A little short of 40 years ago Clyde Dawson walked into a supermarket in Troy, Ohio and bought a pack of gum.
Twenty-five years later, his purchase was celebrated in an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute.
Mr Dawson’s pack of gum featured the first ever barcode to be scanned. In the decades since, the use of the uniform product codes, represented in the form of barcodes and global location numbers which tie products to places, has enabled businesses to create a map of global supply chains, transforming the production process.
The use of a shared language among companies the world over, in this case in the form of the barcode’s serial number, meant invoicing and purchase orders, along with despatch and receipt advice could all be standardised across firms.
The anecdote is taken from a fascinating paper out today co-authored by the Bank of England’s executive director for financial stability Andy Haldane.
According to the research, finance is also in dire need of its own language. Not only would this confer economic benefits. It would also, the authors claim, lessen the chances of a major financial crisis.