Celebrating the 4th of July with 5 American Tech Achievements

One of America’s greatest strengths has always been its ability to innovate. Sure, everyone knows about Thomas Edison and the light bulb, Henry Ford and the Model T, and more recently, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. But Americans have also been behind many of the less-celebrated (and in some cases less controversial!) major advancements in technology and computing. With help from our friends around the world, we’ve built some pretty amazing things.


Real language comes to programming, 1952

In the early days of computing, everything was done in binary. New York-born mathematician, programmer, and military leader Grace Hopper decided that should change. Hopper was part of the team that built the first compiler for computer languages, which turned written instructions into code. This led to the development of COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) and made made it easier for people to become developers. Every year, female engineers from around the world gather to recognize Hopper’s contribution to the world of computing and share their work. You can read about our team’s insights from last year’s conference here.

Fun fact: Hopper finally retired from the U.S. Navy in 1986 at age 79. At the time she was the oldest serving officer in the service, and had been promoted to the rank of rear admiral.

America builds the future one chip at a time, 1958

Almost every device that we depend on everyday — from laptops and smartphones to satellites and pacemakers — were made possible thanks to the humble microchip.

While early designs for integrated circuits date back to the ‘40s, American Jack Kilby invented the first working microchip in 1958 while working for Texas Instruments.

The first chip-based computer was built in 1961 for the U.S. Air Force. After that, Moore’s Law prevailed and computer processing power has effectively doubled every two years. Today, we interact with so much data that we’re moving beyond individual machines and keeping everything in the cloud.

Locations go digital with GPS, 1964

In 1964, the U.S. was in the midst of the Cold War. In Washington, D.C.’s Naval Research Laboratory, American scientist Robert Easton was conducting experiments on satellite tracking. The lab’s original goal was to track US submarines carrying nuclear missiles — but the end result was something Easton called “Timation for Time-Navigation”; we know it better as GPS (Global Positioning System).

The complete system of 24 satellites went into operation in 1993, and today, GPS is built into nearly every new car and phone on the market. It’s an incredible piece of American-built technology that is available completely free to anyone, anywhere in the world. When at Google, Marissa Mayer used it to help create Google Earth, Google Maps, Local Search, and Street View. At Okta, we use location data to help verify identity and help keep user access secure. Thanks, Robert!

America brings the world together with the internet, 1969

The internet is now seen as a global means of communication, but the initial research actually began in the early 1960s as a U.S. military venture. The Department of Defense funded the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which built the first computer network called ARPANET in California, in 1969.

Early use of the internet was mostly limited to the government and universities. Commercial applications didn’t get on board until the late 1980s. The modern internet has changed the way the world connects, and today, it’s vital for nearly every business in the developed world. With increased connectivity comes increased risk, though, and the importance of data security online will only grow over time.

Cell phones revolutionize communication, 1983

Car phones have been around since the mid-1940s, but it wasn’t until 1983 that Chicago-based company Motorola developed the DynaTAC. Weighing in at 28 oz, it was the first mobile phone that was small enough to carry.

In the early 21st century, we’ve seen a speedy migration to smartphones, and more and more business is getting done on mobile devices. Today, 77% of Americans own a smartphone, and the average employee uses three or more devices daily for work. With a smart approach to enterprise mobility management, it’s now possible to work securely from anywhere.

We have a lot to be proud of when it comes to innovation in technology. Today, thanks to the power of the internet and the cloud, we’re able to collaborate with others all over the world to keep on innovating. We can’t wait to see what you create next.

From everyone at Okta, we want to wish you a Happy 4th of July!