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A Historical Perspective

Some of the most innovative ideas have emerged during times of economic duress.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Just because credit markets dry up and unemployment rises, the spirit of innovation doesn't hibernate. Recessions can often be like the economy's answer to a ravaging forest fire--a painful but necessary way to clean the slate and create lasting change. Historically, American entrepreneurs have made the most of their opportunities to rise from the ashes. Here's a look at how they've done it.

The Great Depression

1930: 3M pours profits into R&D, yielding Scotch tape.
1931: Sears Roebucks notes automobile's popularity and creates Allstate auto insurance subsidiary.
1932: Revlon launches with long-lasting nail polish.
1933: Miracle Whip is born.
1934: Campbell's Cream of Mushroom and Chicken Noodle soups are introduced.
1938: GE introduces fluorescent light bulb, which has twice the lifespan of incandescent but uses half the power.
1939: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard establish Hewlett-Packard.

Eisenhower Recessions

1954: Texas Instruments introduces transistor radio.
1955: The first McDonald's (owned by Ray Kroc) opens.
1958: Hello, Hula Hoop.
1960: Medtronic purchases the rights to produce an implantable pacemaker.
1961: Procter & Gamble tests Pampers disposable diapers.

Vietnam, Stagflation, Oil Crisis

1973: Revlon's Charlie, designed for the working woman's budget, is a hit.
1974: The first product with a UPC--a pack of gum--is scanned.
1974: Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver invent Post-it Notes; 3M introduces the product in 1980.
1975: Bill Gates and Paul Allen form Microsoft.

The Most Severe Recession Since The Great Depression (So Far)

1981: MTV hits the airwaves.
1982: Diet Coke makes its debut.
1983: California firm (later IDEO) designs Apple computer mouse.
1983: Microsoft introduces Word for MS-DOS 1.00.

Black Monday

1987: Ameritech spends 10 percent more on fiber optic and digital technologies than in 1986.
1987: Quark introduces QuarkXPress.
1987: The Food and Drug Administration approves the use of Prozac for treating depression.

Gulf War, Oil Prices Surge

1991: The World Wide Web and Apple PowerBook debut.
1992: Kali's Bar is introduced. It becomes Clif Bar in 1997.

Dotcoms Implode, 9/11 Attacks

2000: Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan found Method Products.
2001: The iPod is unveiled; goes live; Corp., renamed PayPal, goes public; and XM Satellite Radio begins broadcasting.
2002: RIM introduces BlackBerry 5810.