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The Technological Bias in the Establishment of a Technological Regime: the adoption and enforcement of early information processing technologies in US manufacturing, 1870-1930

Andreas Reinstaller () and Werner Hölzl ()

No 13, Research Memorandum from Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT)

Abstract: This paper presents a qualitative study on the adoption of early information technologies, such as typewriters, calculators or Hollerith machines in US manufacturing in the period between 1870 and 1930, which was by all means a true systemic innovation. Our empirical work is guided by a theoretical framework in which the theory of induced innovation is interpreted along "classical" lines in which an explicit link to the concept of technological regimes is established. We show how the presence of a distinct bias in technical change in US manufacturing led to the opening of a window of opportunity for early information technologies. We work out how the presence of this bias influenced the technological search and adoption process of firms and how this found its final reflection in the rules and heuristics of the regime, as well as the technological trajectories of the technologies. The reliance on established practices led organisation designers to cast the logic of large scale manufacturing into the administrative organisation of firms. This required the convergence of technical practices. The resulting technological trajectories and path dependencies were the outcome of the diffusion and the hardening of the early office work regime. Our analysis of US manufacturing data of the period suggests that even though electrification and "bureaucratisation" overlapped they cannot considered being the result of the same pattern of technology adoption, identified by the development of the capital-labour ratio.

Keywords: economics of technology (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2001
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