Most revolutionary new technologies follow a similar evolutionary path from utility to fashion.
When the automobile was first mass produced in the early 1900s, it was practically impossible to use and literally impossible for most people to purchase. It was horribly underpowered by any comparative standard except the horse. For the first thirty years or so, the car slowly improved in style, power, and comfort. Each new model was principally defined by its technological improvement–slightly better performance, more comfortable interior, or lower cost. By 1935, the car was more or less feature-complete. By then, the entire Oldsmobile line had electric starters, comfortable transmissions, and a well-sealed passenger cabin.
It was in the mid 1940s that something remarkable happened: buyers of cars transitioned from focusing on features–like horsepower and suspension design–to exterior...
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