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Internet Alley

Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Internet Alley
    Book Description:

    Much of the world's Internet management and governance takes place in a corridor extending west from Washington, DC, through northern Virginia toward Washington Dulles International Airport. Much of the United States' military planning and analysis takes place here as well. At the center of that corridor is Tysons Corner--an unincorporated suburban crossroads once dominated by dairy farms and gravel pits. Today, the government contractors and high- tech firms--companies like DynCorp, CACI, Verisign, and SAIC--that now populate this corridor have created an "Internet Alley" off the Washington Beltway. In From Tysons Corner to Internet Alley, Paul Ceruzzi examines this compact area of intense commercial development and describes its transformation into one of the most dynamic and prosperous regions in the country. Ceruzzi explains how a concentration of military contractors carrying out weapons analysis, systems engineering, operations research, and telecommunications combined with suburban growth patterns to drive the region's development. The dot-com bubble's burst was offset here, he points out, by the government's growing national security-related need for information technology. Ceruzzi looks in detail at the nature of the work carried out by these government contractors and how it can be considered truly innovative in terms of both technology and management. Today in Tysons Corner, clusters of sleek new office buildings housing high-technology companies stand out against the suburban landscape, and the upscale Tysons Galleria Mall is neighbor to a government-owned radio tower marked by a sign warning visitors not to photograph or sketch it. Ceruzzi finds that a variety of perennially relevant issues intersect here, making it both a literal and figurative crossroads: federal support of scientific research, the shift of government activities to private contractors, local politics of land use, and the postwar movement from central cities to suburbs. Paul E. Ceruzzi is Curator of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He is the author of A History of Modern Computing (second edition, MIT Press, 2003) and other books, and coeditor of The Internet and American Business (MIT Press, 2008).

    eISBN: 978-0-262-27010-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
    (pp. VII-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
    (pp. 1-18)

    Years ago I heard a story, possibly a variant of Aesop’s Fable “The Fly and the Draught-Mule,” in which a fly sitting on the axle of a chariot exclaims to the mule who is pulling it down the road, “What a mighty cloud of dust we are kicking up!” The mule knows better. This study examines a chariot hurtling through northern Virginia, one whose economic vitality and dynamism are the envy of the world. The entire Washington, D.C., region has experienced this growth, but it has been concentrated across the Potomac in Fairfax County, Virginia, spilling over into neighboring Arlington...

  6. 2 ORIGINS, 1939–1957
    (pp. 19-42)

    The person who unleashed the forces that created northern Virginia was a flinty Yankee, a descendant of Cape Cod sea captains, a conservative who distrusted Big Government (including Roosevelt’s New Deal), and is today remembered less for what he did in Washington than in what he did in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he had been a student, faculty member, and administrator at Tufts and MIT. Before the Second World War, Vannevar Bush had a reputation as a prolific inventor. Among his inventions was the differential analyzer, an analog computer that was a precursor of the computers that would follow at MIT...

  7. 3 HIGHWAYS AND AIRPORTS, 1956–1964
    (pp. 43-64)

    If the Washington suburbs were superimposed on the hands of a clock, the Dulles Corridor would extend out from the ten o’clock position. Across the river, at two o’clock and an equal distance from the White House, is the town of Greenbelt, Maryland. Franklin D. Roosevelt played a role in its creation, too: in 1934 he took a drive with Rexford Guy Tugwell, his undersecretary of agriculture, out to the Agricultural Research Center. Tugwell suggested that a new town be built there for the settlement of low-income families and for those employed at the agricultural center and other agencies. FDR...

    (pp. 65-86)

    Among the Operations Research groups established after the end of World War II was the Army’s Operations Research Organization (ORO), whose origins and Maryland location were described in Chapter 2. During the Korean War ORO’s stature increased, with employees conducting research on the effectiveness of Army tactics deep in the field, sometimes encountering enemy fire. By the end of the 1950s, however, its relations with the Army were strained. The issue concerned the degree to which the ORO involved itself in the political, as opposed to purely mathematical, aspects of operations research. The Army wanted to replace its director, but...

  9. 5 BDM AND ITS BRETHREN, 1964–1990
    (pp. 87-112)

    Among the buildings one encounters while driving through Tysons Corner are those of ‘Fairfax Square’—three low buildings on the west side of Leesburg Pike just outside the Beltway. The tenants on the upper floors include computer software firms and financial institutions, some of them replacing software and telecommunications firms that went out of business after the Internet collapse of 2000 and 2001. The tenants on the ground floor speak to the enormous wealth generated and spent in the region. One finds Tiffany, Gucci, and Hermes. That last shop, selling scarves favored by such customers as the Queen of England,...

  10. 6 REAL ESTATE, AGAIN, 1964–1990
    (pp. 113-134)

    When BDM moved, around 1970, to the modest office tower on Leesburg Pike, most of Tysons Corner was undeveloped. Maplewood, the Ulfelders’ family farmhouse, was still standing off Route 123, though the family had moved out. The land north of Maplewood was still open fields. A son-in-law, Rudolph Seely, took control of the family’s holdings after Mr. Ulfelder’s death in 1959 and the granting of power-of-attorney by his widow in 1961. Seely partnered with Gerald Halpin and the Westgate Corporation to develop the land. For a while the Westgate Corporation had its headquarters in the old farmhouse, but that proved...

  11. 7 INTERNET ALLEY, 1985–2005
    (pp. 135-164)

    In the nineteenth century, the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad set the pattern of settlement in Fairfax County. The towns of Rosslyn, Vienna, Herndon, Sterling, and Ashburn prospered, while towns off the line remained small or vanished. In the twentieth century, the Beltway, Route 7, and Route 123 set the pattern. Tysons Corner developed rapidly, while other parts of Fairfax County developed more slowly. In the twenty-first century one finds a more complex pattern. Tysons Corner continues to thrive, while the old route of the W&OD, now replicated by a sequence of limited-access highways, is the site of something new....

    (pp. 165-178)

    Let us return to Aesop’s fable about the fly sitting on a chariot who exclaimed to the mule over what a mighty cloud of dust “they” were kicking up. Who was the driver who transformed Tysons Corner and the Dulles Corridor? Was it a group of hard-working individuals, or was it simply Uncle Sam?

    It was both. Northern Virginia today manifests the vision and work of a number of remarkable individuals who shaped this region. They included real estate developers, local politicians, business executives, urban planners, and members of Fairfax County’s administrative staff. Three of them deserve special recognition: Earle...

    (pp. 179-182)
    (pp. 183-188)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 189-220)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 221-242)