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US Presidents and the Evolution of Technology


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In the Spiceworks infographic, "The Evolution of Information Technology Through US Presidential Administrations," we take a trip down memory lane to reflect on milestones in the evolution of IT over 9 decades, analyze the role of tech in US history and popular culture, and cite computing quotes from US Presidents and popular figures.

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US Presidents and the Evolution of Technology

  1. 1. The Evolution of Information Technology Through U.S. Presidential Administrations from 1930s – present Before bacon, LOLcats and unicorns ruled social media and powerful computers fit in our pockets, computer networks were driven by massive mainframes filled with actual bugs, all riding on the dreams of brilliant technologists and inventors. But we wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of the commanders-in-chief along the way, so here are some of the milestones of tech progress under the last 13 presidents: brought to you by 1930s The Start of the IT Era 1933 32 President Franklin D. Roosevelt March 4, 1933 – April 12, 1945 F r a nk li n D . R o o s e v e lt 1933 1933 President Roosevelt delivers the first of 33 “fireside chats” over evening radio addresses, charming the socks off the entire nation with his silky voice. 1935 “Rapid changes—the machine age, the advent of universal and rapid communication and many other new factors—have brought new problems.” —President Roosevelt 1935 1940s 1940 1940 Attendees at an American Mathematical Society conference are stunned after the first demonstration of remote access computing by Bell Labs’ Complex Number Calculator. We’re pretty sure they said, “Much wow.” 1942 The Atanasoff-Berry Computer becomes the first electronic digital computer and the first computer to use binary digits to represent all numbers and data. 011000110110111101101111011011000000110100001010 D . R o o s e v e lt 1942 1943 F r a nk li n ENIAC, one of the world’s first general-purpose electronic digital computers, was initially designed for the United States Army. Its visionary creators saw greater potential for the “Giant Brain” outside the military; their ambition would express the first dream for the role of computers in everyday life. 1943 1945 33 President Harry S. Truman April 12, 1945 – January 20, 1953 1945 Though a common engineering term, mathematician Grace Hopper records the first actual computer bug—a moth stuck between the relays on the Harvard Mark II. RIP, Bug. s. tru ma n 1945 h a rry “I fear that machines are ahead of morals by some centuries and when morals catch up perhaps there’ll [be] no reason for any of it.” —President Truman 1947 President Truman delivers the first televised presidential address. 1950s 1947 1951 MIT’s Whirlwind, the world’s first real-time computer and a government-funded project, debuts to the public. 1951 s. tru ma n 1952 1952 h a rry UNIVAC correctly predicts presidential victory for Dwight D. Eisenhower; polls had Adlai Stevenson ahead by a landslide. Humans: 0. Computer overlords: 1. 1953 34 Grace Hopper completes the first compiler, a program that allows a computer user to use English-like words instead of numbers. President Dwight D. Eisenhower January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961 1954 1954 1956 MIT researchers build the TX-0, the first general-purpose, programmable computer built with transistors. 1956 1958 dwi g h t d. e i se nh owe r Gordon Teal perfects the silicon-based transistor, laying the foundations for the first transistor radio to launch the world into a global village of instant news and Beliebers. 1958 Jack Kilby invents the integrated circuit while working at Texas Instruments. 1960s President Eisenhower creates the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik as part of the space race during the Cold War. 1961 “For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.” —President Eisenhower 1961 1961 35 President John F. Kennedy January 20, 1961 – November 22, 1963 1961 JFK sets a goal to “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The Apollo program would spur advances in many areas of technology, including telecommunications and computers. 1961 IBM commands an 81.2% share of the computer market. “Man is still the most extraordinary computer of all.” —President Kennedy f. k e n n e d y Fairchild Micrologic designs the first integrated circuit (IC) available as a monolithic chip; their ICs would be used by the Apollo Guidance Computer. j o h n 1962 Computer geeks at MIT write the first computerized video game, SpaceWar!, for the $120,000 PDP 1 minicomputer. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” —Arthur C. Clarke 1962 1963 36 President Lyndon B. Johnson November 22, 1963 – January 20, 1969 1964 Douglas Engelbart invents the mouse, named after its tail-shaped cord. 1964 1966 First dynamic RAM (Random Access Memory) chip invented. The original Star Trek is shown for the first time in the United States on NBC September 8, 1966, a show which continues to inspire scientists and geeks today. 1967 1967 ly n d o n b . j o h n s o n 1966 “I believe the time has come to enlist the computer and the satellite, as well as television and radio, and to enlist them in the cause of education.”—President Johnson The Apollo Guidance Computer makes its debut orbiting the Earth on Apollo 7. DARPA launches ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet. 1970s 1969 37 President Richard Nixon January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974 1971 1971 The first e-mail is sent through ARPANET by Ray Tomlinson, who cemented the use of the “@” sign in email addresses. 1972 Pong is released and revolutionizes the arcade industry while launching the modern video game era. Coincidentally, the rate and complexity of profane words increases among teenage boys. 1972 r i c h a r d n i xo n The first floppy disks become commercially available. 1973 Robert Metcalfe invents the Ethernet working standard. 1973 1974 38 President Gerald Ford August 9, 1974 – January 20, 1977 1975 “I recognize the need for technology that enriches life while preserving our natural environment. My goal is to stimulate productivity, but use technology to redeem, not to destroy our environment.” —Gerald Ford g e r a l d fo r d 1975 1976 1976 1977 Steve Wozniak and best friend Steve Jobs design the Apple I, a single-board computer for hobbyists. 