Howard Schneider was a doctor treating psychiatric patients in the ER when he decided to transform the grocery store experience. He set out to invent the self checkout machine (partial transcript here). Schneider's self-checkout kiosk was first deployed at a Price Chopper supermarket in Clifton Park, New York in 1992. [more inside]
Planet Money's Adam Davidson ponders an emerging economic paradox in this week's NYT Magazine: Why are corporations hoarding trillions in cash? The cash stockpiles being held by many major corporations situation are unprecedented in size, and often vastly exceed any sum of money that these corporations could ever dream of spending. This behavior runs in direct opposition to most economic theories, violates assumptions about how rational corporations should act, and is being rewarded by the market (but only in some industries). So, what gives?
Pigeon.ly has joined Y-Combinator's 2015 Winter class. While in prison, founder Frederick Hutson was amazed by the cost and difficulty of communicating with those outside. When he was released in 2011, he founded Pigeon.ly (originally Picturegram) to help people send pictures (and, later, make phone calls) to inmates. Additional coverage: The New York Times (2013), Forbes (2014), Planet Money.
NPR's Planet Money explains the history of the sales tax in the United States by tracing what kinds of sandwiches get taxed and why: How the Burrito Became a Sandwich. Bonus: In-N-Out Burger history in the podcast.
4 GIFs showing how the population in 4 different countries has and will age over time. (courtesy of Planet Money)
"In the past three decades, the number of Americans who are on disability has skyrocketed. The rise has come even as medical advances have allowed many more people to remain on the job, and new laws have banned workplace discrimination against the disabled. Every month, 14 million people now get a disability check from the government." A multimedia story by Planet Money reporter Chana Joffe-Walt, also featured on This American Life this week.
Ask A Banker: What's The Deal With High Frequency Trading? From the planet money NPR team.
Daniel Yergin was recently interviewed on NPR's always informative Planet Money podcast. Yergin—most famous for his 1992 Pulitzer-winning opus on 20th century petroleum development, The Prize—has penned a sequel, of sorts, examining the modern quest for sustainable energy amidst the looming threat of climate change. If The Prize was an epic glorification of the quest for money, oil and power, The Quest is a look at those who might have to clean up the whole mess. "The heroes are the engineers and scientists of the energy world — the geeks, in other words." [more inside]
"Now is a better time to be a musician, or a fan of music, than any other time in all of human history." Last Friday, the NPR Planet Money podcast featured musician Jonathan Coulton, whose online success prompted one host to compare the man (or his brand) to the blanket-with-arms Snuggie, i.e. "we didn't know we wanted it, and then all of a sudden we did." Coulton responds with his own thoughts on new business models for musicians in the Internet/file-sharing age.
What is the value of a pelican? - The Planet Money crew investigates how we can estimate the value of a pelican killed in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. (podcast)
Betting Against the American Dream. In 2005, just as Wall Street started to get cold feet about the housing market, the Magnetar hedge fund helped create a new wave of billion-dollar mortgage-backed securities, pushed bankers to include riskier sub-prime mortgages, and then shorted the securities, making millions when the bubble finally burst. Traders on both sides of the deals pocketed enormous fees even if their banks went under when the securities failed. Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica, This American Life, and NPR's Planet Money track down some of the big winners in the housing/financial crisis. No time to read or listen? It seemed so much like a scheme from The Producers, they even recorded a show tune to explain it all. (Previously, 2, 3)
The Crisis of Credit by graduate design student Jonathan Jarvis is a thorough and visually appealing animation which explains the current credit crisis in clear terms. From the ever helpful NPR Planet Money.