Category Archives: History

One Hundred and Ten Years Ago Today …

The first taxicabs begin their operation in New York City, imported by Harry N. Allen, a thirty year old businessmen, who, as per this great NY Times article on The Creation of the Taxi Man, became incensed when a hansom cab driver charged him $5 for a three-quarter-mile trip from a Manhattan restaurant to his home.

These vehicles were imported from France as he wanted reliable, improved automobiles that were superior to the American versions derided as “smoke-wagons” using par of the eight million in capital he raised to start the business and the first taxi cab went into operation on August 13, 1907. (Source: 6sqft) Less than two months later, on October 1, 1907, Alan he orchestrated a parade of sixty-five shiny new red gasoline-powered French Darracq cabs, equipped with fare meters, down Fifth Avenue, which could be interpreted as the grand opening of the taxicab revolution in New York and the United States in general.

It was an important milestone in the evolution of supply chain, as it allowed the people who run it to get around quicker and more predictably.

Forty Five Years Ago Today

The United States of America, under the leadership of Richard Nixon, launched Landsat-1, the first satellite of what began the US’ Landsat program – the longest running program for the acquisition of satellite imagery of Earth. (We are now up to Landsat 8, launched four years ago on February 11, 2013.)

As succinctly summarized by Wikipedia, the images collected and archived at receiving stations around the world are a unique resource for global change research and applications in agriculture, cartography, geology, forestry, regional planning, surveillance and education, and can be viewed through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) ‘EarthExplorer‘ website. For example, the latest, Landsat 7, records data across eight spectral bands with resolutions ranging from 15 to 60 meters and a temporal resolution of 16 days.

And while Landsat 1 only had two sensors, the return beam vidicon (RBV) and a first generation multispectral scanner (MSS) that recorded, respectively, visible and near infrared photographic images and radiometric images, this was still extremely valuable imaging data where none had existed before. And without it, we’d never have Google Earth.

One Hundred and Six Years Ago Today …

The United States Supreme Court declared Standard Oil to be an “unreasonable” monopoly under the Sherman Antitrust Act and ordered the company broken up. Given the constant M&A spree across the technology space as a whole, and not just the Procurement space, the concept of an unreasonable monopoly is again becoming relevant.

Alphabet (Google), Apple, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle are all Fortune 100 companies, and all of these not only control massive amounts of data (that is now more valuable than gold), but massive amounts of software — and in most cases, back office software and, in a couple of cases, Procurement software. Now, only Oracle has a major Procurement offering, with SAP (Ariba), a Fortune 200, being the biggest in our space, and makes companies like Coupa (at a mere 1.67 B valuation, 1/70th of SAP’s) a drop in the bucket, but still, at the rate Coupa in particular is gobbling up companies and building a best-in-class S2P offering, it won’t be long before an Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, or even a Salesforce take interest and gobble them up, offering an integrated inbound-outbound back-office management system at a 100B+ valuation like SAP.

At this point you gotta wonder if we’re soon going to have to worry about technology monopolies and our software companies being broken up — Alphabet has undue influence over the internet even compared to Apple and Microsoft; Microsoft has undue influence over the desktop even compared to Apple; and Apple has undue influence on the mobile market with its iPhones and iPads, and these companies all have a host of other offerings (subsidized by the insane profits their primary product lines offer) that are, or will, become hard to compete with. And if one of these companies ever gets the IBM back-office model or the Oracle one-instance model right, they will literally have an enterprise software monopoly.

And the sad thing is that while data, internet, desktop and software monopolies are bad, right now Fortune 500 / Global 3000 companies desperately need end to end solutions in order to be efficient, effective, and bring their laggard supply management programs into the modern era. We need a few apparent monopolies to define the space, get it recognized, advanced the laggards to the point where they are ready for best in class solutions, but then we need these monopolies hampered so that new best in class companies have a chance to take the space program. It’s a delicate balance that is needed, but will it be maintained?

Two Hundred and Thirty Years Ago Today …

… the British really, really got it wrong! Instead of sending their prisoners to a remote northern region (like the Russians did) or to work in the hot semi-deserts of India (that they controlled) and generally achieve the common goal (at the time) of making prisoners’ lives miserable (to deter crime), they instead decided to load a large number of their prisoners onto 11 ships commanded by Captain Arthur Phillip and send them to sunny, warm, newly discovered tropical Australia, while the majority of their population stayed behind in a climate which, for most of the year, is rainy, dreary, and just plain miserable.

Talk about messed up. Not only were they sending the message “commit a crime and get rewarded with a permanent, tropical vacation”, but they were saying it’s good to be wet and cold the whole year through! ;-)

Oh well, I guess it paid off in the end. No other nationality can claim more stiff upper lips and reservation than the British, and few other nationalities are as able to endure pretty much anything. Still, I would have transplanted the British population to Australia, called it New Britain, left the prisoners behind, and controlled a landmass 30 times the size (even if 35% is unliveable, that’s still a liveable area 10 times the size of the UK).

One Hundred and Twenty Years Ago Today

One Hundred and Twenty Years Ago Today J.J. Thomson announced his discovery of the electron at the Royal Institution in London.

Without a good understanding of electrons, which play an essential role in electricity, magnetism, and conductivity (in addition to more fundamental gravitational, electromagnetic, and weak force interactions), we would never have made the advances we made in modern technology. For example, even though, based on the work of Goldstein and Hittorf, Sir William Crookes developed the first cathode ray tube back in the 1870s without knowing what they were, it was electrons that made them work — as determined by J.J. Thomson and colleagues through experiments they conducted in 1896 (based on the work of Lorentz and Schuster).

The visual computing revolution started with the cathode ray tube, and, moreover, as there is no computing without electricity, and no electricity without electrons, without the discovery of electrons, and a good understanding of what they enabled, we wouldn’t be where we are today.