Measure Everything: GDP, Unemployment, the Adding Machine and the Computer (Ark of Commerce, Part 5)

The Wales adding machine above was state of the art for its time, which would have been Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency, and were used up until electric calculators took off in the 1960’s.    It was built at a close interval to the typewriter, and both inventors were bored with current technology and had health issues, yet they spent their lives making improvements to their machines.  The companies that came out of their efforts – Burroughs for the adding machine, and Remington-Rand for the typewriter, would have a role in computers by the 1950’s.

What good is commerce if you can’t measure it?  Take it all in.  Say what it is – and what it’s about.  We look at advertising, the American side of the business, it’s attempt to describe commerce. And the poet that found work in the booming advertising business of the 1920’s.  By the time he worked in it, the American industry was sixty years old.  We discuss that.

And how can you count all the business a country is doing?  A Russian-American immigrant would try, and give us a statistic we see in political debates as a result.

The “Ark of Commerce” is a series within a podcast – something I’ve done since I started the podcast in 2006 at different times.   Ark is no typo, it refers to the original arks of maritime commerce when the United States earned its independence.  But of course it’s meant to play off the concept of an arc, involving stock markets, trains, watercraft, adding machines and usually Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Edison.

In this episode we tell the history of the computer, but also the typewriter and the adding machine.  As well as their inventors, perfecting parts as their own health fails. Hart Crane’s poetry celebrating a steel object and the tales of two Treasury Secretaries.

And the tale of a man tries to create an un-commerce that may have lead to the 21st century economy instead.   Part 5 of our series on commercial history.