This Week in Business History- Episode 35

“I don’t think we’re likely to see an adaptation of R.U.R. on the Hallmark Channel anytime soon, but it provides us with a valid reminder that we need to be aware of the implications of embracing technology we don’t yet completely understand.”

– Kelly Barner, Owner of Buyers Meeting Point and Host of Dial P for Procurement on Supply Chain Now


In this edition of This Week in Business History, guest host Kelly Barner remembers the inventions and milestones associated with this week, including the first U.S. fire extinguisher patent, the first singing telegram, the founding of NASDAQ, and the epic chess battle between I.B.M.’s Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov.

Intro (00:12):

Good morning, Scott Luton here with you on this edition of this week in business history. Welcome to today’s show on this program, which is part of the supply chain. Now family of programming. We take a look back at the upcoming week, and then we share some of the most relevant events and milestones from years past, of course, mostly business focused with a little dab of global supply chain. And occasionally we might just throw in a good story outside of our primary realm. So I invite you to join me on this. Look back in history to identify some of the most significant leaders, companies, innovations, and perhaps lessons learned in our collective business journey. Now let’s dive in to this week in business history.

Kelly Barner (01:10):

Hello, and thanks for joining us. I’m Kelly Barner, owner of buyers meeting point and the host of one of supply chain now’s newest programs, dial P for procurement. You can join me on the third Tuesday of each month for a video live stream that runs from 12 to 1:00 PM Eastern. As I bring together the leading minds in corporate procurement and spend management I’m guest hosting this edition of this week in business history. So thanks for listening in this week show, we’ll be remembering a number of key innovations inventions, and first that took place between February 8th and the 12th, but let’s start with our main story, a revolutionary television show out of the UK that unexpectedly gave us one of the most important words in business today on February 11th, 1938, BBC television aired, the first science fiction or Saifai program ever produced for TV just 35 minutes long.

Kelly Barner (02:07):

It was based on an established stage play by Czech playwright, Karel Capek called R U R short for Russum’s universal robots. It’s notable enough that Spotify had officially entered the international entertainment psyche, but by far, the play’s most critical contribution was the introduction of the word robot into the English language. Capek wrote the play 100 years ago and it was set in approximately the year 2000, 20 years ago. Now are you are made the rounds of the best stages worldwide, including showings in Prague, London, New York city, Chicago, and Los Angeles, but it really got a boost when the BBC adapted it for TV. So how did Capek decide on the word robot, a term that had never been in use before? Similar terms such as automaton and Android were already in use at time, but robot comes to us and the check term robata, which means forced labor or slave capital Ashley credited his brother, Joseph for coming up with the term in a media interview.

Kelly Barner (03:10):

He gave at the time, despite the forced labor tie-in CapEx robots were less like the ones we’re now used to seeing in manufacturing facilities or warehouses, and more like the humanoid C3 PO from the original star Wars trilogy. They looked like people they were made from [inaudible] organic material and they thought for themselves, in fact, the other part of the place title Rossum is a derivative of the Chequered Rose awesome, meaning reason, wisdom, intellect, or common sense, fast forward to 2021 and both the term and the reality of robots are ubiquitous. In fact, we’re on a nickname, same basis with them often referring to small programmable technologies as just bots. We have mechanical robots and software robots. There are industrial commercial and home-based versions. Importantly, we also see the continuation of both of CapEx ideas that robots can do labor, and also that they can apply reason to common sense or at least the interpretation of data.

Kelly Barner (04:11):

Last year, the global market for robots hit the $100 billion Mark that’s billion with a B according to the data sites, quote, the robot next market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of around 26% to reach just under 210 billion us dollar by 2025. And quote robots are absolutely relied upon for dangerous and repetitive tasks, but they are increasingly being put to use insensitive strategic scenarios to aid human beings. In the most challenging ways. Fast company recently created a list of the most innovative robotics companies, and it includes an amazing range of applications. There are high speed medical delivery, drones, tiny surgical, robotic assistance, retail inventory, checkers, and robots, that sort the materials we’re trying to recycle from home. And those are all examples of the mechanical variety, robotic process automation or RPA leverages the capabilities of software robots for repetitive processing and auditing tasks.

Kelly Barner (05:16):

These robots aren’t physical objects at all, but dedicated programs designed to complete a specific purpose. According to, quote RPA is an application of technology governed by business logic and structured inputs aimed at automating business processes. Using RPA tools, a company can configure software or a robot to capture and interpret applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems and quote. In many cases, RPA is seen as a path to the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence. Those technologies have entered our homes and businesses as digital assistants and chatbots. Now humans have benefited in numerous ways from the invention of, and imagination about robots since 1920, but it hasn’t all been good. Isaac Asimov, the author, the robot series of books and creator of the three laws of robotics really did not like Catholics play saying quote, Catholics play is in my own opinion, a terribly bad one, but it is immortal for that one word.

