A brief trip in the Wayback Machine

Some intrepid soul has dug up a hilarious Newsweek article from 1995 describing how this newfangled Internet thing is doomed to failure. Take a moment and read this gem from the past, the oh-so creatively titled “The Internet? Bah!” My favorite part:

After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. 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? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

Man, talk about batting 0.00. If you want an example of hip 90’s enthusiasm for the Internet, sort of the antipode to this article, check out John Perry Barlow’s utopian and grandiose “A declaration of the independence of cyberspace,” written in 1996. A sample:

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.

We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.

I remember when my family first connected our god-awful Compaq Presario to the Internet through a 14.4 k modem. The first time I sat down, with the whole wide Internet at my fingertips, I typed “leopards” into a Yahoo! search. This was back when Yahoo kept an indexed list of Web sites, edited by real people. I couldn’t even wrap my head around the concept of the Internet. It appeared in my mind as a giant library. You’ve come a long way, baby.


2 Responses to “A brief trip in the Wayback Machine”

  1. 1 Sarah Mollner
    March 10, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Internet High Five!

  2. March 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I like JPB’s outlook…very Ayn Randian.

    Here’s a fun fact: Social networking has surpassed porn as the most visited web property. Gee, it only took about 15 years!

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