them. There are some very good points to be made about the different cultures of investment that hold in different places and times and the effect they have on technology. You don't make them. And so on. I hope the rest of this series of articles improves after this poor start.

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