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Front Page » July 1, 2008 » Tech Tips » Utah's impact on technology
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Utah's impact on technology

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Sun Advocate/Emery County Progress

The beehive state has made it's mark on today's high tech world

What do people think of when they think about Utah? While there are a number of things that may come to mind, technology usually isn't one of them. However, the truth of the matter is that Utah has contributed volumes to the high tech world we now live in.

For example, the inventor of television, Philo T. Farnsworth, was born in Beaver. According to the Utah Technology Council's website at, Farnsworth also contributed to the development of radar, baby incubators and cathode ray tubes, which are used in today's analog televisions and Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer monitors.

The digital graphics and printing industry was also forever changed by the state. John E. Warnock, a Salt Lake City native and graduate of the University of Utah is best known for co-founding the publishing software giant Adobe Systems.

During the company's earlier years, Warnock helped develop PostScript, a language that revolutionized photo and document printing. In fact, PostScript was also a precursor to the Portable Document Format (PDF) that is used all over the globe.

Many of Adobe's later software creations, like Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat and InDesign have largely become "must-have" programs in today's publishing industry. In fact, like many other newspapers, the Sun Advocate and Emery County Progress also rely on Adobe software to produce the paper week to week.

Utah also had a big impact on video gaming. Nolan Bushnell, considered one of the founding fathers of the video gaming industry, was born in Clearfield and was raised in Salt Lake City. Bushnell founded the venerable video game company Atari, which had a massive influence on the booming video gaming industry of today. Like many others, Nolan was also a graduate of the University of Utah.

Beyond television, video games and publishing software, Utah has also had an impact on word processing, networking, digital audio and animation.

For example, many people today rely on WordPerfect, a word processing computer program originally created by the Utah-based WordPerfect Corporation, founded by Alan Ashton and Bruce W. Bastian.

Ashton, a native of Salt Lake City and graduate of University of Utah, was a professor at Brigham Young University when he joined forces with Bastian, a BYU graduate student at the time.

The WordPerfect Corporation saw world-wide success in the 1980s as the dominant word processor before the company was acquired by Corel in 1996.

Ray Noorda, a native of Ogden and a graduate of Weber State College helped found Novell, a pioneer in computer networking software. According to the Utah Technology Council (UTC), Noorda not only was one of the founders of the company, but also served as Novell's president, CEO and chairman from 1983 to 1994.

Other notable pioneers of technology weren't necessarily born or raised in Utah, but received degrees from Utah colleges or universities, or were professors at Utah universities.

Thomas Stockham, for example, was an engineering professor at the University of Utah and is deemed by many to be the "father of digital audio." According to Wikipedia, after he left the Massachsett's Institute of Technology (MIT) and came to the University of Utah, he "developed the first practical digital audio recording system." He later founded Soundstream, the first digital recording company in the United States, which was located in Salt Lake City.

Wikipedia also states that Stockham's "developments and contributions to digital audio paved the way for later digital audio technologies, such as the audio compact disc (CD) and DAT (Digital Audio Tape)."

Still, Utah's tech contributions don't stop there. Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, and Jim Clark, founder of many notable tech companies like Netscape and Silicon Graphics, both earned degrees from the University of Utah.

And while the faculty and alumni of Utah universities have had an impact on the ever-growing world of technology, the University of Utah itself actually played an important and historic role in the formation of the Internet.

In the late 1960s, the university was selected to be one of four major nodes, or participants in the ARPANET project, a project commissioned by the United States Department of Defense. ARPANET played a crucial role as the precursor to the modern Internet. UCLA, Stanford University and the University of California (UCSB) were the other three participants.

So with all of this in mind, perhaps the next time someone thinks about Utah, they will also remember the great achievements and contributions that this great "State of Deseret" has contributed to the technological advancements of the modern world.

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