Computers began automating processes in the 1950s. Early computing was primitive by current standards, but computers could perform tasks in a fraction of the time that humans could. Since that point in time, everything from accounts payable to sophisticated investment pricing models has been automated. However, there has been at least one holdout in the rush to computerization. Over its 211 years of existence, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) has repeatedly refused automated execution of trades in favor of the tried-and-true auction market. To the NYSE, people -- not machines -- provide the ideal method of determining optimal stock prices.

That model may be on the verge of change. John Thain, who became leader of the NYSE in recent months, advocates increased technology in the trading of stocks. Indeed, the NYSE faces significant competition among its electronic rivals, notably the NASDAQ and Archipelago.

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