By John Eric
2023 promises to be another dazzling year for tech – CES showed us the advancements in the industry last week. But, have you ever realized the importance DC has on the tech scene? In our current issue of John Eric Home, John Eric explains why…
Ask anyone who lives outside of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area (WDCMA) what type of business is in DC, and the answer is always government. Of course, that is true. We are home to the US Federal Government. But that is where most people stop.
If you ask them to name another industry outside of the government? You’re normally met with a sea of blank stares and a real struggle to answer the question. The truth is DC is so much more than the government and always has been.
When people think of tech and America’s tech capital, they immediately think of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. There is no denying that the best known of the social media tech companies from Facebook and Instagram (META), LinkedIn, and Twitter (to name a few) call Silicon Valley and San Francisco home. But most people and Wall Street have a myopic view that tech is only social media and posting to Facebook or Instagram or Twitter. Tech is broad and wide ranging and encompasses numerous industries and categories. In fact, every industry has been touched by tech. There is no escaping tech in every aspect of our lives.
Expanding one’s views and understanding of tech is how we arrive to DC’s tech dominance. But before we get there, we have to acknowledge that tech companies are in every major city and state in this country and expanding. Another thing that is abundantly clear is that every major American city believes they are poised to be the next Silicon Valley. If you were to read any local hometown paper or their local business journal, they are filled with articles about their ever-expanding tech sector and the increase of tech jobs.
The national press loves to pit California against Texas and write about Austin’s emerging tech scene created by an exodus of Silicon Valley companies. While those stories are plentiful and make for entertaining reading, the Washington, D.C. metro area status as the “Tech Capitol of the US and the World” continues unabated and truly unchallenged.
Let me say as loud as I can – the Washington, D.C. Metro area doesn’t need to be the next Silicon Valley. Our region already outpaces Silicon Valley and every other region in the United States with our deep and diverse field of tech orientated government agencies and private sector business. In fact, being like Silicon Valley would be a step backwards, not forward.
Would our region welcome more tech companies relocating to our area? Absolutely! Both things are true and not mutually exclusive.
Riddle me this.
Now at this point, it would be fair to ask yourself, what in the world am I smoking to make the assertions and claims I’ve made thus far. Well, stay with me.
I started this article by talking about people’s perceptions that the WDCMA is all about government. Well, government is the exact reason for our dominance in the field of tech. Almost every single invention of major consequence has been created and enabled by the US Federal Government. Specifically, the Department of Defense. It is the number one funder of tech and innovation.
This seems like a great time to bring DARPA into our conversation. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) based in Arlington, Virginia is the lead driver of tech and innovation. The agency has evolved over the years, but its creation and implementation of technology is unmatched and unrivaled. Period. No other company or government agency in the world comes close to its prevalence in tech fields.
We all take for granted both our daily dependence and our constant use of the Internet. Well, how did the Internet come into existence?
The story of the Internet began in the 1960s, as a way for government researchers to share information. Computers in the early days were incredibly large and immobile, and the government needed to have a way to share information between facilities that didn’t require travel and magnetic computer tapes. It was during this time that the first “Internet” was born.
With the advance of the Cold War, the super charging of the first “Internet” went into overdrive by the US Department of Defense after the Soviet Union launch of the Sputnik satellite. The long and short of the story was that the US government needed to make sure that they could disseminate information after a nuclear attack. That initiative led to the creation of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) which in its early days was limited to academic and research organizations who had contracts with the Defense Department.
Although the Internet was born in the Washington, D.C. metro area, the technology created by the government was opened to civilian applications in efforts to create other networks and information sharing. DARPA’s creation of ARPANET is the reason that we all enjoy the Internet today.
January 1, 1983, is considered the official birthday of the Internet. It was on this day that the implementation of a new standard uniformed communications code allowed different computer networks that didn’t have a way of communicating prior to start talking to each other. The Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP) was born. ARPANET and the Defense Data Network officially changed to the TCP/IP standard and all networks could now be connected by a universal language.
The Internet becomes available for the masses.
Do you remember the famous catch phrase, “Welcome! You’ve got mail”? That catchy chime turned into a cultural phenomenon and was immortalized in films, tv shows, and songs. There really wasn’t an American in the 1990’s who didn’t have an AOL account.
America Online was created and based here in the WDCMA. AOL’s journey started in 1985 when it was founded by Jim Kimsey and Steve Case – who are today DC icons today – and named Quantum Computer Services. Based out of Northern Virginia, AOL offered nascent online services to the first “regular” users of the Internet.
In less than a decade, Quantum was renamed America Online. The company experienced explosive growth and for the first time allowed everyday people to connect over the Internet, bringing millions of users an ability to communicate in real time through their Instant Messenger service.
Can you imagine a world today without text messaging? I dare say no. It is the primary method by which parents and kids communicate. You can thank AOL.
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