Take a ride through tech history with OpenStack’s latest release.

The OpenStack community recently released Pike, the 16th release of OpenStack. As always, the OpenStack Foundation team has been busy fielding questions about the release from press, analysts and OpenStack supporters. Most are about the latest features, but on occasion a brave soul has asked, “So…uh…what’s a ‘pike’?”

“The Massachusetts Turnpike. It’s a road near Boston.”

“So this release is named after a road?”

Stop the presses! This isn’t just any road. It’s the road, and it has a greater significance to Boston’s technology history than you might think.

To get the story from a local’s point of view, I called up my father, who we’ll call “Billy from Boston.” Billy was born and raised in the Boston suburbs. He was in his teens when they began building the Massachusetts Turnpike in 1955. At this time Wang Laboratories, headquartered in nearby Cambridge, was taking off. “I had a Wang Calculator while Bill Gates was still wearing diapers!” claims my father. While this claim can be refuted by some timeline checking and basic math, the point is well taken: Boston had a high-tech industry well before much of the US.

Industries take people and there were two major roads that made “the people” factor possible in Boston’s tech story: The Massachusetts Turnpike and Route 128. Route 128 runs north-south in a semicircle, connecting the western Boston suburbs. Route 128 was called “America’s Technology Highway” because of all the labs and computing companies along the route. The Turnpike, which, if you want to sound like a local should only be called the “Mass Pike,” stretched the length of the state and brought all east-west bound traffic into Route 128 and Boston.

For the next two decades, science, research and computing in Boston grew––wave to college freshman Richard Stallman at Harvard in 1970 as we zoom by on our history adventure––laying many of the foundations for modern computing. “The Mass Pike made access to all the high tech jobs on Route 128 way easier. You drove in during the day, out at night,” says Billy, “and it worked. It resulted in the great economic success and high tech industry of Massachusetts.”

The economic success Billy from Boston is referring to is called the “Massachusetts Miracle,” when in 1975, the unemployment rate in the state fell from 12 percent to 3 percent and kept a thriving economy through the 80s, due to Boston’s tech industry.

So Pike isn’t exactly “just a road.” It’s a transportation milestone for a state, a puzzle piece in computing history and a key to unlocking the economic prowess of technology.

Each OpenStack development cycle has a code name proposed and chosen by the community, this one is an homage to the long and winding road of tech.


Images // CC BY NC