The Best Gizmodo History Stories From 2015 You Swore You’d Read Later

The Best Gizmodo History Stories From 2015 You Swore You’d Read Later

The internet is a big place. There’s so much to read and watch and listen to that it can be overwhelming. We all have those stories that we start, get distracted for one reason or another, and promise ourselves we’ll finish later. Well, here’s your second chance — with a special focus on Australia.

From DARPA’s invention of the modern electronic battlefield to an exploration of Buckminster Fuller’s FBI file — these were the longform blog posts you probably never found time to finish. Or the ones you never heard about in the first place.

Either way, we hope you enjoy these articles from 2015 and wish you and yours a happy 2016.

Meet the New Cold War, And Australia’s Role in It

Remember the Cold War? We basically spent half a century on the precipice of worldwide nuclear annihilation. Well, like it or not, the Cold War is back. In fact, it never really ended.

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Australia’s Secret History as a White Utopia

Today, the majority of Australians take pride in being part of a multicultural, multiethnic society. But much like the United States, Australia has a brutally racist history.

Immigration to Australia was restricted almost exclusively to whites from the country’s founding in 1901 until the mid-1970s. The legislation was unofficially but universally known as The White Australia Policy, and it was established to give preferential treatment to the British.

But the whitewashing of Australia didn’t start with the country’s creation in 1901 as a British Commonwealth. In 1901, Australia’s population of 3.8 million people was already 97 per cent white. It would remain over 95 per cent white until the 1970s. The nation’s explicit goal, not unlike that of some American states and territories in the late 19th century, was to create a white utopia.

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How the Vietnam War Brought High-Tech Border Surveillance to America

From 1968 until 1973, the US military spent about $US1 ($1) billion a year on a new computer-powered initiative intended to end the war in Vietnam. It went by many names over the years — including Practice Nine, Muscle Shoals, Illinois City and Dye Marker. But today it’s most commonly known as Operation Igloo White.

Despite being a high-priced technological failure for the US military, Igloo White was the first real-time, computer-driven surveillance operation program, set up during the Vietnam War.

The US military sought to build a virtual fence dividing North and South Vietnam. And in the process they helped to invent the modern electronic battlefield, whose technologies came back to the US in the early 1970s, where they were quickly deployed against drug cartels, smugglers, and anyone else trying to cross the border from Mexico. Igloo White also formed the bedrock of a border surveillance revolution that’s ongoing today. At the US-Mexico border, drones stalk the skies and electronic sensors alert Border Patrol agents to anyone trying to cross into the United States.

Read the full story.

A History of Internet Spying, Part 2

How long have intelligence agencies been keeping tabs on the internet, and what role did these agencies play in creating the internet we use today? For the most part, these kinds of questions have been relegated to comments sections on random blogs and the occasional tweet from researchers. We’re hoping to remedy that in whatever small way we can, starting with a look at the 1960s and 70s.

The common mythology about the birth of the internet is that it evolved organically to produce this new frontier filled with hackers and geeks and new opportunities. The part everyone forgets to mention? The intelligence community, and specifically the NSA, was there from the beginning. The connections between the birth of our modern internet and the military community have long been established. But the part of the story that deserves further exploration is the ties to the intelligence community.

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The Fed’s Cold War Bunker Had $US4 ($6) Billion For After the Apocalypse

New York and DC are piles of ash, but at least your checks are clearing. That was the idea behind the Culpeper Switch, a sprawling bunker built by the Federal Reserve to keep the banks running after nuclear apocalypse. But even some Cold War-era politicians thought it was silly.

The compound was built just outside the small town of Culpeper, Virginia, near Mount Pony, in 1969. The 135,000 square foot facility was officially called the Federal Reserve System’s Communications and Records Center, and it housed about $US4 ($6) billion of American currency during the 1970s — currency sitting in what was reportedly the world’s largest single-floor vault at the time.

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We Got Buckminster Fuller’s FBI File

Buckminster Fuller was a world-renowned architect, maths-obsessed designer, and affable weirdo. He died in 1983, but Fuller is still remembered fondly today for his geodesic domes and his three-wheeled cars. Despite extensive historical interest in the man, his FBI file has never been made public. Until now.

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Prelude to a Robot Uprising

Technology Begets Technology. I’ve been staring at this banner at the DARPA Robotics Challenge for what feels like a solid minute, trying to figure out what the hell it means.

Technology begets technology. Is the banner missing a word? Is it a warning? Technology begets technology. It almost sounds like a threat. If nothing else, it’d certainly make a good slogan for a fascist robot’s presidential campaign one day. And if DARPA has its way, that day could be closer than we think.

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Oregon Was Founded As a Racist Utopia

When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926. Oregon’s founding is part of the forgotten history of racism in the American West.

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The Computer Simulation That Almost Started World War III

Remember the 1983 movie WarGames? The film is about a computer “game” with the potential to start thermonuclear war. But strangely this scenario is more truth than fiction. Because in 1979 programmers at NORAD almost started World War III when they accidentally ran a computer simulation of a Soviet attack.

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Faxpapers: A Lost 1930s Technology That Delivered Newspapers via Radio

One of the greatest media experiments of the 1930s and 40s was the faxpaper. Almost entirely forgotten today, it was a technology that could deliver newspapers over the radio waves, then print them instantly right in your home.

When we think about the evolution of mass media, it usually goes something like this: First came newspapers, then radio, then TV, then the web. But that’s not how technology actually progresses. It usually proceeds in fits and starts, with some ideas born far too early — and then adopted decades later as if they were new. Such is the case with faxpapers.

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13 Horrifying Ideas America Had for Invading Cuba

The United States is beginning to normalize relations with Cuba. Which is kind of amazing, when you consider the fact that America has been trying to sabotage the island nation for over half a century. In fact, the US government has officially produced dozens of ideas for destabilizing Cuba. And many of them sound like conspiracy theory fan-fiction. Yet they’re all real.

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42 Visions For Tomorrow From the Golden Age of Futurism

It’s 2015. But sometimes it feels like our futuristic dreams are stuck in the 1950s and 60s. And there’s actually a good reason for that.

The period between 1958 and 1963 might be described as a Golden Age of American Futurism, if not the Golden Age of American Futurism. Bookended by the founding of NASA in 1958 and the end of The Jetsons in 1963, these few years were filled with some of the wildest techno-utopian dreams that American futurists had to offer. It also happens to be the exact timespan for the greatest futuristic comic strip to ever grace the Sunday funnies: Closer Than We Think.

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When the FAA Blasted Oklahoma City with Sonic Booms for 6 Months

Have you ever experienced a sonic boom? A sonic boom so forceful that your dishes fell from the cupboards, your photos fell off the walls, and maybe your ceiling even started to crack? This was the reality that residents of Oklahoma City endured for six months in 1964 — eight times per day.

And they had absolutely no choice in the matter. Because it was all bought and paid for by the US government.

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Most Holidays Are Fake and Here’s Why

Do you celebrate National Onion Rings Day? What about Be Kind to Animals Week? Do you know what you’re buying your significant other for Talk Like a Pirate Day? Time is running out! ThARRRRs just 9 shopping days left!

It’s not just your imagination — there really are more unofficial holidays than ever before. And yes, most of them have been started by advertising firms who are just trying to sell you stuff. But contrary to popular belief, fake holidays didn’t start with the internet era. We have to go back much further, plumbing the depths of American consumer culture in the second half of the 19th century.

In fact, by the mid 20th century new “holidays” were being created left and right.

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The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

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