This Internet thing will never work (and other comments that come back to bite you…)

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing… a couple of blogs have picked up a copy of an article printed in Newsweek back in 1995 that dismissed the Internet as a fad. I love the title: “The Internet? Bah!” Writer Clifford Stoll dropped a number of clangers in his original article. Here are a couple of examples:

  • “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.”
  • “…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.”
  • “…Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.”
  • “…the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading.”
  • “Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee. No interactive multimedia display comes close to the excitement of a live concert. And who’d prefer cybersex to the real thing?”

In one report on this article, Clifford Stoll himself commented on his article, saying, “Wrong? Yep.

“At the time, I was trying to speak against the tide of futuristic commentary on how The Internet Will Solve Our Problems.

“Gives me pause. Most of my screwups have had limited publicity: Forgetting my lines in my 4th grade play. Misidentifying a Gilbert and Sullivan song while suddenly drafted to fill in as announcer on a classical radio station. Wasting a week hunting for planets interior to Mercury’s orbit using an infrared system with a noise level so high that it couldn’t possibly detect ’em. Heck – trying to dry my sneakers in a microwave oven (a quarter century later, there’s still a smudge on the kitchen ceiling)

“And, as I’ve laughed at others’ foibles, I think back to some of my own cringeworthy contributions. Now, whenever I think I know what’s happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff…”

At least he’s man enough to admit he got it wrong…

Advertisements