85th Anniversary Issue: Editor's Letter

The most disruptive ideas of the past 85 years remind us how dramatically business can change society

Let’s not tiptoe around the obvious: We’re old. Eighty-five is almost six years beyond the life expectancy of the average American, let alone the average magazine. We’re old enough that when we warned in our first issue that the Dow Jones industrial average was at an unsustainable high, 1) that high was 381, and 2) we were proven right a few weeks later by the stock market crash of 1929. When we launched, many people still referred to Istanbul as Constantinople and parts of the world were still on the Julian calendar. We predate Clarence Birdseye’s invention of frozen food and James Dewar’s creation of the Twinkie. Older than Twinkies may as well be older than the earth itself.

Having established our endurance, we’ve decided to celebrate our anniversary by largely ignoring it. Weekly magazines should arrive bursting with the present tense, and our mission, unchanged since the beginning, is to deliver the world of business as it churns and thrives in this very moment. It wouldn’t serve anyone to march through our greatest hits. We’d rather celebrate the impact of yours.

This special issue chronicles the most disruptive ideas of the past 85 years, those entrepreneurial earthquakes whose tremors are still being felt. Disruption is a trendy word, but it’s used here without endorsement. To add a little tension, we’ve gone to the trouble of ranking these 85 disruptions and counting down to an overall world-changing champion. Comparing the importance of television to the impact of the Laffer Curve or Google to the AK-47 isn’t meant to yield scientific results. It’s meant to start some interesting arguments and remind us how dramatically business can change society.

Who knows whether we’ll still be publishing in 2099, but it’s fair to say Businessweek has been reborn in the five years since its acquisition by Bloomberg. It’s nice to be at a company that believes in journalism and puts resources behind it. Just as important, we’re challenged by our owner to take creative risks and tell our readers the truth above all else. It’s enough to make a magazine feel young again.