Sunday, August 22, 2010

The History of the Internet

I came across an interesting graphic via first the Resource Shelf website which sent me to the Online MBA.  Both sites are worth a look.  Here's the graphic:

Via: MBA Online

You can date your entry into online technology by where you intersect this timeline.  Few of us had access to ARPANET.  In fact, most of us couldn't even connect to the internet until well after the launch of the World Wide Web in 1992.  It took the first web browser, Mosaic, in 1993 to let people begin to explore.  I started using the World Wide Web with that first browser.  I can remember clearly how blown away I was with what I could find even then.

What struck me about the graphic was how "early" some things happened.  Pizza Hut gets the nod for jumping on the the e-commerce bandwagon as early as 1994.  But even more striking was how many technologies that we now simply take for granted have come about so recently:  Google in 1999, Wikipedia in 2001, and YouTube in 2005.  I use these services every day and never think of them as new.  Still, I often think to myself how incredible it is that I can find virtually anything from my networked computer.

As I write this, I am sitting on my screen porch connected over WiFi to my home network.  I have checked my e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS reader accounts.  I have looked at a product offering from Woot.  I looked up a very informative article on hummingbirds on Wikipedia (a hummingbird is at the feeder next to the screen porch).  I listened to hummingbird calls via the Cornell Birds website's mp3 files. I checked the weather forecast and the news headlines.  And I haven't left my laptop and my cup of coffee.  All this in only 17 years since the first web browser was launched. If you are younger than 20, you have no recollection of life before the web.  How quickly we take it all for granted.

What isn't on the chart, is the record of the Creative Destruction that has come with this new tsunami of technology.  All of this has come with a cost.  Not so much in the obvious impacts like the decline of daily newspapers (although that is pretty bad, especially if you are a journalist). The greater impact has been in the less visible world of corporate and government information systems which have shed layer upon layer of people whose jobs have been replaced with software systems.  Managing the transitions in technology is tough.  Maybe "surviving the transitions" would be a better description.  Still, I would not want to go back even if I could.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to check FaceBook and a Tweet has just popped up.

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