I love this newspaper article (below) from November, 1994, about the growing popularity of something called “the Internet.”
And I love it not just because I wrote it — and earned $25 for the effort! — but because it’s always fun to go back and see how we described emerging technologies when they were new. When the U.S. space program was ramping up in the early 1960s, magazines like Life and Look promised we’d soon be living on the moon and commuting to work by jet pack. Imagine how the newspapers in the late 1800s explained blimps to your average Joe?
When I wrote this piece for the local newspaper 27 years ago, the Internet was still a newfangled concept for most people outside of academia. Google wouldn’t be founded until four years later, in 1998, and commercial online services like AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe were just starting to become popular by aggressively and repeatedly shipping their sign-up floppy discs to anyone with a physical mailbox. Modems screamed aloud while they downloaded data at 28.8 kilobytes per second. (Today’s 5G phones quietly download 65+megabits per second — truly a quantum leap.)
One of my favorite things about this article is how I had to put so many words and concepts that are commonplace today in quotation marks and explain what they are: “online,” “e-mail,” and “cyberspace.” And, yes, I used the term “information superhighway.” More than once. It was a simpler time.
Finally, another thing that made me hold onto this clipping for so long (other than the fact that that’s my wife in the picture) is my interview with a friend of a friend named Bill Duffy. As a serious Star Trek fan, Bill could see the future, and it’s people like him who always give you the good quotes just as the interview is ending: “I have little doubt” he said, “that the computer will someday outmode the telephone as the way we communicate.”
How right you were, Bill. Outmoded, indeed.
(The article is below if you’re inclined to read it. If so, thanks! And I’ll see you in “cyberspace” on the “information superhighway” real soon, LOL.)