The Virtual Revolution – The Internet Tankies Version of History


Watching the BBC and Alaks Krotoski’s take on the “internet” is an interesting experience whilst not to bad for a guardian tech journalist. The program has some fairly obvious biases and some of its statements about the history of the internet and its precursors are a little wobbly if not in fact twisted or wrong.

They cover the precursors to the internet / www in a very cursory way obviously they just read the Cliffs notes version of internet history and have brought some of the more happy clappy views of the internet from some of the usual American suspects – A species of induhvidual I have just coined the name “Internet Tankies” for. And to totally ignore the ideas for Vannevar Bush who of course postulated a hypertext system in 1945 not a good start there.

The early part covering the pre internet days was particularly bad when covering the Well which was a BBS system and not a system that used internet protocols just because it was based in SV and had a few well known users. A lot of the research and  work was done outside of California MIT, Rand and the NPL all playing major roles for example

As some one who was involved early on sceen see cyber gypsies and was one of the mice in the walls finding uses for things I should know that! In fact BBS sysops I know though that connecting the hobbyist BBS systems like Fidonet and WWIV to the internet would spoil and eventually destroy Fidonet.

And no mention of Gopher which is where I found the early text mode only www stuck away on the end of the ITU’s gopher sever which I was looking  at as it had a copy of BT’s x.500 directory.

And the whole segment on Microsoft just didn’t make sense MS got jumped on because they stopped the ability of 3rd party browsers manufacturers to charge for browsers. Netscape’s business model was to charge for browsers and that is what the regulators fell on Microsoft on from a great height for (and also in some cases being American)

It will be interesting to see what the rest of the series comes up with but it does seem that they need some more people with a longer term view and to be able to look beyond oh look purty pictures on my mac, and the often patronising Candide like twaddle pushed by Negreponte et al about how giving poor people in third world some crap laptop will automagicaly make theirs lives better NO! access to water and basic medical services will do far more.

And don’t get me started how Stephen Fry gets to pontificate on tech, just because you have read your iphone manual Stephen doesn’t mean you have an in depth knowledge on the internet – let alone what it means in the broader political and economic sense . I bet you don’t even know what the 8th layer of the OSI stack and the 5th layer of the TCP/IP stack are 🙂 By that argument as I have watched all the Stargate DVD directors commentaries that means I should have been the replacement for Russell Davies on Dr Who/Torchwood.

Whist I agree with Aleks with her skeptical view right at the end she did give Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia) in particular a freeride. Ask Alex Chancellor about how Wikipedia announced his death 🙂

PS Aleks as an American if you don’t know what a “tankie” is ask one of the older hacks at the Guardian down the pub.

PPS that is assuming you can stop Charles Arthur from going of on his extended rants about how the Kulaks at the ordinance survey should be liquidated.</p

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