Three mini-essays on innovation, plus kids with horse sense
When it was new technology, I would seek out gas stations that let you pay at the pump. Faster, safer, and you don't wind up smelling like chicken grease. Apologies to my uncle, who pumped gas, checked oil, and cleaned windshields for a living.
Similarly, I gladly use self-checkout at stores because it's significantly faster. At Walmart, at least, the checkers I put out of work now fill internet orders. So all you guys who do curbside pickup, you're welcome.
I had to laugh at the gas pumping story. My mother drove until the age of 90 and never pumped her own gas. When Illinois legalized self-serve gas, she got my dad to keep her car running. After he died when she was 86, I asked her what she was doing about gas. She said, “Oh, I just stand there at the pump looking befuddled, and some nice person always volunteers to help me.”
I dug up a "chicken in every pot" ad for this post: https://vpostrel.substack.com/p/synthetic-meat-the-reaction
Gas is now a commodity. Some businesses don't get that if you have clean restrooms, well stocked stores, customers will go to your store. And with discount reward programs you can pay less than the posted price for gas. With "fringe" benefits you will go out of your way to buy gas, in my neck of the woods Sheetz usually has pretty clean restrooms, free air for your tires. BP gives 15 cents off per gallon if you have their credit card. I am envious that I don't live near a Buc-ees. When the petroleum companies were more vertically integrated they had company stores which were usually well-run, the independent convenience stores that sell gas are of variable quality today.
Regarding innovation, I wish a well-informed correspondent would explain to me why IBM's competitors beat them to one innovation after another. Their graphical interface, Topview, lost to Microsoft's Windows. Their PCjr was a flop. IBM passed on the chance to buy the rights to Lotus 1-2-3 so Mitch Kapor marketed it himself. Their PC-XT and AT computers were briefly successful but lost out to the Apple MacIntosh. IBM ceded the laser printer market to Hewlett-Packard. Compaq, not IBM, produced the first portable personal computer. Toshiba instead of IBM produced the first practical laptop. Digital Equpment's VAX set the standard for minicomputers and IBM lost the workstation market to Sun Microsystems. How did IBM get out-innovated by so many competitors?
Re-read . Still love it.