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UMICH: Bicentennial Celebration, Aunt Ruth, Exploration to Space with Nish at his little best

Happy Independence Day my fellow Americans…July Fourth241 years since the adoption of Declaration of Independence…  

“In the bright history of this institution, we joyfully read a happy augury for her future.” President James B. Angell, 1887

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor celebrated 200 years of its start. Please do not confuse inception with the movie Inception by Christopher Nolan which although a brilliant movie was a bit confusing through its matrix of subplots.

“The University of Michigan was born in 1817 as an intellectual concept conceived out of a friendship between President Thomas Jefferson and the man he appointed as the first judge of the Michigan Territory, Augustus Woodward. Jefferson also supported the ideals of the Rev. Gabriel Richard, a Catholic priest who believed in educating Native American children and who, like Woodward, was instrumental in founding the University.”  Source:

The University of Michigan is celebrating this year Bicentennial event with a lot of aplomb and festivity.

I volunteered for one of the events and share my experience and thoughts here.  I was in charge of a stall featuring Aunt Ruth and global technological progress during the last 150 years. Aunt Ruth (Ruth Buchanan pic inset Source: U Mich) dearly also known as Mom, is a living legend in the university. She worked as a receptionist at exhibit museum during the second world war. After leaving from work at Michigan, she tirelessly wrote to alums of Michigan who were serving in the second world war. She wrote an unbelievable 17,828 letters, posted 6,952 birthday and 7,398 get well cards. This was not enough. She also mailed 57,000 copies of the Daily to servicemen and women. Many of correspondence between her and alums are archived at Bentley Historical Library and share an insightful perspective about idiosyncrasies of service men and women. The letters touched a chord with many servicemen and women inspiring them and giving them hope. U-M President Alexander Ruthven called Buchanan’s work “a remarkable record of correspondence.” Two wartime icons—Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adm. Chester Nimitz—commended her support of U.S. troops. source: Loved by all in Michigan family, servicemen and women updated Ruth on their status, inviting her to their marriage or other celebrations. The best part about Aunt Ruth’s work is that she loved what she was doing. She did it willingly with passion, warmth maintaining strict discipline in tabulating all her correspondence. Her stellar deed stands out like an unmovable object in an inundating hurricane serving as a lighthouse guiding people in turbulent times towards light…hope and peace. 

An elderly woman role played Aunt Ruth (left pic). She worked for 30 years at the University of Michigan and promoted information on Aunt Ruth. It’s sad I could not capture a better photo of her. She was very charming and passionate about her role play. Many alums with families came and visited from all nationalities including Asia. I spoke with one of the organizers and volunteers.


There were many stalls including free food for everyone. A plethora of delicacies was spread out, with a good mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, relished by everyone. Stalls discussed different aspects of cultural and technological change in university over the years. There was instrumental music with bands playing different instruments and songs across the genre of music.  The idea was to bring out various facets of the university over the two centuries detailing progress in technology, architecture, communication etc. One of the most visited and talked out the picture was the one on left. It captures the tedious process of making long distance calls to the US. I remember in India, at one point to even have a landline was a luxury few could afford.

Technology and Communication over the last 150 years…Dawn of Space Age…Triumph of Humanity  

Coming back to telephone, 1915 was a landmark year and would be eternally remembered as the year when humans made the first Trans-continental telephone call from New York to San Francisco (Alexander Bell to Thomas Watson). The photo here chronicles some of the most landmark events in global history. Alexander Bell was a very simple man and considered himself a teacher of the deaf. The Scottish born American had invented the telephone i.e. transmit sound through electricity way back in 1876 but went through one of the history’s longest legal battles for patents. He immigrated with his parents to Canada in 1870 and after a couple of years established the school for the deaf in Boston, Massachusetts. As a Professor of speech and vocal physiology at Boston University, Alexander Bell dreamed of transmitting sound over the wire. The sound waves caused an electric current to vary in intensity which caused a thin metal plate called diaphragm to vibrate. This vibration was magnetically transferred over the wire to another diaphragm at listeners end for faithful replication of sound. The iconic words  “Mr. Watson, come here; I want you”—was transmitted in his laboratory on March 10, 1876. March 11 is my birthday and no wonder I love inventions. Mr. Watson, not to be confused with Sherlock Home’s sidekick, Sherlock remains undoubtedly one of the greatest fictional detectives of all time. Alexander Bell, with many inventions and patents, is one of the most prolific and greatest inventors of all time. The genesis of many inventions comes from improvisations & innovations from unrelated areas. I was not aware of the story behind Bell’s invention and while researching came to know the full story. Sources below:

