Hummingbird effect in innovation: Air conditioning

elite-airconditioning-commercial-units-1920x1080

Before the air conditioner was invented, keeping rooms cooler was a tedious near impossible task.

One way to keep rooms cooler then was by selling snow blocks in cold countries to hot countries so that folks at hot countries could use them to keep themselves cooler.

A Boston entrepreneur, Frederic Tudor began carving blocks of ice from New England’s frozen lakes in winter, insulating them in sawdust, and shipping them to warmer countries for summer.

This was a profitable business for almost 100 years.

Air conditioning as we know it began in 1902, and it started as nothing to do with human comfort.

The workers at Sackett & Willems Lithography and Printing Company were frustrated with varying humidity levels when trying to print in cooler.

The printing process required the same paper to be printed four times in four different colours.

If the humidity in the room changed between print runs, the paper would slightly expand or contract, making the printout to look awful.

The company then asked Willis Carrier who worked at a heating company, to come up with a solution to keep the room temperature controlled at all times.

Willis devised a solution of circulating air over coils that were chilled by compressed ammonia maintained the humidity at a constant 55 degrees.

Willis took his invention and targeted other areas that hosted a lot of people such as theatres.

At the time before the air conditioner, theatres were shut down for summer, because they were stifling hot, and nobody wanted to see a play in extremely hot theaters.

It is not hard to imagine why: no windows, human bodies tightly packed, and before electricity, lighting was provided by flares that gave off heat.

The hummingbird effect of what started as a solution to one industry [colour printing], because a huge solution to another industry [theatres, computer rooms, offices, our homes]

Innovation has a way of assuming a life of its own.

What started as one thing for a particular sector, evolves into something else for another sector.

Someone comes up with a new technology to solve a problem, but the solution also has an effect on seemingly unrelated fields.

While sitting in your office during summer, being stuck in traffic in your car, or watching a movie, remember that the cool temperature you feeling came from a solution to a printing problem, somehow that solution found its way to where you are now.

One thought on “Hummingbird effect in innovation: Air conditioning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s