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100 Events That Changed Business: 1900-2000

80. Intelsat 1 goes into service: June 28, 1965.

The first commercial communications satellite, nicknamed Early Bird, introduces live commercial television across oceans. Years later this wonderful technology would mean we could share the O.J. trial -- live! -- with our friends in Yemen.


79. Maiman unveils the first working laser: July 1960.

Building on the work of a bunch of other guys, Theodore Maiman's creation paves the way for multiple innovations, including high-quality printing, new forms of surgery, fiber-optic communications, bar-code scanners, CDs and laser tag.


78. The Black Monday crash: Oct. 19, 1987.

Really just a bump in the night.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average drops 508 points, a stunning 22.6%, on "Black Monday," raising fears that the U.S. economy is headed for a severe recession, or even a depression. But the Federal Reserve acts quickly to cut interest rates and pump cash into the banking system, helping end the threat. Little over a decade later, the slide would be remembered as not much more than a chance for investors to buy on one of history's biggest dips.


77. MCI is authorized to compete with AT&T: 1971.

MCI, founded in 1968, receives FCC approvals in 1969 that let the company build its first microwave route and interconnect with local phone companies. But the upstart scores its big breakthrough in 1971, when MCI (today subsumed into MCI WorldCom) becomes the first company authorized to compete with AT&T in the domestic private line market.


76. Bernays lights the 'Torches of Liberty': March 31, 1929.

In 1928, George Washington Hill of American Tobacco comes to public relations master Edward L. Bernays with a problem: Public smoking by women is taboo, and the untapped market potential is maddening. Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, consults a psychoanalyst to divine what might lead ladies to light up outdoors. The answer, in these just-past-suffrage days: Appeal to their desire for freedom and equality.

Bernays has his secretary quietly orchestrate a debutante demonstration at New York's 1929 Easter Parade: Young women of good breeding boldly fire up cancer sticks and puff away as they stroll Fifth Avenue. The effort, known as the "Torches of Liberty" or "Torches of Freedom" march, boosts sales of American's Lucky Strikes and reinforces the power of PR. Years later Bernays would put his PR skills to work against tobacco, disavowing Hill. But the damage was done: Flackery and cigarettes were big business and would stay that way.


75. The explosion of RCA's stock epitomizes market mania: 1928-29.

The Internet stock party of recent months wouldn't be the first time that stocks in a promising new technology have acted maniacally. Early in 1928, Radio Corp. of America is selling for 85 1/4. But over the next year and a half, it begins a dizzying climb. It hits 200 in May; 400 in November; 500 the following summer. After a 5-for-1 split, it rises even further, to the presplit equivalent of 573 3/4. It is probably the most pronounced symbol of excess of the bull market of the '20s. And guess what: It wouldn't be in business 70 years later.

When RCA and other stocks plunge below pre-1928 levels, it puts the fear of stocks in Americans. Investors turn to safer investments like bonds and, eventually, federally insured bank accounts and certificates of deposit. It would take a younger generation who knew not Joseph, unscarred by the crash and egged on by the great bull market of the 1980s and 1990s, to erase the troubling memory of the 1920s bubble.

That younger generation would learn that everything's different now, because there's a new economy and all.


74. AOL goes to flat-rate pricing: Oct. 29, 1996.

America Online's move away from rates based on the amount of time spent online to pay-one-price charging is a crucial step toward the now-dominant view of the Internet as an advertising-driven mass medium.


73. FDR signs the act creating the Federal Housing Administration: June 1934.

With innovations like the 30-year self-amortizing mortgage, the Federal Housing Administration puts the power of the federal government behind home financing, helping to make home ownership a reality for tens of millions of Americans and powering the residential real estate industry.


72. Rosie the Riveter and FEPC: Women and minorities contribute to the war effort: 1941-45.

World War II puts a quick end to the high unemployment levels of the Depression, as most non-flat-footed young men abandon their plowshares for guns. Women take factory jobs previously reserved for men, making Rosie the Riveter into a feminist and patriotic icon. And under pressure from civil rights leader and union president A. Philip Randolph, President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941 issues an executive order banning race discrimination by the feds and government contractees and creates the Fair Employment Practices Committee to enforce the rule, helping blacks to get previously unavailable jobs.

But civil rights progress would stall after the war as men returned from the front: Women would be laid off from their jobs and urged to return to the kitchen and play their part in the baby boom, while Congress would refuse to renew the FEPC.


71. Black and Scholes introduce their options pricing model in the Journal of Political Economy: May/June 1973.

Fischer Black and Myron Scholes of the University of Chicago devise a pricing model that establishes a standard by which options can be priced. Until Black-Scholes, traders and investors have been pretty much guessing. The model figures out a way to measure the volatility of the underlying instrument and its erosion of value over time. Black-Scholes adds enough credibility to pricing to make options -- and later more complex derivatives -- legitimate, liquid instruments for all sorts of institutional investors, ranging from Goldman Sachs to Barings' Nick Leeson.
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