When Jimmy Carter Was the Computer-Driven Candidate

The Georgia Democrat's campaign used email a few times a day in late 1976.
More
Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Everyone knows Barack Obama was first Internet candidate, when he deftly used new online technologies to raise massive amounts of money in small increments and to organize canvassers and supporters online during his 2008 campaign.

Or maybe he wasn't. Other versions of the story peg Howard Dean as the first Internet candidate, for using blogs and online, small-donor fundraising to surge into serious contention for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. And yet other versions credit Ron Paul for inventing the "money bomb" for online fundraising during the same cycle, or John McCain for pioneering online fundraising in 2000.

It turns out that the desire to stake the claim to being the most tech-savvy campaign goes all the way back to Jimmy Carter, who was known as the "computer-driven candidate" when he ran for office in 1976, according to Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet by Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon.

"Jimmy Carter's campaign used e-mail several times a day in the autumn of 1976," the authors of the 1998 bestseller wrote—as Nancy Scola pointed out on Twitter today, where she shared this book excerpt.

 Nancy Scola

Carter's campaign jet was the first-ever to be equipped with two computers, Washington Post columnist David Broder reported—a fitting innovation for the first atomic engineer to run for the presidency. And of course the phrase that stuck all these years later was penned by Broder himself when he wrote in September 1976, "The peanut-farmer, atomic-engineer is the closest thing to a computer-driven candidate this age has yet produced."

You can read the full column here. (Screenshot/Eugene Register-Guard via Google)
Jump to comments
Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In