From Gm To Cisco In Just Four Decades

Market-cap rankings tell the story of industrial evolution

Need proof that the New Economy is more than just a millennial buzzword? Take a good look at the top 25 companies ranked by market capitalization at the end of the '60s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. Anyone wondering what "creative destruction" is all about need look no further.

More than just a lesson in the rise and fall of some of Corporate America's biggest names, these rankings also give clues about social and economic changes. In the '60s, Avon Products Inc. was hot, tapping the spending potential of millions of housewives. So was Polaroid Corp., whose instant photography was a marvel of the time.

Fast forward a decade. IBM remained at the top, but Xerox Corp. was the only other '60s tech stock to hang in. By 1979, Big Oil ruled. Even oil service companies Schlumberger Ltd. and Halliburton Co. were in the top 25. By the end of the '80s, oil was out, and technology--especially telecom--was rising.

Now, no surprise, information technology reigns. Microsoft Corp. is the world's most highly valued company. No. 11-ranked America Online Inc.'s market cap of $169 billion is more than quadruple that of the '60s premier heavyweight, IBM--unadjusted for inflation, of course. Six-year-old Yahoo! has made the list--even as Old Economy icons General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. fell off. The only companies to remain among the top 10 in all four decades: IBM, Exxon, General Electric Co., and AT&T. But where will they be in 2009?

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