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Advanced ManufacturingThe New American Innovation Policies$
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Willian B. Bonvillian and Peter L. Singer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780262037037

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262037037.001.0001

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The Backdrop: Manufacturing’s Economic History

The Backdrop: Manufacturing’s Economic History

(p.15) 2 The Backdrop: Manufacturing’s Economic History
Advanced Manufacturing

William B. Bonvillian

Peter L. Singer

The MIT Press

This chapter provides an overview of the critical developments in U.S. production history. It begins with the lessons from James Watt's famous “walk on the Green” of Glasgow. The chapter then turns to the nineteenth-century interchangeable machine-made parts paradigm in the United States, nurtured through early War Department technology policy. This technology advance escalates through the nineteenth century into the snowstorm of true mass production, leveraging the scale advantage of the world's first continent-sized market. The story then turns to the defense innovation system. The defense innovation system subsequently birthed the foundational technologies behind the information technology innovation wave that evolved through the second half of the twentieth century. Importantly, this defense innovation role, which had its roots in production, by the mid-twentieth century had shifted almost exclusively to technologies, not the production systems behind them. This innovation/production disconnect had dramatic subsequent effects on U.S. manufacturing.

Keywords:   U.S. production, James Watt, interchangeable machine-made parts, technology policy, mass production, defense innovation system, information technology, U.S. manufacturing

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