Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Friday, February 24, 2017



In a world where people are constantly being divided by race, religion, orientation, political views, cola preferences, etc... It is comforting to know there is one item that will always unite our planet: Our love of iPhones! Incredibly, Apple sold its billionth iPhone two years ago, and will soon pass the two billion mark. Here's the crazy part: The billions of iPhones are all made at the same factory. Wow! History is being made in China. However, there have been numerous times in human history when a new product storms onto the market and mesmerizes the planet. Here are five such products and their amazing factories:

Foxconn Assembly Plant, Zhengzhou. Twenty years ago, the city of Zhengzhou was just like the others in Henan Province: impoverished. Then, the government in Beijing announced it was selected as a site for a new venture. A state-of-the-art factory was built along the polluted shores of the Yellow River. Today, they employ over 200,000 people who churn out 600,000 phones every day. To do this, Foxconn operates 100 assembly lines that work 24/7. The international company stays mum when asked questions about salaries, hours and working conditions.

Cambridge University Press, England. Let's go back 600 years to another time Earth went bonkers over a new communication device: The Book. (For our younger readers: A book is sheets of paper with writing on them bound together on one edge.) Hand-written books have been around for centuries, but things changed dramatically when Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440. Now everyone could have one! A century later, King Henry VIII commissioned the construction of an enormous publishing house. For the next 300 years, it churned out a million Bibles and the world lined up to purchase them.

Ford's Piquette Plant, Detroit. When this factory opened in 1908, there were less than 200,000 automobiles in the USA. The horse & buggy still ruled our roads. Then the Model T was born. Using an assembly line that only made one type of car (in one color: black), they managed to make a car for everyman. See, it cost just $2,000 ($18,000 in today's dollars) to purchase one. The automobile love story began. By 1924, it would produce 10,000 Model T's everyday. A short three years later, American tastes changed. Other companies sold cars painted different colors. The last Model T rolled off the assembly plant in 1927.

Royal Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth. Another innovation of Henry VIII was the establishment of the world's largest shipyard. Henry knew his rivals in Spain and Portugal were building bigger and better boats and wanted England to compete. His wisdom would pay off thirty years later. These modern warships would defeat the galleons of  the Spanish Armada in 1588. This would usher in a period of insane construction in Portsmouth, producing flotillas of massive oceanic vessels. Royal ships would visit every corner of the globe, leading to the phrase: "The sun never sets on the British Empire."

General Electric Plant, Boston. Nothing symbolizes American ingenuity more than Thomas Edison's invention of the light bulb. People were excited. They quickly discarded their dangerous kerosene lanterns and began using this amazing, new invention in their own homes. To serve the overwhelming demand, Edison and associates established a company. General Electric was one of initial twelve to debut on the newly-created Dow Jones in 1898. (And the only one that survives today). The combination worked, and GE produced billions of bulbs, thus lighting up the world. However: Nothing lasts forever. The last standard incandescent light bulb built in the USA was in 2010.

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