Last Tuesday, President Barack Obama drank from a Lincoln cup to invoke the 16th president, and took the oath of office on the Lincoln Bible. If Obama had wanted to invoke another past president, say, Bill Clinton, perhaps he should have traded in his BlackBerry for an Apple Newton MessagePad. Or if the president wanted to reference Lyndon B. Johnson's presidency, he could have lugged an IBM 2361 Storage Unit onto the Capitol steps. It might not be as emotionally powerful (or compact) as the Lincoln Bible, but at least it would resonate for IT personnel.
Every president has taken office amidst new technological innovations, from the creation of the supercomputer to the success of the BlackBerry and the iPhone. And with the inauguration of each president, it is up to the government to decide which innovations will be utilized by the public sector and which will be left by the wayside.
Here are IT highlights during the time of each presidential inauguration starting with Kennedy, along with a few other historical facts.
President: John F. Kennedy
Year of Inauguration: 1961
Information Technology Highlight: IBM Stretch Computing System. The computer pioneered advanced systems such as pipelining, the transistor and the byte, making multiprogramming possible. Originally priced at $13.5 million, it was the fastest computer until 1964.
Government Use of IT: The U.S. National Security Agency used the IBM Stretch as its main central processing unit (CPU), while agencies such as the Weather Bureau and the Navy also utilized the system.
Size of Federal Government Budget: $100 billion
No. 1 Movie: West Side Story
No. 1 Song: Bobby Lewis, Tossin' and Turnin'
President: Lyndon B. Johnson
Year of Inauguration: 1965
Information Technology Highlight: IBM 2361 Storage Unit. The IBM 2361 was the largest computer memory ever built, with 16 times the capacity of any previous IBM memory.
Government Use of IT: NASA Space Station used IBM 2361s to process large quantities of information used by NASA-based flight controllers for the Apollo and Gemini missions.
Size of Federal Government Budget: $120 billion
No. 1 Movie: The Sound of Music
No. 1 Song: Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Wooly Bully
President: Richard Nixon
Year of Inauguration: 1969
Information Technology Highlight: ARPANET (Advanced Research Project Agency network). ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet, was developed as a military computer network.
Government Use of IT: ARPANET sites were created by the Department of Defense and the Federal Reserve Board.
Size of Federal Government Budget: $180 billion
No. 1 Movie: Midnight Cowboy
No. 1 Song: The Archies, Sugar, Sugar
President: Gerald Ford
Year of Inauguration: 1974
Information Technology Highlight: Cray-1. Developed in 1974 but not installed until 1976, this supercomputer became one of the best and most successful in history.
Government Use of IT: Agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy, as well as various university laboratories, used the Cray-1A for modeling climate and severe storms.
Size of Federal Government Budget: $270 billion
No. 1 Movie: The Godfather Part II