Hot weather encourages feelings of gratitude for the existence of air conditioning, the primary inventor of which (at least as far as a practical system goes) was Willis Carrier. His original motivation was not the improvement of human comfort, but rather solving air quality problems affecting the operations of a printing company. But A/C was quickly applied to the dehumidification and cooling of human was well as industrial environments.
Initially, systems were large and expensive and hence better-fitted to businesses and other environments serving a lot of people than to individual homes. One of the first industries that adopted air conditioning was the motion-picture theater industry, starting with an installation at Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan Theater in 1922.
It makes sense to believe, and seems to be generally accepted, that the introduction of A/C had much to do with the great success of the movie industry…if the theater was one of the few places in town where you could be cool, then it would be nice to have enough new movies constantly coming out to justify going the the theater as often as possible.
The same phenomenon applied with department stores…starting with a Hudson’s in Detroit in 1926…though I would think A/C was not quite as impactful in that case as in the case of the movies.
BUT, with the introduction and constant improvement of home air conditioners, the process would have likely gone into reverse: if you can be cool at home, there is less incentive to “go to the movies” unless there is something showing that you really want to see. Similarly with retail..although until the introduction of the consumer Internet, you still needed to go to a store for most things.
It is pretty common that a technology that helps a particular industry at one point will, later and with further development of that industry, harm that industry. Another example is the newspaper industry: one of the great enablers of the growth of the newspaper industry was the telegraph (along with the high-speed printing press and the Linotype machine.) But as digital communications (of which the telegraph was an early example) developed into data networks and ultimately the Internet, the ability to conveniently extend the information flow into the home was devastatingly harmful to that industry.
Returning to the air conditioner, another impact of this technology has been geographical: making areas that were previously not-so-desirable for reasons of climate much more generally inhabitable…as in the cases of the US south and southwest.
A/C is a significant consumer of energy in the form of electricity, and as it is more widely adopted in places such India, it will have a major impact on electricity consumption in those countries.
Thoughts? Other industry examples?