Kelly Barner (06:23):

It contributed the word robot, not only to English, but through English, too languages in which science fiction is now written. And as I’ve had another reason for not liking Catholic’s play, it delivered a decidedly unhappy ending for the humans. There was a robot revolution. I’ll let you fill in the ugly blanks. There resulting in a planet entirely ruled by robots and one human that was allowed to survive because he could repair robots. I don’t think we’re likely to see an adaptation of our, you are on the hallmark channel anytime soon, but it is a valid reminder that we all need to be aware of the implications of embracing technology when we don’t completely agree, understand it on a lighter note, some other important inventions and patents we can celebrate this week on February 8th, 1883, Louis Waterman invented the fountain pen, an unconfirmed legend behind the invention goes like this Warman was working as an insurance agent in New York city while trying to sign an insurance contract.

Kelly Barner (07:24):

The customer, his fountain pen leaked all over the contract while Waterman search for a new contract and presumably a new pen. The customer signed to deal with another agent and Waterman lost the sale. He solved the problem and earned himself a patent to boon by using a narrow tube and a small bubble of air to control the flow of the ink, saving countless contracts and dress shirt pockets from certain ruin. As a side note, if you like this story, you’ll love a resource I discovered while researching it. There’s actually a website called history of No seriously. You should check it out on February 10th, 1863. Uh, Lanson crane of Virginia was awarded the first us patent for the fire extinguisher. We don’t know a whole lot about him, but we do know that his tube shaped fire extinguisher was a serious stuff up from the grenade type extinguishers of the past.

Kelly Barner (08:15):

His invention made it possible to flood several floors of a building at the same time to put out a fire rather than addressing each fire individually, a huge win given how dangerous fires could be back in the civil war era. That same day in 1933, the first singing telegram was delivered by the postal Telegraph cable company in New York city. The innovation, assuming we can call it, that was an effort to save the company from takeover by Western union, spoiler alert. It didn’t work. And Western union soon took over on the bright side, the singing telegram survived and went on to be a humorous information delivery service, more likely to be delivered over the phone than in person. Now I love to know what that first song was. So if there are any singing telegram history bus listening in, please reach out and let me know.

Kelly Barner (09:02):

My own associations with singing telegrams are more from the movies. I’m thinking clue and elf, not exactly business history, but very memorable. All the same more modern milestones include the opening of NASDAQ on February 8th, 1971. It was the first electronic remote, and eventually online exchange. NASDAQ stands for national association of securities dealers, automated quotations, and it was originally just a quotation system, not an exchange at all. Even once it became an exchange, the NASDAQ was unpopular with brokers because it reduced their profits by being completely electronic. It reduced the bid ask spread and stock trading and therefore benefited individual investors among other innovations. The NASDAQ can claim the invention of the modern IPO and being the first to launch a financial website on February 10th, 1996, IBM’s deep blue semiconductor beat chess champion, Gary Kasparov for the first time winning the first game in a six game match was a major victory for the IBM team, which built the computer expressly for that purpose.

Kelly Barner (10:06):

There was another six game rematch in 1997, and that became a subject of the movie. The man versus the machine. If you happen to be a chess person, you can actually relive each of the moves made in each game. Online. Now we’re coming full circle since we started today’s show by talking about the tension between humans and robots deeply as ability to beat Casper off was symbolic and was seen by many as a sign that artificial intelligence was slowly but surely closing the gap between it and human intelligence later analysis of the game focused on one particularly bad move on. Kasparov’s part, a move that probably handed the game to deep blue. At least in his case, it was just a chess game. If he had made the same mistake in calculation in our, you are, he might have faced a far worse fate.

Speaker 1 (10:54):

Well, that just

Kelly Barner (10:55):

About wraps up this edition of this week in business history. Big thanks to you for turning into the show each week. Don’t forget to check out the wide variety of industry thought leadership available supply chain As a friendly reminder, you can find this week in business history, wherever you get your podcast from and be sure to tell us what you think we would love to earn your review on behalf of the entire team here at this week in business history and supply chain. Now this is Kelly Barner wishing all of our listeners, nothing but the best on that note. We’ll see you next time here on this week in business history,

Kelly Barner is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter, and the host of the Supply Chain Now program Dial P for Procurement. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’. 


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