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May 4, 2003

The Internet Craze of the 1940s

Am a few chapters into Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and am intrigued at the similarities between the internet craze of the 1990s and the fast food wars back in the late 40s:

Entrepreneirs from all over the country went to San Bernardino, visited the new McDonald's, and build imitations of the restaurant in their hometowns.

America's fast food chains were not launched by large corporations relying uplon focus groups and market research. They were started by door-to-door salesmen, short-order cooks, orphans, and dropouts, bu eternal optimists looking for a piece of the next big thing. The start-up costs of a fast food restaurant were low, the profit margins promised to be high, and a wide assortment of ambitious people were soon buying grills and putting up signs.

For every fast food idea that swept the nation, there were countless others that flourished briefly--or never had a prayer. There were chains with homey names, like Sandy's, Carrol's, Henry's, Winky's, and Mr. Fifteen's. There were chains with futuristic names, like the Sattelite Hamburger System and Kelly's Jet System. Most of all there were chains named after their main dish: Burger Chefs, Burger Queens, Burgerville USAs, Yumy Burgers, Twitty Burgers, Whataburgers, Dundee Burgers, Biff-Burgers, O.K. Big Burgers, and Burger Boy Food-O-Ramas.

The fast food ward in Southern California were especially fierce. one by one, most of the old drive-ins closed, unable to compete against the less expensive, self-service burger joints.

Interesting to think of the origins of fast food having recently gone through a similar boom with the internet. I wonder if someday, a generation or two down the road people will look back and think of the internet as something started by a small group of large companies as opposed to the hundreds of attempts we've seen trying to dominate each space in the online market.

Posted by mike at May 4, 2003 3:57 PM