How RAND Invented the Postwar World

Satellites, Systems Analysis, Computing, the Internet -- Almost All the Defining Features of the Information Age Were Shaped in Part at the RAND Corporation

by Virginia Campbell

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The extraordinary feature of the RAND Corporation that emerged quickly after its creation in 1946 was its interdisciplinary approach to identifying, evaluating, and applying technology. Throughout its history, RAND has conducted innumerable studies, often with world-changing results, involving technologies both military and civilian. Satellites, systems analysis, computing, the Internet — almost all the features of the information age were shaped in part at RAND. Its work on reconnaissance, which began in its earliest years and continued for decades, resulted in some of its most impressive accomplishments. Cold War considerations also played directly into RAND's role in developing the concept behind what we now know as the Internet. Other organizations and businesses began to see that RAND's research could be useful to them, and they started offering subsidies for projects that had nothing to do with the military. As the 1970s wore on, the organization shifted more and more from actively creating the frontiers of technology to concentrating on policy analysis — military and nonmilitary. RAND's more recent publications have run the gamut from the arts to counterterrorism.

Reprinted with permission from Invention and Technology Magazine, Summer 2004, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp. 50–59.

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