There, did that get your attention? I thought it might… Tim O’Reilly caused quite a stir @ #SXSW when he proclaimed that Ronald Reagan was the mental father of Foursquare.
But he has a point. Let’s go back into history: while the Beatles were working on their White Album, the U.S. Navy and Air Force slotted together a system that would enable navigation on a plethora of applications. A set of incompatible systems was developed, until the US Department of Defense decided in 1973 to unify the existing systems. With atomic clocks carried on geostationary satellites (predicted by Arthur C. Clark) , the Navstar Global Positioning System became a huge success. In the beginning, military use had priority, and accurate positioning was not possible for civilian systems.
The disaster with Korean Flight 007 in 1983, a mortal tragedy that could have been prevented with more accurate location awareness, made President Ronald Reagan decide that accurate GPS signals would be available worldwide and at no charge. Reagan’s directive angered quite a lot of military decision makers, but stood at the cradle of the location driven social media that is so popular today.
The military not only got us the backboned, dynamic rerouting internet (and an internet of things by that), but also stood at the very beginning of Google places, Gowalla and Foursqaure. Not to mention Augmented Reality, that made it directly from the cockpit of the Apache fighting helicopter into the smartphones. Presidents and generals at the roots of social media, a slightly disturbing thought….;-)