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Ian Hunter

Traditional ways of harvesting grain - a man wielding a hand sickle cd harvest an acre a day. Then the scythe strapped to man's shoulders lifted it to two acres a day. In American Midwest millions of acres of potential farmland needed less labor intensive methods. Robert McCormack on a 500 acre farm in Virginia, tried for 16 years to get a working horse drawn harvester. When he gave up, his son Cyrus came up with a design of his own, using revolving blades and a vibrating knife. In 1831 he used it to harvest 6 acres of oats in a day. Patented it in 1834 and by 1847 built a factory to cope with demand. But the big breakthrough came when he sent a reaper to the 1851 first world fair in the Crystal Palace Hyde Park London. At first the British press were condescending about the usefulness of the colonial offerings, but when McCormack demonstrated that his machine could harvest 20 acres of wet grain in a day, they declared that it was worth more to the British economy than the cost of the entire exhibition.

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Isaac Singer started out repairing early sewing machines. But realized room for improvement. First made it foot-treadle powered so that operator could have both hands free to control fabric. Then added an overhead arm to give fabric more room to move. But he also addressed a more fundamental problem - although many people wanted the machine, they couldn't afford the $125 it cost. So he set up early HP - every month a man collected instalments, listened to customer's comments, and solved any problems. McCormack did the same thing. In both cases the inventor and the customer realized that the machine would quickly pay for itself. The inventors could have just stopped there and assumed that because he had a worthwhile product, the customer would find a way of buying it. Instead, in each case the inventors thought like their customers, and figured out how to remove the bottleneck.

Frank Hornby, the father of Meccano, got inspiration from looking at industrial crane which wa basically just a set of girders. Imitated on a small scale. The difficulty was in popularizing the new toy. So 1903 offered a big prize and a Meccano exhibition competition. That was a big success which he followed up by launching a specialist Meccano magazine featuring kid's designs and projects. In 1920, Hornby wind-up trains, 1934 die-cast cars and trucks Dinky Toys.

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