The Way We Were A Glimpse Ahead

Startups are all the rage today. They capture our imagination for reasons that seem timeless. They embody the force of a new idea, a willingness to take risks, a faith in the future.

At BUSINESS WEEK, our moment came 70 years ago, in a far different era. In September, 1929, workers were commemorating Labor Day with celebrations of a new five-day workweek. The Graf Zeppelin finished circling the world in 20 days and 4 hours, encouraging executives at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to start raising money for transatlantic airship lines. A bank executive, who insisted on remaining anonymous, expressed concern that people were apparently withdrawing money from their savings accounts to invest in the "speculative orgy" in the stock market. In debating what would become the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, Senator Reed Smoot insisted that neither his tariff, nor any other tariff, could have any effect whatsoever on prices. "Thus he alarmed lobbyists and perplexed simple solons, who are now wondering what a tariff is for, anyway," said BUSINESS WEEK's editors.

I suspect my predecessors' sense of humor was more than refreshing. It must have helped sustain them when the stock market crashed and the nation plunged into a recession aggravated by Smoot's infamous tariff. In true startup fashion, the magazine did not turn a profit for several years.

It is fascinating to reflect on events 70 years ago in light of what we have chosen as the topic for a Special Report on our anniversary. The Internet is a disruptive technology that is both like and unlike what has gone before. In five short years, the World Wide Web is already transforming drastically the landscape of such industries as retailing, finance, and, as I am acutely aware, publishing.

I confess that I am as bemused as anyone by what the business world might look like in five years, much less 70. But our editors have dug into the Internet phenomenon and come up with a thorough and original analysis, rich in insights, that provides valuable guideposts to what lies ahead. At the same time, we have compiled 70 years of our covers into a graphic review of the trends that have brought us where we are.

Anniversaries give us a chance to step back for a moment and take a longer perspective. Please share that opportunity with me.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.