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Industrial Revolution


  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    A historic textile mill begins a new chapter

    After a complicated 20-year effort to save a redbrick mill in North Carolina that was once considered the largest in the world for textiles and that played a significant role in the South’s textile history, the plant is finally moving toward a new life as a multiuse complex.The Loray Mill, which for decades produced fabric for car tires, last month began a $40 million conversion project that will create 190 apartments in its six stories, as well as several floors of shops and restaurants. The mill, which was the site of an famous labor strike in the 1920s, is in the city of Gastonia, a former industrial hub outside of Charlotte.To the delight of preservationists, the development team of JBS Ventures, of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., and Camden Management Partners, of Atlanta, will retain much of the original 600,000-square-feet structure of the complex. This first phase of the redevelopment will reinvent about 450,000 square feet of the mill, including the main section, which dates to 1902....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Burton Bledstein's robo-skepticism

    ...If our destiny is to be freed from toil by robot helpers, what are we supposed to do with our days?To begin to tackle that existential question, I decided to invite along a scholar of work to the Automate trade show. And that's how my guest, Burton J. Bledstein, an expert on the history of professionalism and the growth of the modern middle class, got into an argument with the head of a robotics company.It happened at the booth for Adept Technology Inc., which makes a robot designed to roam the halls of hospitals and other facilities making deliveries. The latest model­—a foot-tall rolling platform that can be customized for a variety of tasks­—wandered around the booth, resembling something out of a Star Wars film except that it occasionally blasted techno music from its speakers. Bledstein was immediately wary of the contraption. The professor, who holds an emeritus position at the University of Illinois at Chicago, explained that he has an artificial hip and didn't want the robot to accidentally knock him down. He needn't have worried, though; the robot is designed to sense nearby objects and keep a safe distance....

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