#3. John Law, the Guy Who Crashed the World's Economy From the Grave
John Law was a Scottish economist. When we say "economist," we mean that in the loosest terms possible. Prior to being tasked with running the national bank of France back in the 1700s, you wouldn't have taken him for the kind of guy you would even trust with a child's piggy bank. Possibly because of that unfortunate murder charge that kept him from leaving the country.
But put him in charge they did, and what he did with this newfound power has a whole lot to do with why you're quite possibly living in a trailer park right now.
A Polish cartoon from 1720 that mocks John Law's policies.
(We have no idea what's actually going on in this cartoon, but it's kind of hot.)
You've heard of sub-prime lending, right? You know, that's the system where American bankers believed that they could turn a bunch of really bad hobo debts into a class of AAA securities by using nothing more than the power of wishful thinking. Well, turns out, they weren't the first to try the miracles of this practice. Your boy John Law introduced the system in France during the early 18th century with (surprise!) the same disastrous consequences.
As Controller General of Finance, Law convinced the French royals to pay off their government debts by exchanging them for shares in the Mississippi Company, which held exclusive trading rights to France. One small problem: the company wasn't making profits, the shares were worth shit and nobody wanted them. To overcome this setback, Law repackaged a bunch of these sub-prime debts as marketable securities and voila--the shares became hotter than a Parisian hooker in a lace corset.
Law's plan worked for awhile--that is, before it crashed and burned. The French economy, along with a lot of Europe, plummeted into deep recession and economic crisis. Meanwhile, the French peasants, thrown into poverty and destitution, were subjected to the 18th century version of Suze Orman. This understandably set the stage for the French Revolution. It also led to the United States trying the exact same shit hundreds of years later which, in turn, led to the Cracked offices being relocated to an abandoned Carl's Jr. on the outskirts of Butte, Montana. Thanks, France!
#2. Andy Hindelbrand, Inventor of Auto-Tune
Andy Hindelbrand had worked for years interpreting seismic data for the oil industry. Using a mathematical formula called autocorrelation, Hindelbrand would send sound waves into the ground and record their reflections, providing an accccccccccccca;sdlk... whoa, we fell asleep for a second there! An accurate map of potential drill sites. That's what that boring shit he was doing was all about.
Now if you're thinking that's one dull dead-end job, don't... his technique saved the oil companies millions and allowed him to retire at 40. That's reason enough to blast him in the facepiece, but there's more.
After 13 years of playing music for rocks, Hindelbrand figured he needed to party and unwind. During a retirement dinner party, a guest challenged him to a most interesting, um, challenge. She wanted him to invent a box that would allow her to sing in tune. After presumably consulting with Satan himself, Hindelbrand took up the challenge and created Auto-Tune.
Because of Satan.
Though Hindelbrand designed the device to be used primarily for pitch correction, Cher promptly employed it to sound like a drowning R2-D2 on her comeback hit "Believe," giving the public their first encounter with Auto-Tune. Hindelbrand hadn't realized that basic human nature towards a new technological toy would be to blatantly misuse it or turn it into a method of mass torture. This is something we at Cracked could have easily predicted. Afterall, give a kid a GTA console and he'll spend the first 10 minutes killing pedestrians in the most creative ways possible.
Now Auto-Tune has become an indispensable part of the music industry, acting as a sort of Photoshop for the human voice. From Britney Spears to obscure Bollywood soundtracks, every singer now presumes that you'll just run their voice through the box.
It gets worse. Since literally anyone can sing with its help, the maker's of Auto-Tune have now teamed up with T-Pain to release a $99 version of the device along with iPhone applications for home musicians.
#1. Gary Thuerk, Inventor of Spam Emails
Gary Thuerk has had Internet access since most of the people reading this were just swimmers in their fathers' hairy sack. We'll give you a second to meditate on that, kids. Cool, moving on. Back in 1973, when the Internet was still called Arpanet, Thuerk was working as the marketing manager for the creatively named Digital Equipment Corporation and was looking for a fast and easy way to let people know about his company's products.
Early Carrier-Pigeon Spam wasn't annoying enough.
What he came up with would have repercussions that last to this very day. Repercussions that, if they are to be believed, will increase your penis size by 500 percent and allow you to refinance your home in a way that will actually end up making you money.
Thuerk's idea for promoting his product was to send an unsolicited email to some 600 Arpanet users. That's right, Gary Thuerk is the dickface who first thought up the concept of spam email.
If you're thinking 600 is a small number compared to spammers today, keep in mind that this was in 1973, and there were only a total of about several thousand users of Arpanet at the time.
When the email users checked their inboxes, the foreign looking message with a cc list longer than Sarah Jessica Parker's face was a strange and unusual sight. Some, ignorant of the trend of Viagra messages the notification would spark, found it interesting. Others cursed Thuerk when their computer crashed. The Defense Communication Agency was furious and forbid Thuerk from ever sending unsolicited mails again.
But the seeds of a national menace had been formed. Today, a managed email security firm based in New York says spam now makes up more than 80 percent of all email being sent around the world.
These days, Thuerk says people have one of three reactions when they meet him: some are excited to meet someone with such an unusual claim to fame; some avoid him like the plague; and others, us for example, just want to deliver a fist of fury to his piehole. Can you blame us?
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