Do you remember when you first discovered the internet? When the information superhighway was the great unknown with ‘dot’ this and ‘@’ that and those things called floppy disks and E-mail and Usenet?
I came across a little gem of a book recently called Que’s Computer & Internet Dictionary 6th Edition that defines the Information Superhighway in part as “An envisioned information infrastructure” that will take $325 billion and several decades to replace existing telephone lines with high-speed fiber optic cables. Cute!
Enjoy more of the book’s 1995 knol around things like crackers, search engines, and Lycos (the leading search engine) in the Pony Google+ album.
Here’s the best part. People didn’t get it. People didn’t think it would last. Specifically, people in 1994 with atrocious hairdo’s and a well-known TV show asked “What is Internet? What, do you write to it like mail?”
Not long after that stimulating Today show piece, Newsweek boldly claimed the Internet will fail. That’s right. In his article “The Internet? Bah!” one prophetic Clifford Stoll pens:
“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense?”
“Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.”
And it doesn’t end there. Check out the article for his views on why there won’t be computers in schools and why shopping online won’t work because there’s no salespeople. Adorable!
Some people were better Nostradamus’s than ‘ol Clifford though. Take these 1993 AT&T commercials for example.
They predict we’ll do stuff like carry our medical histories in our wallet, watch the movie you want to the minute you want to and open doors with the sound of your voice. Right on, AT&T!
There are some AT&T visions that aren’t exactly right on, but close. Like sending a fax from the beach (they show a tablet!), buying concert tickets from cash machines or tucking our babies in from phone booths. For you youngsters, fax machines were ways of magically and instantly sending paper printouts from one place to another, and phone booths were tiny public outdoor rooms with phones in them where drug dealers called their prospects and gabby motormouths occasionally got beaten up.
So, where were you when Bryan Gumbel was trying to figure out if you write to an internet address and AT&T was predicting digital enlightenment? Were you a Nostradamus or a Clifford Stoll? Did you think computers and the Internet would become as ubiquitous as they are today (and will be even more so in the future) or did you see it differently? What’s does your inner Nostradamus see in store for the next 20 years?