Tinkering and American Innovation
(Photo: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid via Flickr)

(Photo: Scott Beale/Laughing Squid via Flickr)

Brilliant tinkerers made the American economy. From Thomas Edison to Henry Ford to the Apple computer guys, late nights tinkering in the garage, the basement, the workshop changed the world.

In the late 20th century, big corporate R&D seemed to take over. Bright young Americans headed to Wall Street.

Now, a bunch of them are headed back to the garage. Tinkering again — this time turbocharged by new high-tech tools that put tinkering in high gear.

Could the next big thing, the economy’s turnaround, come out of your garage?

This hour, On Point: The return of the American tinkerer.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Justin Lahart, reporter for The Wall Street Journal. His article “Tinkering Makes a Comeback Amid Crisis” appeared on Thursday.

Bre Pettis, professional tinkerer. He’s co-founder of NYC Resistor, a tech workshop in Brooklyn, New York and co-founder of MakerBot Industries. More information about his projects at

David Hounshell, David M. Roderick Professor of Technology and Social Change in the Department of History, Social and Decision Sciences and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, at Carnegie Mellon University.

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