The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

A Brief History of Money

Or, how we learned to stop worrying and embrace the abstraction

14 min read
Photo: Levi Brown; Prop Stylist: Ariana Salvato
Photo: Levi Brown; Prop Stylist: Ariana Salvato

In the 13th century, the Chinese emperor Kublai Khan embarked on a bold experiment. China at the time was divided into different regions, many of which issued their own coins, discouraging trade within the empire. So Kublai Khan decreed that henceforth money would take the form of paper.

It was not an entirely original idea. Earlier rulers had sanctioned paper money, but always alongside coins, which had been around for centuries. Kublai's daring notion was to make paper money (the chao) the dominant form of currency. And when the Italian merchant Marco Polo visited China not long after, he marveled at the spectacle of people exchanging their labor and goods for mere pieces of paper. It was as if value were being created out of thin air.

Keep reading...Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
Colorful chip with wires coming out of it surrounded by large metal plates.

Engineers probe the performance of noisy bits that, when working together, may solve some problems better than quantum computers.

Lang Zeng/Beihang University

A large universal quantum computer is still an engineering dream, but machines designed to leverage quantum effects to solve specific classes of problems—such as D-wave’s computers—are alive and well. But an unlikely rival could challenge these specialized machines: computers built from purposely noisy parts.

This week at the IEEE International Electron Device Meeting (IEDM 2022), engineers unveiled several advances that bring a large-scale probabilistic computer closer to reality than ever before.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

A World-Class Tech MBA on Your Own Schedule

Purdue University offers professionals around the world a flexible, STEM-focused, all-online MBA from a top-ranked business school

9 min read
Photo of Purdue campus showing a sculpture of a rock topped with a large metal P letter.

Purdue is one of the world’s premier engineering universities.

Purdue University

This sponsored article is brought to you by Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.

A Master of Business Administration degree can be a passport to broader career horizons—especially for ambitious young (and young-ish) engineers.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}