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7 Memorable SXSW Interactive Moments

by Lauren Silverman 4 Mar 2013 2:25 PM

It’s March, and our SXSW coverage begins. Lauren Silverman, KERA’s newest member of the news team, looks back on the storied past of the Interactive conference and the rise of Geek power.


At SXSW 2012, the MakerBot Replicator was a big hit — this year, MakerBot’s Bre Pettis will Deliver Opening Remarks. (Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

Get your gadgets ready and your gaming face on: it’s almost time for South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive in Austin! Best known as the festival that launched Foursquare and popularized Twitter, SXSW Interactive has for nearly two decades been a meeting ground for geeks, marketers, hackers, and social media ninjas.

This week KERA will begin its annual swing through Austin for SXSW.  I’ll be at Interactive, Stephen Becker will report from Film and the crew from our sister station KXT will represent during Music.

Before we begin coverage of wearable technology, high-tech health monitors and more let’s take a look back at Interactive highlights from years past:

  • 1994: The debut of the Interactive portion of SXSW. Back then, Interactive was just a handful of creatives. Now it attracts tens of thousands of the tech world’s movers and shakers. Curious about it’s evolution? Check out these SXSW infographics.
  • 2002:  The third annual “Sexiest Geek Alive Competition” is held at SXSW. Star Trek star Chase Masterson announces the winner is Chad Biggs, who beat out 12,000 contestants.
  • 2006: Gamers delight: SXSW Interactive launches ScreenBurn, a portion of the conference devoted to gaming. This year, the SXSW Gaming Expo is FREE and open to the public. If you want to get your game on and explore the future of games, mobile or console, in comics or toys, this is the place to be.
  • 2007:  Twitter becomes the first major product to launch at the conference. Next time you send out a 140 character message, thank the festival.
  • 2008: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had a less than stellar keynote — and a Q&A that was derailed by a very unhappy audience.
  • 2011: Interactive breaks attendance records — about 14,000 people networked, talked ideas, and partied. KERA’s Stephen Becker reports how South by Southwest Interactive earned the reputation as Spring Break for Geeks.
  • 2012:  Tech-loving comedian Baratunde Thurston named first 2012 SXSW Interactive keynote speaker. He co-founded the black political blog, Jack and Jill Politics and served as Director of Digital for The Onion before launching the comedy/technology startup Cultivated Wit.

Check out this list of past speakers at SXSW Interactive for more. And don’t forget to follow KERA’s @lsilverwoman, @stephenbecker and @amelson for coverage of SXSW 2013.