Miles Kington Remembered: Archaeologists unearth relics from the age of ignorance

Two huge corporations, Pepsi and Coke, did nothing but sell fizzy brown flavoured water. Not only had the two products little obvious attraction they were almost identical

Share
Related Topics

(8 November 1999)

Scientists have discovered the remains of what may have been the largest business corporation of the early 21st-century.

All that has been found so far is a small electronic memo from head office to all branches, but businessologists have been able to extrapolate the real size of the megacorp from that, and they now reckon that it was the largest ever known.

"We're going back to AD2010 or 2020," says Dr Ephraim Hustler, "a time which we know to have represented the zenith of the monster business corporations. Nowadays, of course, we know all about the Third Law of Business, which states that survival probability is in inverse ratio to growth rate, but they didn't know that then.

"Of course, we're going back a good few centuries, and it's hard to get inside the mind of a 20th-century person, but it seems that they were fatally capable of believing two opposite things at the same time."

Dr Hustler pauses, and shuffles some of the 20th-century antiques on his desk. A mobile phone. A 2-D TV set. A piece of "paper". "For a start," says Dr Hustler, business research Fellow of North Bournemouth Polytechnic, "people knew that the second millennium ended at the end of 2000, but they all celebrated a year early. They all heralded the arrival of the internet, but forgot that it was just an information exchange process, not a physical enabler.

"They knew that size led to cumbersome inefficiency – that's how the dinosaurs died out – but still insisted on creating bigger and bigger companies and bigger and bigger federal states, and seeing globalisation as the way forward. A few voices were raised in protest, saying that it all contained the seeds of its own destruction, but they were ignored. The 21st century was a time when size was all, when best-selling was thought to mean best..."

Dr Hustler pauses again and picks up another 20th-century relic. It was called a "stapler". Nobody today knows what it was used for. Something to do with "paper", perhaps?

"The interesting thing is that these monster corporations managed to get big even without any clear function. Several seem to have specialised in making running-shoes, although people took less and less exercise. Two huge corporations, called Pepsi and Coke, did nothing but sell fizzy brown flavoured water. Not only had the two products little obvious attraction, they were almost identical, yet these giants spent millions battling to establish their own tedious brand. To us, they were clearly doomed. At the time, it must have seemed as if they would live for ever."

Dr Hustler picks up a small disc with string wrapped round the middle, which he often likes to play with. It is called a "Yo-Yo". Nothing else is known about it, but its sheer lack of function suggests some sort of religious significance.

"Anyway, we have now discovered that Coke and Pepsi were not the biggest conglomerates to walk the Earth. If our reconstruction is accurate, a far larger one seems to have flourished just after 2000. As far as we can tell, it was a dispenser of entertainment and news (though they made little distinction between the two in those days) formed by a merger of half a dozen giants. One was called the BBC, one was called Sky, one News International. Anyway, it was huge.

"Those who believed size was progress must have thought it represented the future. They thought the same about the ship called Titanic, a plane called the Brabazon, and about nuclear weapons..."

Dr Hustler smiles.

"Did you know that my place of study, North Bournemouth Polytechnic, was once part of a huge educational complex called the South Coast University, which stretched from here to Brighton? Absolute madness. All part of the mania for gigantism, globalisation, conglomeration and all the other diseases that nearly killed us in the 21st-century, before we managed to start thinking straight. Just in time."

Dr Hustler sighs, and picks up a 20th-century wooden carving. It is in the shape of a cross and has a man on it. He is clad only in what seems to be a bath towel. It was clearly once very significant. Our scientists still have not cracked its meaning, but think it may have been just a good luck charm from a superstitious and ignorant age.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power