The Department of Justice dismisses a 13-year-long anti-trust case against IBM, after seeking to break up its alleged monopoly. Despite being deemed "without merit," the case drained millions in resources and changed the company's practices.
The Scientific and Advanced-Technology Acts opens the NSFNET—then, the backbone of the Internet—to other non-government and research networks, giving birth to the modern Internet.
The White House announces the Clipper Chip, an encryption device developed by the National Security Agency that creates a backdoor into telephone equipment and allows the government to decrypt messages of suspected criminals.
Congress passes the Communications Decency Act, considered the first attempt to censor the Internet. It holds ISPs criminally responsible for when minors see indecent material. The Supreme Court later strikes most of it down.
The Congressional Internet Caucus forms, in response to a boom in Internet use.
John Doerr, a leading venture capitalist, forms TechNet, a bipartisan lobbying organization made up of top execs from the likes of Dell, Yahoo, Cisco, and Apple.
The U.S. Department of Justice files an anti-trust suit against Microsoft for monopolizing the PC industry. The suit becomes a wake-up call to the tech industry that they can no longer ignore Washington.
Congress passes the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, criminalizing technologies that facilitate copyrigh violations. It's invoked in many lawsuits, most against or involving Napster.
Despite fears of helping terrorists, Pres. Clinton lifts export limits on encryption technology. (Congress and the tech industry lobbied hard for it.) The decision opens up a multi-billion market to U.S. hardware and software companies.
The dot-com bubble bursts, causing legislators—as well as the public—to cast a wary eye upon fast-growing tech start-ups and sectors.
Following the Enron scandal, Congress passes the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a massive overhaul of accounting standards and corporate governance. Many view the law as a killer of tech IPOs, as start-ups stay private longer to duck new regulations.
Google opens a Washington office.
Facebook opens a Washington office.
The FCC embraces new net neutrality regulations, banning ISPs from blocking bandwidth-hogging websites, but allowing provisions for mobile carriers who want to block apps.
The FTC launches an antitrust investigation into Google's business practices, rallying critics such as Microsoft, Kayak, and Expedia, who complain of the giant's stranglehold on the search market.
The House proposes the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would make it easier for engineers and technologists from India and China to become legal permanent U.S. residents.
Congress passes the America Invents Act, a patent system overhaul that would scrap the current "first-to-invent" model in favor of "first-to-file." Many in the tech industry believe it favors large companies over start-ups.
Tech companies rally to defeat SOPA and PIPA, to broad antipiracy bills that would allow the government to shut down certain websites. It is considered the industry's largest-ever show of political force.
Congress passes the JOBS Act, which aims to spur job growth for "emerging companies" by easing requirements for financial disclosure and increasing entrepreneurs' access to capital through crowdfunding.
[Image: Flickr user Matthew C. Wright]
A version of this article appeared in the November 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.