Disintermediation

By way of Making Light this marvelous essay on printing. In high school we took a field trip to the New York Times. The Linotype machines were in the next room. Hot, dangerous. In that room you were right at the narrow point in the bottleneck. The throat down which all that journalism flowed thru on it’s way to my parent’s breakfast table. The danger, the hot lead, the diversity of specialized crafts seemed entirely appropriate. Disintermediating these bottlenecks certainly triggered a mess of displacement.

I see that Comdex is dead. Another intermediary who’s time is passed. There was a time when Comdex was the hub of the computer industry; the place were buyer and seller would meet. The folks that ran Comdex used to be able to charge everybody. They would charge the sellers, the buyers, the hotels, the venues. Lots of power at the bottleneck.

When electronic type setting came along the unions negotiated a contract that assured jobs for their children. I wonder what the Comdex guys got; if anything.

Braudel’s marvelous History of Capitalism reports that in the middle ages seasonal fairs would emerge and grow huge and specialized. Villages in France would be entirely turned over to trading some good, horses for example, for a week or two a year. The entire of Europe’s horse industry would descend on the town. And then mysteriously one year or over a period of just a few years it would stop. Some other way for the buyers and sellers of horses to find each other would displace the market fair. I’ve watched that happen to MacWorld, Comdex, Sears. I wonder if it will ever happen to eBay?

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