Texas State Capitol, Austin TX. April 2, 2010. Photo: Stuart Seeger
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 13th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in the nation from 2000 to 2006. Austin has a population of 790,390 (2010 U.S. Census). The city is the cultural and economic center of the Austin–Round Rock–San Marcos metropolitan area, which has a population of over 1,716,291 (2010 U.S. Census), making it the 35th-largest metropolitan area in the United States.
The area was settled in the 1830s on the banks of the Colorado River by pioneers who named the village Waterloo. In 1839, Waterloo was chosen to become the capital of the newly independent Republic of Texas. The city was renamed after Stephen F. Austin, known as the father of Texas. The city grew throughout the 19th century and became a center for government and education with the construction of the Texas State Capitol and the University of Texas. After a lull in growth from the Great Depression, Austin resumed its development into a major city in the 1980s and emerged as a center for technology and business. Austin is home to many companies, high-tech and otherwise: Fortune 500 corporations Freescale Semiconductor, Forestar Group, and Whole Foods Market, are headquartered there; AMD, Apple, Broadcom, Google, IBM, Intel, Qualcomm, ShoreTel, Synopsys and Texas Instruments have prominent regional offices there. Also Dell's Worldwide Headquarters is located in nearby Round Rock, a suburb of Austin.
Residents of Austin are known as "Austinites". They include a diverse mix of government employees (e.g., university faculty & staff, law enforcement, political staffers); foreign and domestic college students; musicians; high-tech workers; blue-collar workers; businesspeople; and, a sizeable GLBT gay community. The city is home to development centers for many technology corporations; it adopted the "Silicon Hills" nickname in the 1990s. However, the current official slogan promotes Austin as "The Live Music Capital of the World", a reference to the many musicians and live music venues within the area, and the long-running PBS TV concert series Austin City Limits . In recent years, some Austinites have also adopted the unofficial slogan "Keep Austin Weird". This interpretation of the classic, "Texas-style" sense of independence refers to: the traditional and proudly eclectic, liberal lifestyles of many Austin residents; a desire to protect small, unique, local businesses from being overrun by large corporations; and, as a reaction to the perceived rise of conservative influences within the community. In the late 1800s, Austin also became known as the City of the "Violet Crown" for the wintertime violet glow of color across the hills just after sunset. Even today, many Austin businesses use the term "violet crown" in their name. Lastly, Austin is known as a "clean air city" for the city's stringent no-smoking ordinances that apply to all public places and buildings, and all restaurants.