More Than Material Goes Into Consumer Products

Suppose, in our imagination, we take this radio apart. Suppose we take all the pieces out of the wooden box we call a cabinet. Now, you could call in a good cabinetmaker and say, "Jim, can you make a cabinet like that for me?" He'd answer you, "Of course I can. For about five dollars." You could say to another fellow, "How much can you make that pin for?" He might say, "Oh, about a dime."

Then you look at all the parts on the table. Someone had to make every piece in the set. If you checked only the weight of the material, you'd probably find the radio could be bought for forty or fifty cents a pound. But you can't buy a radio the way you buy a pound of meat. That material isn't all you bought. You bought something else. You bought that intangible something which, when the parts are all put together, makes it work. That something which makes it possible for you to hear the announcer say, "This is London calling."

When you bought that radio you bought the combined knowledge and experience of every great electrical scientist from Michael Faraday on down to the present. You also bought the results of endless experiments and the ideas of thou-sands of inventors.

That is what is housed in that cabinet along with so many pounds of material - that intangible some-thing which goes into every product - that something which is priceless.

To illustrate how priceless it is - let us suppose there was some force that could take radio away - could completely wipe out radio in the world. What would it be worth to have a group of men rediscover and redevelop that intangible something? The something which makes it possible to take a few pounds of material and a few hours of work and with it be in contact with almost any place in the world.

As purchasers, we see the finished article - the automobile, the radio, the telephone, the airplane or the Diesel locomotive. But how did they come about?

You have heard a great deal about science, research and engineering. But for every experiment that has been a success, there have been thousands of failures, much discouragement and sleepless nights. Long hours have been spent in just thinking about and experimenting with these developments. If that work had not been done, man would not be flying. We would have no electric lights, no motorcars, nor could you now be listening to this great orchestra.

So the thing that really started and maintains progress in the world is man's ability to think, and his dissatisfaction with things as they are. That is the intangible motive power which makes for human progress.


Kettering describes the intangible element that goes into a the construction of a radio, the scientific know-how, the blood, sweat, and tears of invention.

Folksonomies: invention innovation standing on the shoulders of giants

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United States dollar (0.936788): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Electricity (0.855310): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Experiment (0.835960): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Diesel engine (0.817601): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
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Thing (0.744117): dbpedia
Locomotive (0.693999): dbpedia | freebase

 The Intangible in Human Progress
Audiovisual Media>Audio Recording:  Kettering, Charles F. (1942-1945), The Intangible in Human Progress, Science and Invention, Retrieved on 2011-08-29
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: science invention human progress building on ideas standing on the shoulders of giants