31 December 2004

Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper at that time in the world is officially opened.

Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building, will be officially inaugurated in Taipei, Taiwan, on Dec. 31. The 1,666-foot skyscraper tops the previous record holder, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, by 183 feet.

Designing the 101-story building in the earthquake- and typhoon-prone region presented quite a challenge. Engineers had to account for the fact that the tower stands about 650 feet from a major fault line, and that it will face winds of 100 mph.

Still, Taipei 101 won’t hold the title of world’s tallest skyscraper for long. Buildings in Shanghai and Dubai are expected to surpass it, as will the Freedom Tower in New York — on the World Trade Center site — which is scheduled for completion in 2009.

NPR’s Melissa Block discusses the engineering know-how behind Taipei 101 with structural engineering consultant Dennis Poon of the Thornton-Tomasetti Group.

Taiwanese skyscraper, a 101-story tower in Xinyi District, Taipei. The building was officially classified as the world’s tallest in 2004, and remained such until the completion of Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2009. In 2011, the building was awarded the LEED platinum certification, the highest award according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, and became the tallest and largest green building in the world.

Construction started in 1999 and finished in 2004. The tower has served as an icon of modern Taiwan ever since its opening. The building was architecturally created as a symbol of the evolution of technology and Asian tradition. Its postmodernist approach to style incorporates traditional design elements and gives them modern treatments. The tower is designed to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. A multi-level shopping mall adjoining the tower houses hundreds of stores, restaurants and clubs. Fireworks launched from Taipei 101 feature prominently in international New Year’s Eve broadcasts and the structure appears frequently in travel literature and international media.

Taipei 101 is primarily owned by pan-government share holders. The name originally planned for the building, Taipei World Financial Center, until 2003, was derived from the name of the owner. The original name in Chinese was literally Taipei International Financial Center.

1 April 2004

Google releases Gmail.

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If you wanted to pick a single date to mark the beginning of the modern era of the web, you could do a lot worse than choosing Thursday, April 1, 2004, the day Gmail launched.

Scuttlebutt that Google was about to offer a free email service had leaked out the day before: Here’s John Markoff of the New York Times reporting on it at the time. But the idea of the search kingpin doing email was still startling, and the alleged storage capacity of 1GB—500 times what Microsoft’s Hotmail offered—seemed downright implausible. So when Google issued a press release date-stamped April 1, an awful lot of people briefly took it to be a really good hoax.

Gmail turned out to be real, and revolutionary. And a decade’s worth of perspective only makes it look more momentous.The first true landmark service to emerge from Google since its search engine debuted in 1998, Gmail didn’t just blow away Hotmail and Yahoo Mail, the dominant free webmail services of the day. With its vast storage, zippy interface, instant search and other advanced features, it may have been the first major cloud-based app that was capable of replacing conventional PC software, not just complementing it.

Even the things about Gmail that ticked off some people presaged the web to come: Its scanning of messages to find keywords that could be used for advertising purposes kicked off a conversation about online privacy that continues on to this day. Within Google, Gmail was also regarded as a huge, improbable deal. It was in the works for nearly three years before it reached consumers; during that time, skeptical Googlers ripped into the concept on multiple grounds, from the technical to the philosophical. It’s not hard to envision an alternate universe in which the effort fell apart along the way, or at least resulted in something a whole lot less interesting.

1 February 2004

During the half time show of Super Bowl XXXVIII Janet Jackson’s breast is exposed. The end result is that broadcasters have to adopt a stronger adherence to Federal Communications Commission censorship guidelines.