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50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

BBC World Service

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50 Things That Made the Modern Economy
50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

50 Things That Made the Modern Economy

BBC World Service

521
Followers
2.3K
Plays
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About Us

Tim Harford tells the fascinating stories of inventions, ideas and innovations which have helped create the economic world.

Latest Episodes

Sewing machine

Women's lives were transformed by sewing machines, which made a "never-ending, ever-beginning task" far less arduous and time-consuming. But Isaac Singer, who made his fortune from these devices, was far from a champion of women's rights. Tim Harford tells a story of how self-interest can sometimes be a powerful driver for social change.

9 MIN4 d ago
Comments
Sewing machine

Hollerith punch card

Data is a hugely profitable commodity - if you know how to process it. Tim Harford tells the story of Herman Hollerith, and how his 19th-century machine for processing census data laid the foundations for some of the world's most valuable companies.

9 MIN1 w ago
Comments
Hollerith punch card

Stock option

In theory, stock options should motivate executives to perform better by tying their pay to their company's performance. So why do some argue the practice has just become a way for the highest earners to boost their salaries even further? Tim Harford turns to ancient Greek philosophy and Bill Clinton's presidency in search of the answer.

10 MIN2 w ago
Comments
Stock option

Fundraising appeal

Tim Harford goes back to the 1900s to tell the story of how charity fundraising became big business. But in the social media age, what's the most effective way to get people to give?

9 MIN3 w ago
Comments
Fundraising appeal

SWIFT

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication - SWIFT - solved some big problems with international financial transfers, making them more secure and reliable than ever before. However, as Tim Harford explains, the global political climate means it might now be facing its greatest challenge.

10 MINNOV 11
Comments
SWIFT

Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood is arguably the best-known name in the history of pottery - but it's not just his pots that made their mark on history. Tim Harford explains how a business model Wedgwood devised in the 18th Century still underpins the modern fashion industry.

9 MINNOV 4
Comments
Wedgwood

Glasses

Spectacles have been around for centuries, and have a huge impact on many people's quality of life. So why is it estimated that more than two billion people aren't aware that they need them? Tim Harford considers the difference that seeing clearly makes to the world.

10 MINOCT 28
Comments
Glasses

Vickrey turnstile

In 1952, economist William Vickrey devised an innovative system of turnstiles to help solve a major problem on New York’s subway network. It never became a reality, but, as Tim Harford explains, the idea behind it has had a major influence on how companies decide what to charge us for goods and services today.

9 MINOCT 21
Comments
Vickrey turnstile

GPS

How dependent is the world on GPS - and what would happen if it stopped working? Tim Harford explains why it's not just our ability to navigate that would be affected.

9 MINOCT 14
Comments
GPS

Bonsack machine

In 1881, James Bonsack developed a machine that made it far easier to mass-produce cigarettes. But at the time, other tobacco products were much more popular – so manufacturers had to find new ways of getting people’s attention. Tim Harford explains why the methods they devised are still working on consumers today.

9 MINOCT 7
Comments
Bonsack machine

Latest Episodes

Sewing machine

Women's lives were transformed by sewing machines, which made a "never-ending, ever-beginning task" far less arduous and time-consuming. But Isaac Singer, who made his fortune from these devices, was far from a champion of women's rights. Tim Harford tells a story of how self-interest can sometimes be a powerful driver for social change.

9 MIN4 d ago
Comments
Sewing machine

Hollerith punch card

Data is a hugely profitable commodity - if you know how to process it. Tim Harford tells the story of Herman Hollerith, and how his 19th-century machine for processing census data laid the foundations for some of the world's most valuable companies.

9 MIN1 w ago
Comments
Hollerith punch card

Stock option

In theory, stock options should motivate executives to perform better by tying their pay to their company's performance. So why do some argue the practice has just become a way for the highest earners to boost their salaries even further? Tim Harford turns to ancient Greek philosophy and Bill Clinton's presidency in search of the answer.

10 MIN2 w ago
Comments
Stock option

Fundraising appeal

Tim Harford goes back to the 1900s to tell the story of how charity fundraising became big business. But in the social media age, what's the most effective way to get people to give?

9 MIN3 w ago
Comments
Fundraising appeal

SWIFT

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication - SWIFT - solved some big problems with international financial transfers, making them more secure and reliable than ever before. However, as Tim Harford explains, the global political climate means it might now be facing its greatest challenge.

10 MINNOV 11
Comments
SWIFT

Wedgwood

Josiah Wedgwood is arguably the best-known name in the history of pottery - but it's not just his pots that made their mark on history. Tim Harford explains how a business model Wedgwood devised in the 18th Century still underpins the modern fashion industry.

9 MINNOV 4
Comments
Wedgwood

Glasses

Spectacles have been around for centuries, and have a huge impact on many people's quality of life. So why is it estimated that more than two billion people aren't aware that they need them? Tim Harford considers the difference that seeing clearly makes to the world.

10 MINOCT 28
Comments
Glasses

Vickrey turnstile

In 1952, economist William Vickrey devised an innovative system of turnstiles to help solve a major problem on New York’s subway network. It never became a reality, but, as Tim Harford explains, the idea behind it has had a major influence on how companies decide what to charge us for goods and services today.

9 MINOCT 21
Comments
Vickrey turnstile

GPS

How dependent is the world on GPS - and what would happen if it stopped working? Tim Harford explains why it's not just our ability to navigate that would be affected.

9 MINOCT 14
Comments
GPS

Bonsack machine

In 1881, James Bonsack developed a machine that made it far easier to mass-produce cigarettes. But at the time, other tobacco products were much more popular – so manufacturers had to find new ways of getting people’s attention. Tim Harford explains why the methods they devised are still working on consumers today.

9 MINOCT 7
Comments
Bonsack machine
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