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BORN New York

7 months ago

By sangeetha m

American innovation has always been fuelled by ingenuity and creativity, and ultimately, inspired by the latest leaps in technology. The kind of innovation that attracted the brightest and the best to envision a new way of doing and being.

In 1969, a group of engineers stitched together ARPANET, the first network of computers that was the precursor to the Internet, changing forever the way we communicate. The first message sent was ‘Lo’, short for ‘Login,’ before the network crashed. Since then, technology built upon the basic concepts of packet switching and communication protocols TCP/IP has gone on to further revolutionize our lives.

The first email was sent by computer engineer Ray Tomlinson to himself via ARPANET, from one computer to another right beside it in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971. While this was a groundbreaking feat, the text sent was a bunch of alphabets. To distinguish the host computers, Tomlinson introduced the @ sign as the locator in email addresses.

Usenet, a worldwide discussion system built on the ‘poor man’s ARPANET,’ was created in 1979 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. Over a decade before the World Wide Web went online, it was responsible for the creation of forums and bulletin boards (BBS),which in turn led to the development of online gaming via interfaces with external applications. We have Usenet to thank for terms such as ‘FAQs’ and ‘spam.’

1993 saw the launch of Mosaic, developed by the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications, a web browser that could display text and images together, designed for use by anyone. On its heels came Netscape Navigator in 1994 with innovations such as its design for the speed of dial-up modems in homes. Of course, it was Internet Explorer 3, which arrived in 1996, that cemented the shift to the browser by supporting multimedia applications and internet mail.

The smartphones we carry in our pockets have come a long way from the first handheld mobile phone, produced by John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1973, using a handset weighing around two kilograms (4.4 lbs). It took another decade for Motorola to come out with a commercial variant, the DynaTAC 8000x, weighing 790g and 10 inches (25cm) high, offering a maximum of 30 minutes talk time.

Another decade later, the idea of a pocket digital assistant gained currency with the PalmPilot series from Palm, Inc, which debuted in 1996 using a Motorola processor. Finally, the handheld computer reached its zenith with the release of the Apple iPhone in 2007, that made the Web mobile.

However, the early web was mainly about the passive viewing of content. Web 2.0 was more participatory, throwing up at first user-generated content in the form of blogs. Further evolution brought about social networking sites such theglobe.com and MySpace, which offered profile pages to users, and finally, the biggest of them all, Facebook, started by Mark Zuckerberg in his college dorm in 2004.

This potent brew of creativity and technology typifies many of the US tech hubs, foremost among them Silicon Valley–nowadays not just a synonym for the tech industry situated around the Bay Area but a catch-all for the entire American high-tech sector. In the last decade, New York City has begun to attract tech firms and talent too, drawn in part by a GDP that places it 12th in the world and the 800 languages spoken within its limits.

The Big Apple has gone through a slew of names including Lenapehoking (when it was part of the Algonquin Native American nation), New Angoulême (christened by the French) and New Amsterdam (by the Dutch), before it was named after after the Duke of York, who would go on to become King James II of England. BORN’s HQ is in New York’s historic Chelsea neighborhood, which boasts over 200 galleries as the centre of the city’s art world, and is just a stone’s throw away from the iconic Flatiron Building.


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