9 Most Tech-Savvy Presidents - InformationWeek

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2/15/2015
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David Wagner
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9 Most Tech-Savvy Presidents

Celebrate President's Day with our votes on the best technological milestones ushered in by our nation's leaders.
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(Source: imgflip)

(Source: imgflip)

The President of the United States has a lot of really important jobs, but one of the more interesting jobs is to be a cheerleader for the economy. In that role, Presidents have often appeared conspicuously using new technology to show how innovative and important it is to the American economy. Teddy Roosevelt flew in one of the Wright Brothers' early planes (after leaving office). William McKinley was the first in a car.

It is one thing to show off a technology so you can pump the economy. It is another thing entirely to implement that technology into your government. The relationship between technology and the US government has always been a little uneven. The US put a man on the moon. That's the good side. On the bad side, there are the rumors that many US government departments are still running Windows 98. We've seen some technologies adopted quickly by the government, and some taking a long time. Presidents were driving in cars before General Motors was even founded, but it took more than 30 years and a World War to get POTUS in an airplane.

In honor of President's Day weekend we're looking at major IT milestones, and which President was in office when the government adopted that technology. You can get a real handle on which Presidents were forward thinking, or which technologies really captured the imagination of the country, by how long it took the US government to put it to use.

I won't ruin it with spoilers, but I bet you'd never guess who was the most forward-thinking President of the bunch. In fact, I bet you wouldn't name him unless I gave you at least 40 guesses. Let's just say he’s got a very special phone number.

You'll also be surprised by the first PC in the White House, who really launched the space race, and who sent the first email. Check out the list of your favorite technologies, and which Presidents put them to use. Consider which ones surprise you most. And then take a guess on the near-horizon technologies that future Presidents will put to use in the Oval Office. Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
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2/21/2015 | 7:02:54 AM
Re: No computer in the Oval Office
Technorati, When was the last time you have been to a library? :( There are computers in every library I know. I don't agree with your last sentence. :( I think otherwise. And, if the White House can't afford the best cybersecurity experts in the US, who can? -Susan
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
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2/21/2015 | 12:13:45 AM
Re: Presidents and Technology
I'll say it. Poor Al Gore, He doesn't necessarily help hinself, but he definitely gets bashed without reason sometimes. He's like Jimmy Carter in that regard, minus the presidency, which unfortunately, was taken from him by Florida Republicans and the Supreme Court. Though that's a different topic than presidents and technology, unless you consider what Gore might have done spending money on infrastructure and gov tech reform instead of on, say, tax giveaways and two wars.
impactnow
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impactnow,
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2/19/2015 | 12:13:11 PM
Cool spy tech

 

Dave, you make a great point about how leaders set the stage and climate for evolution of both businesses and governments. I find it hard to believe the President doesn't use a computer. I would hypothesize that there isn't one in the Oval office because it's kind of public environment for meeting with staff, visitors etc. and the Presidents computer communications are protected by specialized technology etc. Imagine if someone could just forward and email from the President? I am sure there is lots of cool technology that is used to communicate in the highest level of governments. Sadly we'll never see how cool it is!

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
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2/17/2015 | 2:11:45 PM
Re: Presidents and Technology

"...Unfortunately, the meme of "inventing the Internet" has obscured his very real role in supporting and funding the Internet."

 

@Number 6   Thanks for a fair recount of Gore's place in history.

jastroff
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jastroff,
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2/17/2015 | 1:13:43 PM
Re: Presidents and Technology
FDR formed the OSRD (Office of Scientific Research and Development) headed by Vannevar Bush, during WWII for things like radar, sonar and the A-bomb. Yes, and there were computers all over the place, so to speak
jastroff
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jastroff,
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2/17/2015 | 1:11:22 PM
Re: Obama's iPad
I get this sinking feeling we will all be getting random emails from Pres Obama when he leaves office...
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/17/2015 | 1:10:15 PM
Re: No computer in the Oval Office

@Susan   I think the use of a computer and computing was something "those scientists" were doing over at the Pentagon in the view of most traditional politicians.   

Traditional politics is based on human interaction for the most part so it would make sense that most Presidents would not be naturally inclined to use what was probably a difficult tool to use at the time.

If I am not mistaken thanks to David's piece the use of computers by the government  all started during the FDR administration - as he mentions this is arguable but I buy his argument that the actual use by the government happened during this time.

One would have thought Clinton would have used the computer more, but he is from the old school form of politics, it was not until this era that a President had no choice but to use tools that are common place to daily activity.   Yes, the World and the U.S. has changed greatly due to advances in technology.  So it is not to say that President Obama is any more astute at using a computer than all the rest, he is just at a place in our evolution where the use of the computer is common  place.

So to answer your question as to why there is no computer in the Oval office ?  I think some of what I have mentioned is responsible for this, and yet I would prefer the Oval Office to remain without a computer.  With breeches being what they are it is probably best.  

Let's keep the Oval Office like a library (without computers) in sense where real thinking and decision making can be carried out with the kind of focus necessary to achieve success.

Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
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2/17/2015 | 12:06:49 PM
Re: No computer in the Oval Office
And, Technorati? Do you have any logical explanation? :/ 

-Susan
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/17/2015 | 11:19:22 AM
Al Gore : Need I say More ?
I will never believe he didn't invent the Internet but thanks for trying to weight me down with facts otherwise.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
2/17/2015 | 11:14:52 AM
Bush: So Glad He's Over
I had never seen this picture of Bush with the phone upside down !  Wow, We were in more trouble than I thought, and I knew we were in deep &^^%^ to begin with.
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