The White House is a focal point of political activity worldwide. The simplest communiqué or press briefing can cause political, fiscal, or social change in an instant.
We thought we would take a look at how technology, in the form of typewriters, and subsequently computers, has made its way into this centre of power.
The following facts show how readily technology has made an impact:
• 1880: President Rutherford B. Hayes brought the first typewriter, a Fairbanks & Co. “Improved Number Two Model” into the White House, just months after the telephone made its debut. The typewriter was so easy to use that it soon delivered the majority of presidential correspondence.
• 1921: President Woodrow Wilson was known to use at least three different Hammond typewriters, including a portable model with a curved keyboard, to draft speeches and memoranda. One of his typewriters was returned to the White House in a ceremony overseen by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
• 1946: President Kennedy was also a keen typist. In his days as a congressman, he used a 1930s Underwood typewriter.
• 1978: President Jimmy Carter brought the White House into the computer age when a Hewlett-Packard 3000 minicomputer was installed. This shared computer was accessed by staff using terminals at their desks, and was used for, among other things, tracking correspondence and managing press releases. At the same time, a Xerox Alto was installed for use in the Oval Office itself.
• 2009: As the most tech-savvy president to date, Barack Obama oversaw a massive upgrade to technology within the White House. Aging desktop PCs were replaced with modern laptop computers, colour printers replaced black-and-white models, and a room-sized telephone system was replaced by one the size of a bar fridge.
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