Quarter century ago, Atlanta turned Olympics into tech games

Ahead of that, to enable Atlanta’s bid, a Ga Tech lab made a flight simulator knowledge making it possible for Intercontinental Olympic Committee users to shift a observe ball and just about fly over the town to see venues. In a much larger booth, associates could touch a 3D model of an Olympic village, triggering video clips on screens surrounding them.

A Georgia Tech lab created the Atlanta Organizing Committee's exhibition booth at 96th IOC Congress in Tokyo, which included three projector screens featuring a 3D model of what an Olympic village would look like on the Georgia Tech campus. (Unidentified photographer, Tokyo, September 18, 1990 | Georgia Amateur Athletic Foundation Collection, Kenan Research Center at Atlanta History Center / Used with permission)
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A Georgia Tech lab established the Atlanta Organizing Committee’s exhibition booth at 96th IOC Congress in Tokyo, which incorporated three projector screens showcasing a 3D product of what an Olympic village would glimpse like on the Georgia Tech campus. (Unknown photographer, Tokyo, September 18, 1990 | Ga Amateur Athletic Basis Collection, Kenan Study Centre at Atlanta Background Center / Utilised with permission)

Credit history: Kenan Study Heart at Atlanta Background Center

Credit history: Kenan Investigation Centre at Atlanta Record Centre

Mike Sinclair, who headed the lab, thinks “Southern hospitality was the key factor” for Atlanta snagging the Summer season Olympics, but that it was the (somewhat) significant tech that built the committee “take us severely.”

Atlanta saw Athens, Greece as its greatest competitor for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Game titles. “They had been variety of searching backward at celebration of the 100-calendar year anniversary, and we form of obtained the sensation… that we need to appear forward,” Sinclair recalled.

The 1996 Olympic Summer Games in Atlanta marked the first time that the Games had an official website. In July of 1996, only about 22{3a9e182fe41da4ec11ee3596d5aeb8604cbf6806e2ad0e1498384eba6cf2307e} of the U.S. population was online, according to a Pew Research Center survey at the time, and bandwidths were very limited by today's standards. (IBM / webdesignmuseum.org)
Caption

The 1996 Olympic Summer time Game titles in Atlanta marked the 1st time that the Online games had an formal web-site. In July of 1996, only about 22{3a9e182fe41da4ec11ee3596d5aeb8604cbf6806e2ad0e1498384eba6cf2307e} of the U.S. population was on the web, according to a Pew Study Center survey at the time, and bandwidths were pretty confined by today’s specifications. (IBM / webdesignmuseum.org)

Credit: IBM

Credit history: IBM

In July of 1996, the Planet Large World wide web was just starting up to attain households. Only about 22{3a9e182fe41da4ec11ee3596d5aeb8604cbf6806e2ad0e1498384eba6cf2307e} of the U.S. populace was on the internet, according to a Pew Analysis Heart study at the time. AOL was the dominant on the web service and noisy modem dial-ups have been the norm — at a pace of about .03 Mbps, compared with all over 100 Mbps these days.

“Websites weren’t truly a thing” right up until a 12 months or two just before the ‘96 Olympics, recalled Lorrie Bilderback, the editor for the 1996 Online games web site.

Bilderback worked for IBM, and a banner throughout the top of the web page proclaimed IBM “the Formal World-wide-web Data Devices Provider for The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Game titles.”

This summer’s formal Tokyo Olympics web site has a “Cheer Zone” with an interactive fan map, brackets hub, Fantasy levels of competition, live blogs, social media tagboards and photograph galleries and video. Consumers can click on on seven distinct languages.

The Atlanta Olympics internet site utilized modest clip art-style graphics to guideline buyers to success, athlete information and facts, a “Photo Album” with hundreds of pictures extra daily, movies, particulars on the torch relay, and other functions. In the months before the Olympics, the web site also sold tickets to activities.

IBM touted itself “the Official Internet Information Systems Provider for The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games” on the official website and on billboards such as this one in Atlanta from December 1995. (Marlene Karas / AJC file)
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IBM touted alone “the Official Net Information and facts Techniques Supplier for The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games” on the official site and on billboards such as this one in Atlanta from December 1995. (Marlene Karas / AJC file)

Credit history: MARLENE KARAS

Credit score: MARLENE KARAS

But for the reason that bandwidth was so minimal, “we experienced to make photographs as small as we could,” Bilderback explained. Sluggish world-wide-web speeds also meant most readers would not be equipped to look at online video feeds devoid of a prolonged hold out, if at all.

And in the lead up to the 1996 Video games, IBM promoted the internet site in a decidedly low-tech way: with billboards all over the town.

There was no Twitter, no Fb, no Google, no TikTok.

