This election cycle, we’ve heard candidates drone on about immigration and the economy, the war in Syria and the war in Iraq. But conspicuously absent has been much discussion of technology—unless, of course, you count Clinton’s repeated apologies for her private email server or Trump’s thoughts on “the Cyber.”
Cybersecurity, genetic engineering and automation of the workforce are just a few of the technologies that stand to drastically change America in the near future. And yet, these are topics on which neither candidate has really weighed in. Clinton and Trump couldn’t be more different as presidential candidates, but they have one very big, important thing in common: they are both tech-challenged.
In 2008, tech-savvy Barack Obama pounced on 72-year-old rival John McCain by mocking his inability to use a computer. But it’s unclear whether either of 2016’s candidates actually knows how to use one either. Trump has said that he doesn’t text, isn’t quite sold on email and has staffers transcribe his tweets. Clinton’s emails documented her struggles with email etiquette, iPads and fax machines.
By the time Americans across the nation were dialing up via modem to sign onto AOL, Clinton was already First Lady and Trump was well on his way to creating a real estate empire. Technology failed to infiltrate their elite bubbles.
Trump may love Twitter and Clinton may prize her Blackberry over even national security, but otherwise both of this year’s presidential candidates are pretty much Luddites. And it’s kind of terrifying.
Here’s a look at the biggest breakthrough technology of the past 70 years, and where each candidate was in life when it happened:
Donald Trump is born in Queens, New York.
That year, a Brooklyn banker named John Biggins invented the first credit card. Through the “Charge-It” program at Flatbush National Bank, customers could shop with merchants on credit. Then merchants would deposit their sales slips in the bank, and the bank would bill the customer.
Other tech breakthroughs: The debut of ENIAC, the enormous, room-sized “grandfather of digital computers.”
Hillary Rodham is born in Chicago, Illinois.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was also the year that the word “computer” was used for the first time in the modern sense, as a reference to an electronic digital machine. It was the dawn of the first generation of computers.
Other tech breakthroughs: Hewlett-Packard is founded in a Palo Alto garage, giving birth to our modern Silicon Valley. Bell Laboratories engineers invent the transistor. And for the first time, a defibrillator is used successfully on a human, changing our concept of when the human body is officially dead.
Hillary Rodham’s family moves from Chicago to Park Ridge, Ill., a quiet, upper-middle-class suburb of Chicago that was the spitting image of the American Dream.
That year, Alan Turing published his seminal paper “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” introducing the idea of the Turing Test to assess whether a machine had true “intelligence.” Though the term “artificial intelligence” wouldn’t be coined for another six years, his thinking helped popularize the field of A.I.
Other tech breakthrough: A very early version of the pager—called a “pocket radio“—debuts for New York City doctors.
A 12-year-old Trump dons a sailor hat for a role his middle school’s production of the musical “HMS Pinafore.”
America enters the era of the satellite, as NASA launches America’s first successful one, the Explorer I, into orbit.
Other tech breakthroughs: Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments demonstrates his design for one of the first integrated circuits, fitting all of the components of a circuit onto a single chip the size of a pencil point. Later known as the microchip, it paved the way for our present era of digital technology.
Trump’s father buys a foreclosed apartment complex in Cincinnati, Ohio for $5.7 million. One of Trump’s first real estate projects will be to help revitalize the building during his college years.
An already politically active (and politically conservative) 15-year-old Hillary Rodham meets Martin Luther King Jr. at a 1962 speech in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall.
The audio cassette is invented.
Other tech breakthroughs: The Space Needle officially opens in Seattle, originally painted in “Galaxy Gold” for the World’s Fair. NASA launched the satellite Telstar I, enabling the first live transatlantic television broadcast and the modern era of broadcasting.
Trump graduates from high school at the New York Military Academy.
That same year, Xerox releases what is widely considered to be the first modern commercial fax machine. It took six minutes to transmit one page, but it would go on to radically change the pace of business.
Other tech breakthroughs: Robert Moog demonstrated a prototype of his electronic music synthesizer, later known, predictably, as a Moog.
Hillary Rodham graduates from Wellesley College with a major in political science.
The United States lands on the moon.
Trump is handed the keys to the kingdom: his father’s real estate and construction firm.
The same year, the first email is sent over ARPANET, the U.S. government’s early prototype of the internet.
Other tech breakthroughs: Intel creates the first microprocessor, squeezing all of the functions of a computer’s central processing power onto a single chip. Like the integrated circuit, it radically altered technological capability.
A 24-year-old Hillary Rodham heads to Texas to campaign for Sen. George McGovern’s presidential bid, alongside her future husband, Bill Clinton.
Atari releases the arcade game Pong, a blockbuster that was among the first to achieve mainstream popularity.
Hillary Rodham graduates from Yale Law School.
The Justice Department files a civil rights claim against the Trump Organization, alleging that it discriminated against black people who wanted to rent apartments.
In what was truly an epic troll, a Motorola engineer named Martin Cooper made the first mobile phone call, phoning a competitor to rub the achievement in his face while walking down the streets of New York.
Hillary Rodham marries Bill Clinton.
The first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club is held in a Menlo Park garage. Through biweekly meetings and a newsletter, the hobbyist group helped spawn the personal computer revolution.
Other tech breakthroughs: Microsoft is founded in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Donald Trump marries Ivana Zelníčková. Later that year, their first child, Donald Jr., is born.
