DIY fun through the centuries…. Mike | July 28th, 2008

User innovation is a hot topic online and we pay close attention to it. We have always thought that the cS model was an incarnation of this type of open innovation and are proud to number ourselves among the open-source, mashup, DIY, and UGC crowds.

People innovate. We can’t help ourselves – it is in the DNA of human-kind and has been a deep-seated part of what makes us human beings. This is not unique to the internet age – there are great examples going back through history. For instance, we know that early peoples learned from one another’s inventions, tinkered around with them, bettered them over time, and shared the knowledge openly for the benefit of all. Just take a look at how spear points evolved and you get a good idea about the flow of knowledge in a broad “community.” This graphic shows the evolution of Paleoindian points over 2,500 years.

Almost a hundred years ago we saw another great burst of creativity, this one centered around the Ford Model T. I am not talking about Henry Ford’s creativity. We all know the story of how he “invented” the production assembly line after visiting a slaughterhouse and witnessing how beef was processed. I am talking about what normal people (“users” in internet-speak) did to their cars once they let their imaginations take over. One of the beauties of the Model T was its simplicity. Just about anyone could repair one and just about anyone could change one. The body of the Model T was designed such that by removing a few bolts the entire body could be removed or replaced. This modular design allowed owners to let their ideas and their creativity take over. So cool….

A power plant

A stationary power plant

A police wagon

A police paddy wagon

a mobile chapel

A mobile chapel

An ad for a tractor kit

A tractor “kit”

A fire truck

A fire truck

An army ambulance

An army ambulance

An omnibus

An omnibus

A sporty roadster

A sporty roadster

A farm turck

A farm truck

A snowmobile

An early snowmobile

A tow truck

A tow truck

A grain mill

A grain mill

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  • shubho_roy

    Great article, Mike! This reminds me of some strange “user innovations” that occur everyday especially in developing countries. Once it was reported that washing machines are a huge hit among Punjabi roadside restaurants (we call them Dhabas here in India). A brief investigation revealed that those dhaba-owners have found out the best way of making lassi (a traditional Punjabi drink made by blending yogurt with water and spices) in large quantities: using washing machines as giant blenders! You just never know…

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