Significant National Events: 1991-1999
Republican George Herman Walker Bush served as the 41st U.S. President during 1989-1993. (His son George W. Bush would become the 43rd U.S. President). The 1990 U.S. Census reported a population of 249 million, including 799,000 in Montana.
During this era, the internet became the primary conduit for communication. The internet was conceived in 1990 when English scientists proposed a "Hypertext” project called "WorldWideWeb" (one word) as a "web" of "hypertext documents" to be viewed by "browsers" using a client–server architecture. The quoted expressions became ingrained jargon in digital communication. The WorldWideWeb became a reality in the U.S. when congress passed an initiative (the Gore Bill) in 1991 supporting an information superhighway, an ambitious extension of the existing NSFnet. The initiative also funded development of the Mosaic web browser (1993). The browser capitalized on Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) that became publicly available in 1990. Mosaic was followed by the Netscape Navigator in 1994. Microsoft licensed Mosaic to create its Internet Explorer in 1995, a browser that began to dominate the market. Between 1990 and 1997, the percentage of households in the United States owning computers increased from 15% to 35% as computer ownership progressed from a luxury to a necessity. This marked the shift to an economy based on information technology. A portent of perils in the digital world was the arrest in 1995 of a hacker who broke into some of the federal government’s most secure computer systems. In 1998, Netscape launched what would become the Mozilla Foundation to create a new open source browser which became the 2004 Firefox.
The rush for internet wealth had at least one negative effect on Montana, the decision by Montana Power Corporation (MPC) to restructure itself as a potentially lucrative telecommunication company. Butte-based MPC had been a profitable, public-owned, closely regulated utility company. Since it was founded in 1912, it supplied the state and region with low cost power and transferred significant tax revenue to the state. But, within a few years after the 1997 Montana Legislature passed the Energy Deregulation Bill and MPC sold its power plants, dams, and transmission lines, the company filed for bankruptcy. The demise of MPC hurt Montana’s economy, threw many folks out of a job, and devalued the MPC shares held by many Montana investors. Out-of-state companies replaced MPC in providing utility services to Montanans.
Notable events in 1990 included federal rules that prohibited passengers from smoking on flights in the U.S., President Bush hosted an international meeting to discuss global warming, the Hubble Space Telescope was placed in orbit, an economic recession began, Congress passed the Clean Air Act of 1990, and Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. In early 1991, Congress authorized deployment of U.S. forces to drive the Iraqis from Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm quickly liberated Kuwait and punished Iraq. Later in 1991, the Cold War officially ended and the Soviet Union was dissolved.
In the 1992 election, William (Bill) Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001) was elected President, forestalling a second term for George H. W. Bush. In 1994, the unemployment rate dropped and the recession ended. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began functioning. The country was plagued by government shutdowns in 1995-1996 due to budgeting conflicts between the Republican Congress and the Democratic administration. President Clinton was elected to a second term in 1996 when he defeated Republican candidate Bob Dole. The Roth IRA option was established in 1997. President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1998-1999 for lying about his extramarital sexual activity. But he was acquitted by the Senate.
In 1996, the "Unabomber" was finally identified and arrested at his cabin in Lincoln, Montana. An 81-day standoff between the Montana Freemen and FBI agents ended with surrender near Jordan, Montana. The MSNBC and Fox News channels were launched. The student radio station at the University of North Carolina delivered the world's first internet radio broadcast. Google, Inc. was founded in 1998.
In 1999, the renowned Bozeman mountaineer Alex Lowe perished in an avalanche in the Himalayans. His Bozeman companion Conrad Anker was injured, but survived the avalanche. Lowe’s body was discovered in a melting glacier 17 years later.
As the decade ended, the stock market was at a record high, the unemployment rate at a 30 year low, and the average CEO of a big company earned nearly four hundred times as much as the average worker.
Last revised: 2020-06-28