Henry Ford: The richest tinkerer in history

Written by By P A, a.k.a. Thomas from U.S., T. A., C., Q. of Sydney and ., ., M. from L.A. The above image was originally published in The Hackstock Report/From Cixi.

A car that fit in a lot is not just about how big you are; it’s about how small your thinking is, how organized your thinking is, and what makes you tick. The minute you buy a car or a motorcycle you get what they’re like when you live within your means. For one thing, you’ve saved a lot of money upfront to pay for them. Secondly, you don’t have to fly around with a flat tire or find a gasoline tanker driver to fix it if you have a Ford Model A, for example.

The first car in which a human being was able to drive was made by Henry Ford in 1911. Its name was the Model A, which was also followed by Models A through B. It wasn’t until 1965 that Ford switched over to aluminium bodies for its pickup trucks, which evolved into the pick-up/SUV boom of the late 1960s and the mid-1970s.

Ford Motor Company, in C. Dixon M.. Smith’s book “A Machine Revolutions: The Betrayal of the Future,” wrote that the car-carrot revolution that took place under Ford from the 1900s to early 20th century had had almost precisely the same economic and political effects as a similarly sweeping technology revolution, the tinkerer revolution. The Tinkerer Revolution is a technical term denoting the sweeping industrial change initiated in the late 19th century by tinkerers across the globe, who on the one hand used their know-how to develop new technology such as iron and steel, but also brought to the world, in 1903, electricity and the automobile itself.

What drove Henry Ford, the tinkerer, to design a car that fit in his garage? The answer lies in how he felt about industrial society, the first of a series of key concepts introduced in this article, which I believe have widespread relevance in the present day. For Henry Ford, part of being a tinkerer was being a techno-optimist. He felt that due to technological developments emerging all around him, something had to happen in a business. He felt a business, in this case Ford, had to reinvent itself, or get left behind, or move onto something else. In a world where technology was advancing at a rapid pace, every business had to reinvent itself.

Henry Ford drove the Model A home to the Ford factory in Dearborn, Michigan in 1911 with young Henry Ford Jr. behind the wheel, and in this photo Henry Ford and his wife Clara stand outside the factory listening to an employee sing “Sixteen Tons.” Credit: Raymond Miller via© Library of Congress, Intl. Library of Congress

Henry Ford was a tinkerer, and this idea applies to almost all tinkerers of the early 20th century. For tinkerers, achieving success would be largely defined by the ability to survive and not become too successful. Each tinkerer knew the importance of not being happy with the status quo. (And also because of this, tinkerers of that era rarely used customer feedback; if you walked into a shop and felt that the possibilities were endless, you were probably good.)

Of course, not all tinkerers worked for large companies; even Henry Ford was briefly a tinkerer as a child growing up in Detroit and later working at a factory that manufactured parts for railroads. “His act of derring-do will rank alongside Ford’s super-capitalist dreams as among the most inspirational misadventures of an industrial genius,” wrote businessman and self-described tinkerer Chet Young in 1969 in The Journal of Industrial Revolution Analog Devices.

The first was an unconventional way of escaping poverty, the second a revolutionary way of industrializing, and the third was the epoch-defining technological revolution that changed the course of human history, transforming the world from 19th century to 21st century industrial society. In reality, Henry Ford’s first tinkerer history was: All these things happened, but nothing happened for me because of it.

A few hundred years later, this is still the whole goal: Tinkerers who find themselves knocking on the doors of potential investors and business owners looking for a “ripe” idea need to stay hungry. Stay hungry and “harvest the revolution.”

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