History of Commerce: From Cattle to Bitcoin

History of Commerce: From Cattle to Bitcoin

Forget about ecommerce for a moment! Imagine trading one of your prized cattle for a piece of land to raise your family in 7000 BC. That’s how it was done back then. Boy how times have changed. Now think about the first ATM in 1972, and how remarkable it was for people to walk up to a magical machine that spewed out physical cash after a few button clicks.

The history of ecommerce is truly amazing, so we compiled a story of 11,000 years in 30 seconds, by using another modern marvel: animated GIFs. Have a look below and scroll down for the full infographic.

The History Of Commerce From Cattle to Bitcoin Gif

The History of Commercial Transactions

It all started with those simple (yet smelly I can imagine) cattle trades. Then people started realizing that small tokens like cowry shells, metal cowries and silver coins were a little more practical for conducting business in the late BCs.

Paper currency was first seen in 806 AC, but not before leather money was pressed and traded for goods and services. Imagine a world where the money was made with the same material as our present day purses and wallets.

The Gold Standard, in 1821, broke boundaries, leading to various gold rushes in the United States and other countries. That madness ended in 1930, and the first credit card popped up, offering a glimpse of what would eventually turn into a market based on digital transactions.

As we’ll discuss below, the Pizza Hut online store is known as one of the first online transactions, and that led the charge, throughout the 90s and 2000s, for companies like Ebay, Amazon, PayPal, Bitcoin and Square.

The Milestone of the First Ecommerce Platform

What was the very first ecommerce transaction? Experts argue about the exact instance in which an item or service was sold for a price on the net, but most have come to the conclusion that it stems from the drug industry.

According to The Guardian, Stanford students in the 1970s stayed ahead of the law by using Arpanet accounts and the school’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory to sell a bag of marijuana to other students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The account comes from John Markoff’s book What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry, and he states that this trend of buying and selling drugs (both legal and illegal,) to keep the transactions under the radar, continued throughout the 70s, 80s and into the world we live in today.

Okay, drugs are technically the first transactions that passed through the internet, but what about legitimate business transactions, performed by recognizable companies?

Pizza Hut claims the honor, by stating that it sold an individual pizza through the internet in 1994. Many sources confirm that the Pizza Hut claim is true, and it’s a rather instrumental point in the overall history of commerce (considering that thousands of other large corporations turned to this model to accept payments and then deliver tangible items to the customers.)

However, the mystery gets even more interesting, since reports also talk about how Sting’s album “Ten Summoner’s Tales” was sold online just a few weeks before the famous Pizza Hut transaction.

Regardless, these milestones, from drugs in the 70s to a pizza pie and Sting’s latest hit in 1994, shows that ecommerce transactions hit the world hard and have made rapid transformations to evolve into what we know today. Now we have contractors swiping cards on their cell phones and companies delivering flat screen TVs in one or two days.

The History of Commerce Infographic

The History of Commerce - From Cattle to Bitcoin Infographic

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Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.

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