The Air is Full of Sound

Charles Payne
Posted: Apr 17, 2014 12:01 AM
The Air is Full of Sound

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound.


The year 1985 saw the beginning of a new dawn in technology, which would see the exploitation and evolution of a defense department project, develop into the worldwide web - the Internet. Building out the pipes and tools to take advantage of this super-information highway sparked a wave of innovation that was eventually reflected in the stock market. It was a heady time to be sure, which brought about terms like "paradigm shifts" and the dreams of a world of riches for everyone.

It was a modern-day gold rush, and the only way to quell excitement was for it to all crumble in a burning crash, which continues to reverberate to this day. For the stock market, there were several names that played critical roles as the backbone for this "next tech revolution," and these names were commonly referred to as the Four Horsemen of Technology. Investors that got in these names early saw multi-thousand percentage returns from trough to peak.

MSFT +9,500%
DELL +97,950%
INTC +6,100%
CSCO +96,150%

However, it is no wonder that at some point every single person in the United States has had a vision of becoming rich, and perhaps buying his or her own island. The Four Horsemen of the last tech revolution were real companies, and to this day they continue to mint money, even if top-line growth has slowed. Still, none of these companies have seen their shares rebound to the old all-time highs, which brings us to the question of today's tech leaders and where they are in the cycle. Ramping up for a multi-year rally that ultimately brings back visions of riches for all? Or ramping down having peaked before fundamentals could match the hype?

Four Horseman 1999

Internet & Telecom



Dell Computers






January 1990





Top 1999/2000





Bottom 2009





Horsemen 2014 Version

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

It has been a tough slog in the last four weeks for tech, especially for those names typically in the news all the time, creating moves designed to make their empires even larger and more effective. In a 2011 interview, Eric Schmidt, discussed what he called the new Four Horsemen: Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Each had its own advantages and decided strengths. They would dominate search, device, commerce, and social respectively. Maybe these companies should look to their predecessors in order to not to make the same mistakes.

The 1990-leaders were too focused on the personal computer. They made deals, spent money, but it was always PC-centric, so they have paid the price and now they are scrambling to catch up. However, these new upstarts are brash and will not stay in their own lane. Eric Schmidt picked the right companies, but he could not have imagined that these guys would spy on each other's turf and declare war.

With high-flying stocks and war chests of cash, I think these companies are doing the right thing. One day the river is flowing and the next day it is dead. Why not get ahead of the curve and look into the new, new, new thing that will capture imaginations and propel the world ahead? Right now, I consider these companies to be service and communication vehicles, but the next level is that of working machines which can think and learn on their own. I am talking about drones, robots, and artificial intelligence - a giant leap toward synchronicity.

Four Horseman 2014
Services & Communication









52- Week High





52- Week Low










The Four Horsemen climbed off the canvass to all finish higher, with the exception of Apple, which has been a bit off the radar. Google began the session with news that it has swooped in to snatch up the drone developer Titan, right under the nose of Facebook. Ironically, I think individual investors are deliberately shaken out of the market at current levels; it was another hot tech name from the current batch of upstarts, which added a spark to that sector today.

Twitter (TWTR) made big news with its acquisition of Gnip, which analyzes social data, collects and digest the information, to spit out specific ways businesses could tap into specific audiences with unique content. Big data is a key part of artificial intelligence and the news helped techs in general. In addition, Twitter poached the guy that ran Google Maps, Daniel Graf, to head its consumer products division. Yes, there are a lot of musical chairs going on, but only because the stakes are so high.

Right now, I think the new Four Horsemen are not at the start of an apocalyptic decline, but still ramping higher. It is not 1990, but it is a long ways from 2000.

Question of the Week:

I have received amazing replies to the question of the week. Please keep them coming. Admittedly, I have only gone through half of them, but I will read them all and we will post them for community comments soon.