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Joe Kinsella’s Guide to Innovation in Boston
If there’s two things I consider myself a fan of, it’s technology and the city of Boston. They go together like chocolate and peanut butter—in addition to being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the Boston area is a hotbed of innovation that has been pivotal to the formation of the tech industry. To pay homage to the city that CloudHealth calls home, I’ve taken it upon myself to create my own Nerd Tour of Boston. For those unfamiliar with the area, this will be an intro to Boston from a tech aficionado point-of-view. For locals, this should serve as a reminder of what a remarkable area we live in. To provide a sense of spatial orientation, I’ve created a custom Google Map to follow along with the tour.
"The Boston area is a hotbed of innovation that has been pivotal to the formation of the tech industry."
The First Rocket Launch – Auburn, MA
In 1926, Robert Goddard launched the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket in Auburn, MA. By launching his 10-foot rocket 41 feet into the air, Goddard became the father of modern rocketry. Unfortunately, Goddard received little recognition until after his death. His legacy lives on at the Goddard Rocket Launching Site, a National Historic Landmark located within Auburn’s Pakachoag Golf Course.
Little-known fact: Houston’s famed Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center was originally slated to be built in Boston. The location was changed when Texas-native Lyndon B. Johnson became president after the death of Massachusetts-native John F. Kennedy.
EMC – Hopkinton, MA
EMC was founded in 1979 by Richard Egan and John Curly, who met as roommates at Boston’s Northeastern University. They began with no clear plan, initially selling office furniture before finding their niche in Intel products. Their first product offering, prime microcomputer compatible memory, came as the result of a customer suggestion. Soon enough, they were one of the fastest-growing companies in Massachusetts.
EMC went public in 1986, and made a major contribution to the evolution of modern IT infrastructure with their acquisition of VMware in 2004. By the time they merged with Dell to become Dell EMC in 2014, they were bringing in more than $24 billion in revenue.
MIT – Cambridge
Boston’s tech history is the byproduct of collaboration between higher education, government, and private industry. No institution in Greater Boston embodies this synergy better than MIT, which pioneered these types of partnerships in the early 20th century. During World War II, MIT housed radar research for the U.S. government. As one of the nation’s leading research universities, MIT also created high-impact technological innovations like GPS, computer games, doppler radar, spreadsheets, fax machines, voice recognition software—the list goes on.
First Major VC Win – Boston
Boston-based American Research Development Corporation (ARDC) was the first publicly traded VC firm. In 1957, ARDC played a pivotal role in the history of tech by providing $70,000 in funding to the first microcomputer business founded by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson. 11 years later, that investment was worth $355 million after the 1968 IPO of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). While ARDC no longer exists, their investment in microcomputers is immortalized in history as the first major VC success. The deal was signed at the house shown above, the home of ARDC founder and VC pioneer George Doriot.
First Transatlantic Wireless Transmission – South Wellfleet, MA
Cape Cod National Seashore, one of the most beautiful places in Massachusetts, is home to the site of the first wireless transatlantic transmission, which took place in 1902 though an antenna array held up by four 210-foot towers at a site now marked by this commemorative display. The antenna array’s most notable use came 10 years after its first transmission when it broke news of the Titanic’s sinking to the British Navy.