Usage of radio signals for communication began with Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian physicist, credited with sending the first transatlantic first radio signal between Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada, an area over 2000 miles. The message was a simple Morse code s.

The story of technological innovation, communication, and personal magnificence can never be told without one man…Nikola Tesla. The father of fathers of inventions. His greatest deed doesn’t lie in this stellar achievements in his inventions which included ac current or electromagnetic waves but as a humanitarian. He is actually the greatest philanthropist of the modern era and we will look into it in a separate article. I learned that the University of Michigan, engineering department played a stellar role in revolutionizing technological breakthroughs during the early part of 20th century. Dictaphone was invented in 1907, Reader’s Digest started in 1922 while Time, America’s oldest weekly magazine was established in 1923.  The first color TV broadcast was the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1, 1954. In 1959, Xerox introduced mass scale photocopying.

First Email: Ray Tomlinson

One of the greatest paradigm shift in the modern era of communication was in 1971 when Ray Tomlinson sent an email to himself. The message something like QWERTYUIOP was sent from one computer to another one, next to each other. The missive sent through ARPANET, a communication protocol which preceded now the ubiquitous internet. Ray Tomlinson is the father of the character @ so every-time you send an email, and press character @, its Ray…Everyone loves Ray…

Hotmail was the first free email service provider founded by Jack Smith and Sabeer Bhatia. Hotmail was later sold for $400m to Microsoft. At one point in time the world’s greatest killer app, email would transform the way we communicate for personal and professional purposes. This invention would drastically change the productivity curve of labor around the world. With real-time communications available, faster decisions could be taken for businesses spread across the world. This led to better utilization of resources increasing more output and wages. Considering it was free, changed the pattern of communication and consumer behavior. For the first time in recorded human history, consumers had a buying power. There is no free lunch. In order to support a sustainable revenue model, companies had to reinvent their revenue model and they did through internet advertising. Internet advertising, over the years, has become of the major drivers of REVENUE for tech companies like Google and Facebook. This led to what we call community companies…

“In 1957, Russians sent Sputnik 1, the first man-made satellite to orbit earth and Sputnik 2 sent first living being..Laika a dog to outer-space. Have you seen the movie The Cat From The Outer Space…It’s a very entertaining & funny. Loved it as a child.”

Many pioneers are credited with the evolution of internet although chief among them are Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn. The proliferation of technology, cannot be without two giants who defined personal computing and search engine on the internet…Bill Gates, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin. Bill Gates vision in realizing the potential of personal computing with the importance of MS Dos would reshape an entire industry while Larry’s bet on simple, fast free search engine would define the way we read and search over the internet. Bill Gates was offered $1m for selling MS Dos to IBM which he refused and instead focused on royalty on the usage of the application per computer which led to the dawn of Microsoft. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, wanted to focus on Ph.D. (Stanford) and tried to sell Google to Excite for $750,000. It was very lucky that CEO of Excite rejected the offer and rest is history. Nature intervenes in a special way to help shape innovation, the destiny not only of few people but the world. Bill, Larry, and Sergey are destined to not only change the world through innovation but also through philanthropy. Bill Gates, started the greatest philanthropic drive among billionaires and millionaires around the world, Sergy played a monumental role in innovation in life-sciences and Larry would carry the mantle of perpetual innovation. The rise of technology would give a boost to technology-based Start-Ups around the world and momentum to an ancillary industry…angel investing and venture capital.

