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2009 marks the 13th anniversary for a slew of seminal tech industry events, so here on Friday the 13th, is a brief look back at developments both lucky and unlucky. (For our annual Geekiest 25th Anniversaries, click here)
1. Motorola introduces the StarTAC Wearable Cellular Telephone, the smallest and lightest mobile phone at the time at 3.1 ounces.
2. IBM's Deep Blue chess computer beats world champ Garry Kasparov for the first time, though Kasparov came back to win the best of the 6-game match.
3. Telecommunications Act of 1996 – the first overhaul of telecom law in 62 years -- threatened to introduce competition in the local loop, improving upon the original breakup of AT&T. Things didn't quite work out though, as a slew of venture backed competitive local exchange carriers largely took a beating by the established Bells, who mostly wound up merging with each other. Of course, years later technologies such as VoIP and wireless took the market in an entirely different direction.
4. Speaking of the Bells, SBC Communications and Pacific Telesis Group merged in a $16.7 billion cash/stock deal back in 1996, one in a string of deals that essentially led to most of the Bells being reunited in one way or another.
5. Juniper Networks is born, resulting in a routing and switching company that has proven to be a thorn in Cisco's side. Juniper was reborn this year, introducing the concept of "The New Network," which involves the further opening up of the JUNOS operating system, among other things.
6. The first version of the Java programming language debuts, introducing the concept of write-once, run anywhere.
7. On May 18, 1996, under the Arch in St. Louis, the creation of the first X Prize (now called the Ansari X Prize) competition was announced. The $10 million-plus prize competition focuses on such innovations as private space flight.
8. Nintendo 64 game system is released, with Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 the first two games released outside Japan.
9. Dolly the Sheep, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell, is born in Scotland. Less impressive: She dies at the tender age of six-and-a-half, about half that of many sheep.
10. The Freedom of Information Act was signed into law in 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson. Thirty years later, President Bill Clinton signed off on the Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments, bringing the FOIA into the electronic age.
11. Apple buys Steve Jobs' other company, NeXT Software, for $400 million-plus, bringing Jobs back into the fold, where he's done OK for himself. NeXT never was very commercially successful, but its software has been influential, even working itself into Mac OS X.
12. A slew of network infrastructure companies got their start in 1996. Some, like Extreme Networks, are having a rough time of it, while others, like F5 Networks, are sailing along. Others, such as Foundry Networks, have been bought out.
13. Dot-coms started to emerge, including Sabre Holdings subsidiary Travelocity, which has outlasted so many others.
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