This week in financial history is notable for the unveiling of new products. Although November releases are now the norm to catch Christmas shoppers, these innovations were far more than the Tickle Me Elmo of the season. And, Wall Street being Wall Street, there are the usual scandals that occur year round - holidays or not. (Learn about the Wall Street scandals Eliot Spitzer prosecuted before perpetrating his own. Check out Eliot Spitzer - Man Of A Thousand Scandals.)
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A Ticker-Tape Parade
On November 15, 1867, Edward Calahan gave the financial world its first stock ticker by rebuilding a telegraph machine to print stock symbols. The stock ticker sped up the flow of information for brokerage houses that could afford it. Previous to this, quotes were often relayed to main telegraph offices, transcribed into text, and then run out by messengers. The stock ticker cut out the middle steps. Thomas Edison later reworked Calahan's design and made his first fortune selling the improved version.
Intel Has a Chip on Its Shoulder
On November 15, 1971, Intel released the world's first single chip microprocessor, the 4004, making it the first commercially available chip of its time. The microprocessors, like almost every innovation in computing, allowed more data processing to be fit in less space. The 4004 was one of Intel's early hits and the company did, of course, go on to dominate with its Pentium processors. The 4004 is still around, however, and has become somewhat of a collector's item even when it has ceased to be cutting edge technology.
SEC Targets Black
On November 15, 2004, The SEC announced a civil suit against Conrad Black following a report by the shareholders of Hollinger International. Black and his friends were accused of diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from the company. Black would eventually be jailed for his part, but was released in July 2010, pending a new hearing.
NAFTA Clears the House
On November 16, 1993, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) made it through the house and headed on to Bill Clinton's desk. The idea of a free-trade zone was hotly debated in political circles, but the passage of the agreement led to a considerable rally on the stock market. However, the implementation of the act has been imperfect, to put it mildly. Instead of tariffs, trade wars are still carried out between the U.S., Mexico and Canada using different tools, subsidies being the most pernicious. (Read on to find out who this free-trade agreement helped and who it hurt. See NAFTA's Winners And Losers.)
Milken Put Away
On November 21, 1990, the junk bond king, Michael Milken, was sentenced to ten years in prison for stock manipulation, insider trading and a host of other crimes. Milken served two of those years and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 1993. Since getting out of jail, Milken has turned his considerable brains and even more impressive fortune to philanthropy of all types. In short, he's made himself a hard man to hate. (Despite their reputation, the debt securities known as "junk bonds" may actually reduce risk in your portfolio. Read Are High-Yield Bonds Too Risky?)
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A Crude Scam
On November 19, 1963, the Allied Crude Vegetable Oil Refining Corporation filed for bankruptcy. The company owner, Anthony De Angelis, ran one of the simplest, yet effective, commodities scams ever. Angelis knew that oil floated on water, and he also knew that he could take out loans on warehouse receipts. So he made a practice of floating vegetable oil on water during inspection and then taking out millions in loans against those receipts. Of course, someone talked, and the company promptly went belly-up, causing losses for American Express - the company that certified millions in fake inventory.
On November 20, 1985, Microsoft released Windows 1.0 - its first GUI operating system. The operating system was called "Windows" because it allowed users to run multiple programs in separate windows that were tiled across the display. It would take Microsoft until Windows 3 to carve out any significant market share. Within a decade of Windows 1.0, however, Microsoft was the gorilla in the OS market and has more or less held that place ever since.
That's all for this week. Next week we'll look at the birth of an industrial titan, a noble idea and much more.
Find out what happened in financial news this week. Read Water Cooler Finance: G20 Leader Spats And China Fakes It.
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