“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
That bit of knowledge is courtesy of Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp. He said it back in 1977 — just a few years before the age of personal computers began in earnest.
Now, I’m not trying to give Olsen a hard time by rehashing his blunder. After all, what the hell was anyone supposed to do with a computer in the late 70s? They were much too difficult for the average person to use. They couldn’t even store very much information. One year after Olsen’s comment, Apple released its very first home computer as a kit you had to assemble yourself. These were toys for hobbyists — not mass-market products.
As an investor, you should burn stories like these into your memory. The rise of personal computing minted new wealth for anyone with the foresight to see its potential. Now, we’re witnessing the very early stages of the next big revolution in home computing. It’s in the hands of hobbyists and clubs right now. And it’s still expensive and specialized. But if this technology follows the same trajectory as the PC, there will be one in every home in a little more than 25 years.
I’m talking about 3-D printing…
Neo Mammalian Studios made an excellent infographic that compares the adoption of the PC with a potential timeline for 3-D printer growth. Here’s a simplified version of the trend:
If 3-D printing continues along a similar path, we could see one in every home by 2040. That’s pretty far into the future — and a lot can happen that could speed up or slow down the process.
How will 3-D printing change manufacturing? In the not-so-distant future, will we download designs for everything from car parts to dishes and silverware, and simply make every single product we use all by ourselves? We don’t know yet.
Whatever you do, don’t dismiss 3-D printing as a fad or useless technology. It’s neither.
The publically traded 3-D printing companies are volatile. As with any new technology, there is substantial risk for the long-term investor. But at this point, it is worth making a small bet somewhere within the industry. It’s not about value or profits at this point. Just raw potential…
There are a few opportunities every generation to get behind a massive, life-changing trend. This could be one of them.