Virulent Word of Mouse

October 24, 2011

The Wi-Fi Journey

Behind every successful technology lie many quirky stories showing how it grew like a teenager or barely averted disaster. With the passage of time, most of those stories fade into obscurity or, at best, become parts of verbal explanations accompanying countless resumes. The few events that find their way into public discourse, if any do at all, normally get stripped of context and nuance, losing the contours that actually mattered to those who participated.

Perhaps that’s why those who developed Wi-Fi decided to write a collective memoir, bringing much to the fore that would otherwise fade. What the world today calls Wi-Fi began as experiments with wireless LANs, and became embedded in IEEE Standard 802.11, and only then did it explode into a plethora of products and services. Every stage involved numerous quirky events and lessons.

The resulting book, The Innovation Journey of Wi-Fi: The Road to Global Success (Cambridge University Press, 2010), involves almost a score of contributors, including many influential voices in the Wi-Fi world. For a certain kind of reader, this is a great book. Are you that kind of reader? Let’s find out. (more…)

April 3, 2010

Everyday Items and Induced Innovation: the Winter Tomato

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Capturing and creating value,Essays — Shane Greenstein @ 7:32 pm

Let’s discuss tomatoes in winter. Not just any tomatoes. Focus on the big juicy ones that seem out of season when they appear at the grocery store in January. Customers that suffer through the short days of winter pay a little bit more for them — it feels good to taste spring a little earlier.

Ever wonder how those tomatoes got there? They could not be grown nearby. The freezing cold would kill them. So how do they get there?

An article in the New York Times explained it for the east coast. Tomatoes grow in greenhouses in Maine. The article is very nicely written, and though it is not advertised as such, it explains many facets of demand-induced innovation.

Such juicy illustrations do not come along every day, so this one is worth some trouble. It is also enjoyable to use an everyday item like tomatoes to illustrate a deep point about innovation.

Many innovation junkies might have missed the article. The Dining and Wine Section featured it. That section aims its articles at at foodies, not techies. Of course, some techies are foodies, but many are not and would just skip the article altogether without a thought.

Ah, but I have a weakness for innovation with everyday items. Perhaps you do too. Let’s see what the article said.


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