Did ‘piracy’ help create the 19th century textile industry?

January 26, 2014

(National Park Service)

Here at The Switch, we like to get your feedback -- particularly if it's thoughtful and constructive. So every week, we compile some of the best comments on our stories from the past seven days.

When Andrea Peterson wrote on Monday that another Yale student had come up with a brilliant course-ranking alternative to the university's own system, reader mwashington2 said the student should be applauded:

Sweet! This is a stellar example of the direction that web-related development is going. If anything, Haufler should get some kind of academic recognition from the school's Computer Sciences dept. or whatever it may be called. In the private sector, this kind of innovative development would earn a promotion and raise at the least.

Meanwhile, my post on hydrogen fuel cell cars kicked off a long and fruitful discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of hydrogen gas. The whole thing is worth a read, but here's reader Yoshi taking on the high cost of producing hydrogen:

Why no mention of how much energy it took to obtain that hydrogen? While fuel cells have been around since 1839, the main drawback is the "upside-down" equation of separating and concentrating the hydrogen. It takes a lot more energy to get the hydrogen than it produces (upside down). We make about one-tenth the amount for industrial purposes that would be required were we to power cars with it. Most is produced from Natural gas. Using dirty energy to make clean energy doesn't help our pollution problem.

Finally, a recent guest post by James Bessen looked at what early textile technology could teach us about innovation and the future of American jobs. In response, reader DV Henkel-Wallace pointed out that Francis Lowell's tactic to bringing the loom to the New World would look very familiar to some today:

Don't forget: the construction of the power loom was a state secret in Britain. Lowell didn't just happen to see the mills in Britain, he went deliberately for that purpose, and memorized the design because taking notes was forbidden.

Without "piracy" the mill would not have come here (nor would the words of Dickens which weren't protected by copyright in the US either)

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecom, broadband and digital politics. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.
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