David Kirkpatrick

September 1, 2009

The internet turns forty

People carry on about how it’s well past the year 2000 and just exactly where is the future we all imagined — flying cars, jet packs, the works.

Well, think about what someone from 1985 would say about pretty much everyone carrying tiny devices that combine cordless phones, mini-televisions, the internet, etc. Put their jaw back in place and go to a hoary old desktop computer with a broadband connection. The computer might look somewhat similar, but even a user of the internet (probably a scientist or academic) from that year would be bowled over by the sheer volume of information, rich media and connectivity availble today.

From the link:

Goofy videos weren’t on the minds of Len Kleinrock and his team at UCLA when they began tests 40 years ago on what would become the Internet. Neither was social networking, for that matter, nor were most of the other easy-to-use applications that have drawn more than a billion people online.

Instead the researchers sought to create an open network for freely exchanging information, an openness that ultimately spurred the innovation that would later spawn the likes of YouTubeFacebookand the World Wide Web.

There’s still plenty of room for innovation today, yet the openness fostering it may be eroding. While the Internet is more widely available and faster than ever, artificial barriers threaten to constrict its growth.

Call it a mid-life crisis.

A variety of factors are to blame. Spam and hacking attacks force network operators to erect security firewalls. Authoritarian regimes block access to many sites and services within their borders. And commercial considerations spur policies that can thwart rivals, particularly on mobile devices like the iPhone.

“There is more freedom for the typical Internet user to play, to communicate, to shop — more opportunities than ever before,” saidJonathan Zittrain, a law professor and co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “On the worrisome side, there are some longer-term trends that are making it much more possible (for information) to be controlled.”

Few were paying attention back on Sept. 2, 1969, when about 20 people gathered in Kleinrock’s lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, to watch as two bulky computers passed meaningless test data through a 15-foot gray cable.

1 Comment »

  1. This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 9/2/2009, at The Unreligious Right

    Comment by UNRR — September 2, 2009 @ 7:31 am

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