The first Apple II hits the markets, becoming among the first successful, mass-produced microprocessors.
Other tech breakthroughs: The MRI is invented. The Atari 2600 home video game console is released.
Hillary Clinton, now 33, gives birth to Chelsea Clinton in Little Rock,
Usenet, an early precursor to internet message boards, is established.
Trump buys the building that will become Trump Tower
The IBM PC is released and becomes the first computer to gain widespread adoption in business, followed by the Commodore 64 in 1982 and the Mac in 1984. Personal computers go mainstream.
After losing the office for one term, Bill Clinton is re-elected as governor of Arkansas. Widely criticized during her first term as First Lady for not committing to the position, this time, Clinton embraces the title.
Trump celebrates the completion of Trump Tower in Manhattan and makes Forbes’ list of wealthy individuals for his estimated $200 million fortune.
A 15-year-old codes the first computer virus, the Elk Cloner, and it spreads in the wild—via floppy disk.
Other tech breakthroughs: Tron becomes the first feature film to use computer animation extensively.
Trump pays $8 million for the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, which he’ll turn into a winter retreat and private club.
The first domain, .com, is registered.
Other tech breakthroughs: Nintendo Entertainment System released in the U.S.
At 40, Trump publishes “The Art of the Deal,” which spends nearly a year on the New York Times best-seller list.
Mobile phones become more common, at least among those who could afford to drop a few thousand dollars on them, with the Motorola ‘brick phone’ becoming a symbol of a new open-all-hours work ethic.
Bill Clinton announces he is running for president.
Trump files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the first time because the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, acquired three years earlier, is deep in debt. He divorces Ivana.
The first website goes online and the concept of a World Wide Web is introduced.
Hillary Clinton is sworn in as first lady.
Donald Trump marries Marla Maples and has a child with her.
Mosaic becomes the first web browser to find users outside of research. It is credited with popularizing the World Wide Web.
Other tech breakthroughs: Online ads begin to commercialize the Web. Jurassic Park, with its animatronics and cutting-edge computer animation, becomes the highest grossing film to date.
As First Lady, Clinton helps pass the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and to create the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice.
Trump separates from Maples.
BackRub, a search engine started by two Stanford students, registers the domain name for the search engine that it would become: Google.
Other tech breakthroughs: Deep Blue defeats chess grand-master Garry Kasparov for the first time.
Hillary Clinton is elected to the Senate. At a fund-raiser during her campaign, she says that she has decided to do without email. “As much as I’ve been investigated and all of that,” she tells the crowd, “why would I ever want to do email?”
The Simpsons airs an episode called “Bart to the Future” in which Donald Trump becomes president after Trump had mulled a Reform Party run.
The life-simulation computer game The Sims is released, becoming the best-selling game of all time.
Other tech breakthroughs: The first camera phone debuts, as does the USB flash drive. Panic ensues over the Y2K bug.
Hillary Clinton is among the 98 senators that vote in favor of the Patriot Act, an act of Congress that would legalize an era of invasive surveillance of Americans.
Donald Trump completes the Trump World Tower across from the United Nations in New Yok. He also becomes a Democrat and appears in the movie Zoolander.
The iPod is released, changing how the world would listen to music forever.
Other tech breakthroughs: Wikipedia is founded. BitTorrent is launched.
Donald Trump’s television show, “The Apprentice,” premieres, transforming the real estate tycoon into a reality television star.
Hillary Clinton seeks a second term in the Senate.
Facebook launches on the Harvard Campus and expands to other universities, eventually growing to become one of the most powerful companies in the world.
Other tech breakthroughs: Google’s email service, Gmail, launches as Google IPOs.
Trump appears on Access Hollywood and is recorded saying lewd things about women, audio of which will be released 11 years later, jeopardizing his presidential run.
A robot successfully completes the DARPA Grand Challenge, becoming the first vehicle able to navigate itself with no external interference.
Donald Trump receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Trump tells a reporter that he has no home or office computer and doesn’t “do the email thing.”
Hillary Clinton launches her first presidential campaign.
The first iPhone launches, as America is deep in the throws of the “Crackberry” craze.
Other tech breakthroughs: Podcasting is invented
Donald Trump joins Twitter, sending out a first tweet encouraging fans to watch him on David Letterman.
Hillary Clinton is sworn is as Secretary of State. In an effort to avoid carrying multiple electronic devices, Clinton decides to handle her email on one account. That account was hosted via a private email server set up in her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. that would later come back to haunt her.
A mysterious figure named Satoshi Nakamoto mines the first Bitcoin, setting off a wave of interest in cryptocurrency.
Other tech breakthroughs: Cloud-based storage debuts. 3G cellphone networks bring the mobile web to mass markets.
Hillary Clinton becomes a viral Internet meme and spawned the Tumblr “Texts From Hillary” when she is photographed on plane wearing sunglasses and staring at her Blackberry. The photograph, though, would also prompt a State Department investigation into her email usage.
Donald Trump offers Obama $5 million to release his birth certificate, setting in motion what would become known as the “birther movement.”
The Arab Spring protests spread via social media, making clear the role that social media would play in changing the way the world communicates.
Other tech breakthroughs: Siri debuts. Uber begins international expansion.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton announce bids for the presidency. Despite both candidates’ tech-ineptitude, in the end it is technology that will threaten both their campaigns the most, as they navigate a world of leaked audio recordings, Russian hacks, private email servers and WikiLeaks document dumps.