Computers gave rise to a supercomputer which can astronomical calculations in a millionth of a  second. Today, the fastest supercomputer Sunway TaihuLight is in China. Supercomputers were first introduced during the early 1960’s but their computing power as a major force was only realized during the 1990s. And came another power…Artificial Intelligence…Matrix…Neo

With Supercomputers, comes great power and with great power comes judicious responsibility.” Epic Quote by Nish (Eternal thinker, philosopher, universal founding father& spiritualist)  

” With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” Spiderman Quote

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.Neil Armstrong 

And in 1969, American successfully landed two men on the moon…Apollo 11. “Tom Hanks starred in Apollo 13…Great movie with the epic dialogue we just missed the moon…”

Mobiles & Smartphones: After email, the next major killer app would be SMS which would define real-time messaging and would lead to the dawn of SMARTPHONES. Apple which innovated this market still makes 64% of revenues from smart phone sales. Smartphones would then lead to the further innovation of android system, an open source code system which majority of smartphones work with.

Walkman to MP3 : In 1979, Sony would introduce Walkman to the world. Sony Walkman TPS-L2, a 14 lbs blue and silver, portable cassette player which would be the forefront killer app. It changed the landscape of music and the way we heard music which would result in one day in MPEG 3. Digital music revolutionized or disrupted the music industry. Remember, Napster, a free peer-to-peer music service which almost crippled the music industry through free music downloads. Shawn Fanning, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Napster, gloried in the movie Social Network by Justin Timberlake, is kind of James Bond of Technology industry or should I say, Robin Hood. Coming to Robinhood have you seen the movie Robinhood: Prince Of The Thieves starring Kevin Costner and the absolutely ravishing Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. It has also one of my favorite love songs Everything I do, I do it for you. Bryan Adams at his best.

Pic Source:,8599,1907884,00.html

The era of competition to outer-space, between US and Russia thanks to cold war, fueled communication supremacy for many purposes. Spying became the fundamental reason for communication and this drove further innovation. Never in the history of humanity, has technology progressed iterative at a quantum speed within a span of few decades. Compared to the time taken for the evolution of humans, humans have within 1% of time learned to light the fire, domesticate animals, grow crops, invent the wheel and land on the moon. Maybe less than 0.5% in time-based on recent discoveries about our evolution.

Do you where did first humans learn to cultivate? Its China and Korea according to author Jared Diamond. 

In 1962, the world’s first active communications satellite, Telstar 1, was launched. This satellite would set communication standards for the satellite industry. For the first time, live images of news and entertainment were telecast around the world. And the entertainment industry changed…Live sports coverage brought in more customers, increased consumption, increased jobs and GDP.  If we look at technological innovations, AT&T is the father of many inventions to take place in the last century. AT&T which ultimately broke into 7 smaller companies called baby bells due to antitrust laws. With Space Exploration comes Tesla, Elon Musk of the pay-pal mafia.

The advent of technology changed world economy. It not only increased productivity, wages but brought people together. It was very easy to understand what was going on in a different part of the continent, knowledge became available at your fingertips and mind you it was free. It brought about an era of collaboration between economies which was never seen before. As the small output of technological utility decreased with new inventions, it requires more resources and technological know how to get an incremental delight or utility from an innovation. The recent discovery of boson particle led to confirmation of Standard model was in no way an achievement of a single country with far-reaching technological consequences affecting the world. United States has led from the front over the 150 years in technological innovation and inventions. One of the reasons for this is that the US is able to attract the best talent from around the world due to advantages in reaping commercial benefits from patenting ideas and inventions.

What else helped? 

Last but not the least, true heroes of the bicentennial event are volunteers who worked selflessly to make the event a success. The US leads the world in free volunteering service with estimates of the value of service at $200b. I leave you with a video of a volunteer at the recent bicentennial event.

The above article researched, written, acted, directed and produced by ” Nish” and published under the moniker The Quintessential Dude. All articles, research papers, and tutorials are the property of Nish unless otherwise stated. 

The genesis and circumstances leading to its INCEPTION will be discussed sometime soon. It is one hell of a story…








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