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Posts Tagged ‘business

“Patents need inventors more than inventors need patents”*…

 

patent-toiletpaper

 

Patents for invention — temporary monopolies on the use of new technologies — are frequently cited as a key contributor to the British Industrial Revolution. But where did they come from? We typically talk about them as formal institutions, imposed from above by supposedly wise rulers. But their origins, or at least their introduction to England, tell a very different story…

How the 15th century city guilds of Italy paved the way for the creation of patents and intellectual property as we know it: “Age of Invention: The Origin of Patents.”

(Image above: source)

* Kalyan C. Kankanala, Fun IP, Fundamentals of Intellectual Property

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As we ruminate on rights, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that IBM introduced the IBM Personal Computer, commonly known as the IBM PC, the original version of the IBM PC compatible computer design… a relevant descriptor, as the IBM PC was based on open architecture, and third-party suppliers soon developed to provide peripheral devices, expansion cards, software, and ultimately, IBM compatible computers.  While IBM has gone out of the PC business, it had a substantial influence on the market in standardizing a design for personal computers; “IBM compatible” became an important criterion for sales growth.  Only Apple has been able to develop a significant share of the microcomputer market without compatibility with the IBM architecture (and what it has become).

300px-Bundesarchiv_B_145_Bild-F077948-0006,_Jugend-Computerschule_mit_IBM-PC source

 

“Everyday, it’s a-gettin’ closer / Goin’ faster than a roller coaster “*…

 

depression

 

The American economy is reopening. In Alabama, gyms are back in business. In Georgia, restaurants are seating customers again. In Texas, the bars are packed. And in Vermont, the stay-at-home order has been lifted. People are still frightened. Americans are still dying. But the next, queasy phase of the coronavirus pandemic is upon us. And it seems likely that the financial nadir, the point at which the economy stops collapsing and begins growing again, has passed.

What will the recovery look like? At this fraught moment, no one knows enough about consumer sentiment and government ordinances and business failures and stimulus packages and the spread of the disease to make solid predictions about the future. The Trump administration and some bullish financial forecasters are arguing that we will end up with a strong, V-shaped rebound, with economic activity surging right back to where it was in no time. Others are betting on a longer, slower, U-shaped turnaround, with the pain extending for a year or three. Still others are sketching out a kind of flaccid check mark, its long tail sagging torpid into the future.

At least four major factors are terrifying economists and weighing on the recovery: the household fiscal cliff, the great business die-off, the state and local budget shortfall, and the lingering health crisis…

Annie Lowrey (@AnnieLowrey) unpacks a painfully-plausible worst-case scenario featuring the four horsemen of what could be an economic apocalypse– the four major forces at work today that are terrifying economists and weighing on the recovery: “The Second Great Depression.”

For more on the fourth and most terrifying force Lowrey cites, see here (and the research that underlies it).

* Buddy Holly

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As we take necessary steps, we might recall that it was on this date in 1867 that Lucien B. Smith patented barbed wire (U.S. No. 66,182).  Eventually competitors produced more than 1,500 different types of barbed wire; but Smith’s patent gave him pride of invention. His simple idea that was an artificial “thorn hedge” consisting of wire with short metal spikes twisted on by hand at regular intervals. For prairie farmers and cattlemen natural fencing materials were scarce, so the invention gave them an accessible way keep their cattle safely away from crops.  It also created tensions between farmers and ranchers: inexpensive barbed wire allowed farmers to fence in their fields, preventing ranchers’ livestock from feeding off of the farmers’ fields, and making it more difficult for cattle drives to cross farmers’ lands.   Ultimately ranchers too recognized the benefits of fencing their herds… and the days of the open range came to an end.

Copy of Lucien B. Smith’s wire fence improvement (barbed wire) Patent, 66,182, dated June 25, 1867 (source)

 

“Some maladies are rich and precious, and only to be acquired by the right of inheritance or purchased with gold”*…

 

gout

 

Gout is a disease caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Everyone has some uric acid in their blood, but when you get too much, it can form little crystals that get deposited around your body and cause various problems, most commonly joint pain. Some uric acid comes from chemicals found in certain foods (especially meat), so the first step for a gout patient is to change their diet. If that doesn’t work, they can take various chemicals that affect uric acid metabolism or prevent inflammation.

Gout is traditionally associated with kings, probably because they used to be the only people who ate enough meat to be affected. Veal, venison, duck, and beer are among the highest-risk foods; that list sounds a lot like a medieval king’s dinner menu. But as kings faded from view, gout started affecting a new class of movers and shakers. King George III had gout, but so did many of his American enemies, including Franklin, Jefferson, and Hancock (beginning a long line of gout-stricken US politicians, most recently Bernie Sanders). Lists of other famous historical gout sufferers are contradictory and sometimes based on flimsy evidence, but frequently mentioned names include Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Leonardo da Vinci, Martin Luther, John Milton, Isaac Newton, Ludwig von Beethoven, Karl Marx, Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain.

Question: isn’t this just a list of every famous person ever? It sure seems that way, and even today gout seems to disproportionately strike the rich and powerful. In 1963, Dunn, Brooks, and Mausner published Social Class Gradient Of Serum Uric Acid Levels In Males, showing that in many different domains, the highest-ranking and most successful men had the highest uric acid (and so, presumably, the most gout). Executives have higher uric acid than blue-collar workers. College graduates have higher levels than dropouts. Good students have higher levels than bad students. Top professors have higher levels than mediocre professors. DB&M admitted rich people probably still eat more meat than poor people, but didn’t think this explained the magnitude or universality of the effect. They proposed a different theory: maybe uric acid makes you more successful.