39 President Jimmy Carter January 20, 1977 – January 20, 1981 1977 1977 Atari launches the Video Computer System game console; productivity everywhere drops precipitously. The first ever spam email is sent over ARPANET by Gary Thuerk, an ad for a presentation by the Digital Equipment Corporation. The second spam email was probably sent by a “Nigerian prince.” j i m m y c a rt e r 1978 1978 Texas Instruments Inc. introduces Speak & Spell, marking the first electronic duplication of the human vocal tract on a single chip of silicon. Luckily it didn’t say, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” 1979 John Shoch and Jon Hupp at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center invent a computer worm. Initially designed for testing and to provide more efficient use of computers, the worm had the unintended effect of invading networked computers and creating a security threat. Whoops. 1979 USENET established, enabling users to post messages and files that could be accessed and archived. It would go on to become a main source of large-scale interaction for interest groups through the 1990s. “We have the world’s highest level of technology. We have the most skilled workforce, with innovative genius.” —Jimmy Carter 1980s 1981 40 President Ronald Reagan January 20, 1981 – January 20, 1989 Beating out all humans in the world for the title of "Man of the Year," the personal computer is named "Machine of the Year" by TIME magazine 1982 1982 1983 1984 Nintendo releases the Nintendo Entertainment System. Enrollment to plumbing school skyrockets. Ro n a l d 1983 Apple Computer launches the Macintosh, the first successful mouse-driven computer with a graphic user interface, for $2,500. The MacWrite program is the first to demonstrate WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processing. r e ag a n 1984 “Cyberspace...A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity.” —William Gibson “I recently learned something quite interesting about video games. Many young people have developed incredible hand, eye, and brain coordination in playing these games.” —President Reagan 1989 41 President George H.W. Bush January 20, 1989 – January 20, 1993 1989 Tim Berners-Lee develops Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and a new technique for distributing information on the Internet: he calls it the World Wide Web. g e o rg e h . w. b us h 1989 “High tech is potent, precise, and in the end, unbeatable...Look, I want to give the high-five symbol to high tech.”—George H.W. Bush 1991 1991 1990s Senator Al Gore passes the High Performance Computing Act of 1991. The “Gore Bill,” as it became known, pumped $600M into computing and networking and would help launch the Internet boom. So he kind of did invent the Internet...not really. “What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”—Steve Jobs 1992 Linux released under the GNU General Public License - free operating systems for everyone! 1992 1993 42 President Bill Clinton January 20, 1993 – January 20, 2001 1994 1994 Netscape Communications Corporation is founded. Originally called the Mosaic Communications corporation, Netscape would herald the Internet boom of the 1990s. The first White House website is launched. President Clinton issues an executive order forcing the heads of every federal agency to employ IT in their operations. 1994 President Clinton and Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt participate in the first email exchange between two heads of state. b i l l c l i n to n Yahoo is founded by Stanford graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo, which started out as “Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web.” 1997 Palm Pilot released. International community frets about people spending too much time on portable electronic devices. 1997 1998 2001 1998 “Ideas, information, and money cross the planet at the stroke of a computer key, bringing with them extraordinary opportunities to create wealth, to prevent and conquer disease, to foster greater understanding among peoples of different histories and different cultures.” —President Clinton 43 President George W. Bush January 20, 2001 – January 20, 2009 2000s 2001 Wikipedia launches; students everywhere rejoice. 2001 “Like almost everyone who uses e-mail, I receive a ton of spam every day. Much of it offers to help me get out of debt or get rich quick. It would be funny if it weren’t so irritating.” —Bill Gates 2003 2003 2004 2004 Google indexes more than 8 billion web pages. International community worries about people spending too much time online. w. b us h Facebook launches, available only to Harvard students. International community wrings hands over social media causing disconnection. ge o rg e “The Internet has changed us. It’s changed the whole world. It’s an amazing example of what a commitment to research dollars can mean.”—President Bush 2006 Spiceworks founded in Austin, Texas. Millions of IT pros use Spiceworks to get the info, advice and tools they need to do their jobs and decide what to buy. 2006 2007 First Apple iPhone launches. Fretting about time spent on phones reaches maximum fervor; so do phone sales. 2007 2009 44 President Barack Obama January 20, 2009 – present 2009 President Obama begins his weekly address via YouTube. o b a m a 2009 b a r ac k President Obama selects Aneesh Chopra to be the White House’s first Chief Technology Officer. 2010 Apple releases the iPad, ushering in a new era of tablet computing and people looking silly taking photos with giant aluminum rectangles. 2010s 2010 2012 billion 2012 The number of smartphones reaches 1 billion worldwide. The number of virtualized servers surpasses the number of physical servers in the world. “Technology and the internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run.” —President Barack Obama in an AMA on Reddit present Spiceworks is the professional network that more than 5 million IT professionals use to connect with one another and over 3,000 technology brands. The company simplifies how IT professionals discover, buy and manage more than $525 billion in technology products and services each year. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Spiceworks is backed by Adams Street Partners, Austin Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), Goldman Sachs, Shasta Ventures and Tenaya Capital. For more information, visit