Apple’s new screws for the iPhone that are hard to find a screwdriver for reminded Treehugger of another situation where the leverages of big business put the screws to the little guy. It’s the story of the “Robertson screw,” a screw with a square-shaped socket developed in the early 1900’s. Despite it being a superior screw that you drive in with one hand, was self-centering, sped up production and reduced damage, you probably haven’t heard of it (unless you’re in Canada, where they’re ubiquitous), thanks to a deal Henry Ford wasn’t able to seal.
The Canadian inventor, Robertson, was approached by Ford who found that using the screws greatly reduced the amount of time to make a car, a whole two hours in fact. But having already been burned by an international group that had driven him into bankruptcy and forced him to spend oodles of money to buy back the rights to his own screw, Robertson refused to license his screw to Ford. Without a reliable source of Robertson screws, Ford went with the less cost-effective, but guaranteed supply, Phillips heads. And the rest is history.
The takeaway: When you get proprietary about screws, you might just end up screwing yourself.