The BlackBerry hadn’t arrived however, let by itself the Iphone. Interactive kiosks, though, aided readers discover their way all around.

Back then a person of the enjoyable improvements was a “FanMail” messaging method that permitted people to ship congratulatory messages or questions to athletes competing in the Video games — and, if they were lucky, get a reaction. Athletes could go to the “IBM Surf Shack” in the Olympic Village to log onto a computer system and read their messages.

Among IBM's innovations during the 1996 Summer Games was the "FanMail" messaging system, which allowed people to send congratulatory messages to the athletes — and, if they were lucky, receive a response. This large FanMail display was displayed outside the Georgia Dome. (Business Wire / 1996 file)
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Among the IBM’s improvements for the duration of the 1996 Summer season Games was the “FanMail” messaging process, which authorized people today to send congratulatory messages to the athletes — and, if they were lucky, receive a reaction. This substantial FanMail exhibit was exhibited outdoors the Ga Dome. (Small business Wire / 1996 file)

Credit score: BW

Credit rating: BW

“In the early days of the world wide web, most of those people athletes did not even have an e-mail deal with,” recalled José Luis Iribarren, the IBM government who was in charge of the web site for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

Some attributes were being tacked onto the internet site in the last months in advance of the Olympics. “We held introducing issues together the way,” mentioned Iribarren. “I never even know how did we take care of to get to start the website in time.”

Iribarren’s web site crew started out with just a few people today in early 1995. It grew to about 64 men and women brought in to Atlanta from all over the planet for the Game titles, alongside with a handful of people in Sudbury, Conn. managing the central computer.

Jose-Luis Iribarren poses in front of the ACOG website developed by IBM in 1996. “We kept adding things along the way,” said Iribarren recently. “I don’t even know how did we manage to get to launch the website in time.” (Joey Ivansco / AJC file)
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Jose-Luis Iribarren poses in entrance of the ACOG web-site created by IBM in 1996. “We saved adding issues alongside the way,” said Iribarren just lately. “I really don’t even know how did we deal with to get to launch the web-site in time.” (Joey Ivansco / AJC file)

Credit: AJC

Credit rating: AJC

Throughout the 17 times of the 1996 Video games, the formal web site captivated 190 million hits, equivalent to about 4.5 million visits, with about 1.25 million unique customers.

By distinction, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro drew 222 million visits and 100 million exclusive customers to the NBC Olympics site, according to an IOC report. The IOC’s site obtained far more than 26 million visits. NBC’s Fb Stay posts throughout the Rio Game titles created more than 600 million sights.

Atlanta’s early tech forays weren’t with no significant glitches soon after IBM had promised close to-instantaneous event effects with the new method.

“In the early days of the world wide web, most of these athletes didn’t even have an e-mail tackle.”

José Luis Iribarren, former IBM govt who was in cost of the ACOG web page in 1996

In the initially couple days of the 1996 Online games, information agencies could not swiftly get outcomes knowledge, and systems to transmit biographical and function information and facts to athletes, officials and journalists were being plagued with ongoing troubles. Organizers resorted to printing success on paper and providing them by hand to media. United states of america Right now famously ran a blank area in its newspaper where the success have been supposed to seem.

The snafus trickled down to the internet site, the place the extensive vast majority of site visitors was for function final results.

Nevertheless, it was additional than experienced been performed prior to. A lot of who labored on the engineering pitch for the Atlanta Games or the internet site glimpse back with delight, and see it as a launching pad.

Two many years after the 1996 Olympics, Sinclair was recruited to Microsoft in Seattle, in which he is now a senior principal researcher exploring systems like virtual fact and haptics.

But he reported the Georgia Tech lab he led was approached by industries ranging from videos to drugs to art in the instant wake of the Video games, so a great deal so that they experienced to convert away business. The lab, the Interactive Media Technology Center, or IMTC, nonetheless exists and is substantially even larger nowadays.

The Olympics “just rolled into a massive, substantial opportunity” for Georgia Tech and Atlanta, said Sinclair.

Right now, Atlanta ranks 8th amid U.S. and Canadian towns for the quantity and excellent of its tech expertise, and No. 1 in the Southeast, according to a latest evaluation by the business real estate company CBRE.

Iribarren, the 1996 IBM group chief, went on to oversee Olympic internet websites in Nagano in 1998 and in Sydney in 2000.

“It gave me a great deal of possibilities…. to see locations all in excess of the world. But a lot more than that, to develop the Internet — the web — into a complete-fledged medium, from the inside,” stated Iribarren, now retired in Spain.

Bilderback, the editor of the 1996 web site, labored for IBM for 11 decades and is now a digital advertising manager for purchaser products huge Reckitt.

Ellen C. McGowan

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