Brain Food: It'll never fly - the internet

A lot of weird techies talking to each other through their computers? Wouldn't normal people just pick up the phone or write a letter? Originally conceived in 1962 as 'the Galactic Network', the internet was intended to be a secure way for egghead US defence workers to communicate with each other. But the Star Wars moniker reflected the global ambition that scientist Professor Licklide held for his dream of networking one computer to another. By 1969, his idea had been realised and ARPANET was up and running. Despite this amazing technological advance, the internet failed to capture the public's imagination: the information it carried was impenetrable and its presentation awful (no pictures, no colour). It remained the preserve of academics, who used it for e-mail. Imagine explaining to a Wall Street exec in the mid-80s that this geeky technology would revolutionise the way he would do business; he'd have laughed all the way back to his Manhattan apartment. But things changed in the 1990s when British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web and HTML as a way of presenting and accessing information on the net. Soon afterwards, Al Gore coined the phrase 'Information Super-highway'. The facts speak for themselves: in 1993 fewer than 150 websites existed; 11 years on and there are about 43 million, accessible by 449 million people from their home. Last laugh goes to the geeks.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

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