Before we mock them, let’s take more of a look at why they might think that, and at the people who have tried to flesh out their theory over the years….

From the always-illuminating Scott Alexander (@slatestarcodex), a consideration of the case: “Give yourself gout for fame and profit.”

For the NIH’s backgrounder on gout, see here— the source of the image above.

* Nathaniel Hawthorne

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As we feed our ambition, we might spare a thought for Charles William “C. W.” Post; he died on this date in 1914.  Post began his career as a farm implement manufacturer in Illinois, but succumbed to stress, and had a nervous breakdown.  On recovering, he moved to Texas and began a second career as a real estate developer… but fell prey again to the pressures of his work and had another breakdown.  In 1891, he checked into the Battle Creek, Michigan the sanatorium of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (brother of cereal maker Will Keith Kellogg).

While there, Post dined on Kellogg recipes, several of which became the (stolen, some argue) seeds of his very successful third career.  Early in 1895, Post began manufacturing Postum, a grain product intended as a coffee substitute, very similar to one of Kellogg’s concoctions, Caramel Coffee Cereal.  The following year, he began to produce Grape-Nuts, which seemed very like Malted Nuts, another Kellogg item.  And soon thereafter he introduced Toasties, a dead ringer for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

Kellogg’s has, of course survived and prospered.  But Post’s “Postum Cereal Company” grew up to be General Foods.

220px-C.W._Post_LCCN2014696048_(cropped) source

 

 

Written by LW

May 9, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Now my eyes are turned from the South to the North”*…

 

Your correspondent is off for a week or so to time zones sufficiently distant that regular service will be suspended for about a week.  (R)D should return on or around March 15.  Meantime…

 

antarctica

One of the selections at “Hilarious Terrible Maps.”

[TotH to KE]

* Ernest Shackleton

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As we find our way, we might recall that it was on this date in 1930 that General Foods put the first nationally-branded individually-packaged frozen foods– “Birds Eye Frosted Foods”– on sale in 18 retail stores in Springfield, Mass. to test the market.  General Foods (recently renamed from the Postum Corporation) had acquired the frozen food business from Clarence Birdseye; inspired by seeing Canadians thawing and eating naturally frozen fish, Birdseye had invented the category in the early 1920s.  The initial Birds Eye line featured 26 items, including 18 cuts of frozen meat, spinach and peas, a variety of fruits and berries, blue point oysters, and fish fillets.

Clarence Birdseye and his handiwork

source

 

Written by LW

March 6, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Sooner or later, everything old is new again”*…

 

Madame Yale

Maude Mayberg, a.k.a. Madame Yale, in her “laboratory”

 

On an April afternoon in 1897, thousands of women packed the Boston Theatre to see the nation’s most beguiling female entrepreneur, a 45-year-old former homemaker whose talent for personal branding would rival that of any Instagram celebrity today. She called herself Madame Yale. Over the course of several hours and multiple outfit changes, she preached her “Religion of Beauty,” regaling the audience with tales of history’s most beautiful women, a group that included Helen of Troy, the Roman goddess Diana and, apparently, Madame Yale.

The sermon was her 11th public appearance in Boston in recent years, and it also covered the various lotions and potions—products that Yale just happened to sell—that she said had transformed her from a sallow, fat, exhausted woman into the beauty who stood on stage: her tall, hourglass figure draped at one point in cascading white silk, her blond ringlets falling around a rosy-cheeked, heart-shaped face. Applause thundered. The Boston Herald praised her “offer of Health and Beauty” in a country where “every woman wants to be well and well-looking.”

Madame Yale had been delivering “Beauty Talks” coast to coast since 1892, cannily promoting herself in ways that would be familiar to consumers in 2020. She was a true pioneer in what business gurus would call the wellness space—a roughly $4.5 trillion industry globally today—and that achievement alone should command attention. Curiously, though, she went from celebrated to infamous virtually overnight, and her story, largely overlooked by historians, is all the more captivating as a cautionary tale…

A century before today’s celebrity health gurus, an American businesswoman was a beauty with a brand: “Madame Yale Made a Fortune With the 19th Century’s Version of Goop.”

* Stephen King’s version of an age-old adage (in The Colorado Kid)

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As we contemplate comeliness, we might spare a thought for writer who explored our fascination with fascinating, Philip Kindred Dick; he died on this date in 1982.  A novelist, short story writer, essayist and philosopher, Dick published 44 novels and 121 short stories, nearly all in the Science Fiction genre.  While he was recognized only within his field in his lifetime, and lived near poverty for much of his adult life, twelve popular films and TV series have been based on his work since his death in 1982 (including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, The Adjustment BureauImpostor, and the Netflix series The Man in the High Castle).  In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923; and in 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.

 source

We might also note that it’s the birthday of Chris Martin, front man of the inexplicably-popular pop group Coldplay, and the “consciously uncoupled” ex of Gwyneth Paltrow, the heir to Madame Yale.

Chris_Martin-viva-cropped source

 

 

Written by LW

March 2, 2020 at 1:01 am

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