Washington has always been a forward-leaning state from the early establishment of its ports to its ongoing leadership in technological innovations. The ideas listed below are just a taste of what the region has to offer in terms of innovation and inventiveness.
The world wouldn’t be what it is today without the personal computer and the many software applications it offers, and in some ways, the modern era of computing got its start in the greater Seattle area. Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the co-founders of Microsoft, first met as adolescents at Lakeside, a private school in an affluent Seattle suburb. It was also the place where the two first experimented with computers and tried their hands at programming, and less than a year after Lakeside first acquired computer access, the boys were engaged in their first programming business venture. It took a decade before the pair had the Microsoft Corporation on track to where it is today, but now, the two tech pioneers can count themselves among the richest men in the world and two of the most inventive as well. Take a tour of the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, less than 20 minutes east of Seattle, to see the history and the ongoing work of the company Allen and Gates founded. For more information, visit www.microsoft.com/about/companyinformation/visitorcenter.
Microsoft was hardly the first major innovative corporation to get its start in the Seattle area. While the production of the first successful aircraft belongs to the Wright brothers on the east coast, it took the west coast spirit of William E. Boeing to design and produce commercially viable aircraft in an efficient and large-scale manner. The son of a mining and timber magnate, Boeing became interested in aviation early in the technology’s history and devoted much of his resources to the design and development of aircraft. He is responsible for many innovations that helped airplanes become truly useful, first in military applications in the two World Wars and increasingly as commercial vehicles for passenger and freight transport. Boeing retired from the industry in 1934 when his company was split into two different manufacturing companies and United Airlines, which provided flight service. Today, the Boeing Company—the west coast manufacturing company that was spun off in the 30s—remains the clear industry leader in aerospace manufacturing. You can take the Future of Flight tour, which includes an exciting glimpse of current production facilities in the world’s largest building, just outside Everett, a half-hour north of Seattle. For more information, visit www.futureofflight.org.
Innovation in business and technology is one thing, but inventing something new in the art world is something else entirely. This is exactly what Dale Chihuly did when he burst onto the blown glass scene in the 1960s, combining American and Venetian glass blowing techniques and eventually developing his own processes and equipment to create some of the largest and most renowned pieces of art glass the world has ever seen. Chihuly is credited with almost single-handedly creating the concept of glass sculpture as a pure art form, without any utilitarian purpose, and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma has some prime examples of work by Chihuly and others that have followed in his footsteps. For more information, visit www.museumofglass.org.
Innovation and invention have been hallmarks of the Puget Sound’s development. Treat yourself to some impressive experiences at these fun spots.