The Internet? Bah!

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Many years ago, in a South Africa finding it’s way to it’s first democratic election, a friend of mine would often say, “Don’t be a victim of your own words.” He of course was referring to saying things that might come back and bite you down the road. And in an emerging ‘New South Africa’, lots of people were saying lots of things, and plenty of them got it badly wrong.

The world of technology is another one of those ‘dramatic change spaces’ that offers up the opportunity for history to come back and bite you big time.

Here are some exerts from a Newsweek article (1995) dug up by the guys at The Next Web. Clifford Stoll, writes a piece called ‘The Internet? Bah!’. And boy does he get a whole lot wrong : ) Keep in mind that he wrote this before Google, FaceBook and Twitter.

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.

The truth in 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.

Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

There are so many beauties contained in the article. I’m tempted to drop the whole thing in as a quote. Go and have a look for yourself : )

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

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2 thoughts on “The Internet? Bah!”

  1. Brilliant, Barrie – what a find!

    I just hope that none of the stuff we say ever looks as stupid as this!

  2. James says:

    I see Clifford Stoll now sells blown glass bottles (called Klein Bottle) on the internet and teaches 8th graders physics. I wonder if he’s prepared to write a follow up article?

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