Top Tech-Savvy Presidents
Celebrate President's Day with our votes on the best technological milestones ushered in by our nation's leaders.
It may not seem like a big deal now, but the telegraph was the first way to send messages across the country in a flash. The telegraph was invented around 17 years before a President used it. But Abraham Lincoln modernized communications in the government when he forced its members to use the telegraph. Before Lincoln, if someone in the government needed to send a telegram that person would walk over to a public telegraph office just like anyone else. By 1865, the telegraph would be one of the major reasons (along with railroads and manufacturing) that the North won the Civil War.
Only a year after Alexander Graham Bell spoke the first words on the phone to Mr. Watson, Rutherford B. Hayes installed a phone in the White House. It was a direct line to the Treasury. The phone number was 1. Just the number 1. I guess that was the first "red phone" in the White House, because the country was in significant debt after the Civil War. President Obama erroneously quoted Hayes as not liking the phone. But Hayes was way ahead of the times.
First Electronic Computer
It is entirely debatable which computer you want to crown as the first electronic computer. Many credit ENIAC, but other computers date back to the 1930s. I'm picking the Harvard Mark I, which was put into use for the Navy in 1944. That means FDR was the first sitting President when the government used a computer. Because of FDR's long tenure, chances are if you prefer an earlier machine, you will still find FDR was in office.
This one is tough to call, but we're going to go with Harry Truman. FDR made remarks at the World's Fair in New York in 1939 that were broadcast on TVs on the fairgrounds. But the first over-the-air TV broadcast by a President was by Truman in 1947. What took so long? Even when Truman made his broadcast, there were only about 44,000 TVs in America.
First Satellite Communication
While many give JFK credit for starting the space race with his guarantee to put a man on the moon, it was Eisenhower's quick response to Sputnik -- Explorer I -- that truly got it off the ground. While it only broadcast for four hours, the mission was the first to discover the Van Allen radiation belt. Eisenhower began the satellite program four years before Explorer I successfully launched in 1958.
First Personal Computer In The White House
It is widely agreed that the first personal computer in the White House was the Xerox Alto during Richard Nixon's term. It is highly unlikely he used it, however. Even Bill Clinton and George Bush did not use computers.
Bill Clinton famously didn't use email for security reasons (though I'm sure he used it at various points socially) leaving George W. Bush to be the first one to officially use it. Though, as previously noted, the Oval Office still doesn't contain a computer, so email is not a major part of any President's day it seems.
Obama famously fought to keep his BlackBerry. It also became news that he gave a thumbs up on an iPhone prototype. I can only assume that in addition to using the first smartphone, he took the first selfie, sent the first text, and probably was the first to play Candy Crush Saga in the office, too.
What technology will we see the future Presidents debut? Will Presidents be driven by Google Cars or protected by robots? Tell us your favorites -- and any we missed -- in the comments section below. If you or your office are looking to upgrade your technology then you've come to the right place since that is what Hands of Support specializes in.
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