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Innovation Flashback.

MARCH 10, 2000 -- The NASDAQ Composite reaches its peak, at 5132.52, marking the bursting of the dot-com bubble, and the beginning of a decline that would affect the entire economy, resulting in a global recession. The bubble was created by widespread enthusiasm for the emerging power of the Internet, sparked by growing connectivity. Investors of all sorts became eager to invest in any company that promised to exploit the new medium, which came to include pretty much any company with ".com" in its name--hence, the "dot-com bubble." The effect was amplified by an increase in the number of people trading in stocks overall, a phenomenon itself driven by the ability to trade via the Internet. As valuations spun out of control, new companies accessed fantastic sums of money via early IPOs, making founders millionaires before their companies had even managed to generate a profit. Many of these companies intentionally operated at a loss early on, in a bid to build network effects and grow rapidly. In the aftermath, as venture capital dried up, many of these companies were sold or went out of business as they ran out of money. Several became embroiled in accounting scandals and allegations of fraud when investor money couldn't be accounted for. The end was accelerated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which led to a sharp stock market downturn. The NASDAQ declined by 78 percent over the 30 months following its peak; NYS-Eand NASDAQ-listed companies lost $5 trillion in value between March 2000 and October 2002.

MARCH 23, 1839 -- The phrase OK first appears in print, in a satirical article about grammar in the Boston Morning Post. It was, according to a Smithsonian report, "actually an editorial joke that inadvertently went viral." The phrase was an initialism, an abbreviation for the phrase "oil korrect," which was part of a trend during the period of abbreviating intentionally misspelled phrases to create new terms--not unlike the 21st-century emergence of text-speak abbreviations like LOLZ or OMG. Other, similar abbreviations, such as KY ("know youse") for "no use," did not survive the test of time. OK survived in part because of its use in other contexts; it later became the name for the OK Club, a political organization that supported President Martin Van Buren. In this case, it served as a play on words, evoking both the original use and Van Buren's nickname, Old Kinderhook. It remains not only common language in the United States, but one of the country's most enduring linguistic exports.

MARCH 25, 1911 -- A fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City kills 146 workers, most of them women who worked stitching the company's products. It was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city and remains one of the deadliest in the nation's history. The death toll was amplified by the factory's location on the top three stories of a ten-story building and by the fact that exits were locked--a common practice in the era to prevent employees from taking unauthorized breaks. With no other avenue of escape, many employees jumped out of the building's windows. The company's owners were charged with manslaughter but were acquitted. The fire would have a long-term legacy, as it prompted modernization not only of labor laws but also of safety regulations. It also prompted a wave of innovation in fire safety and building construction; the founding of the American Society of Safety Engineers, in 1911, was a direct consequence.

MARCH 31, 1999 -- The Matrix, the first in a trilogy of movies exploring a dystopian future in which most humans live out their lives in a simulated reality that they have no idea is an illusion, is released. The movie was hugely successful, earning four Oscars and more than $463 million. Its influence on popular culture cannot be overestimated. That influence also extends to technology, as the philosophical action film explored both technologies and ethical and philosophical questions around artificial intelligence and virtual reality and, according to one report, inspired new developments in robotic surgery. Sony's virtual reality initiative is named "Project Morpheus," after a central Matrix character, in a nod to the movie's influence on the development of virtual reality. It also introduced several film-making techniques and technologies that have been widely implemented, including "bullet time" and wall running.

APRIL 12, 1961 -- Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human being to leave the Earth's atmosphere. In what would be his only spaceflight, he completed one orbit of the Earth in a Vostok spacecraft. He returned to great fanfare; he became an international celebrity and was named a Hero of the Soviet Union, among many other awards. The Soviet Union would later lose its lead in space travel; the United States led the way to the moon and beyond. Exactly 20 years later, on April 12, 1981, US space agency NASA launched the first Space Shuttle mission, sending the Columbia on a 54-hour mission that orbited Earth 37 times with its crew of two, commander John W. Young and pilot Robert L. Crippen.

APRIL 14, 2003 -- The Human Genome Project announces that it has sequenced essentially the entire human genome, two years ahead of schedule. The sequence does not include all of the human genome, but only the euchromatic regions, which make up 92 percent of it; the 2003 milestone comprised 99.99 percent of the euchromatic genome to an accuracy of 99 percent. The sequence for the final chromosome would be published in Nature in May 2006. The project was a cooperative, publicly funded effort scheduled to require 15 years from its founding in 1990. Ultimately, the project was funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Biological and Environmental Research and the National Institutes of Health. First, James Watson and then Francis Collins headed the project, serving as head of the NIH's National Center for Human Genome Research. The completion of the human genome had large implications for medicine; it has generated huge advances in personalized medicine and in researchers' understanding of the mechanisms driving a number of once-intractable diseases. The ethical and social issues associated with the sequencing project and with the technologies emerging from it are still being debated.
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Publication:Research-Technology Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2018
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