Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

“The Internet? Bah!”

Check out these gems from Newsweek, 1995:

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. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? 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.

Ohh snap, Clifford Stoll.  I haven’t dirtied my fingers with newsprint since about 2000, I took a class online last semester, and…well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.  There’s more…

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

Whoa, we’ll buy books over the Internet?  That’s just too much, Nicholas Negroponte (I bet even he couldn’t have predicted that kids in rural Sierra Leone would be doing it too).  And more…

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.

Whatever will we do without annoying salespeople breathing down our necks?

And yet, this last one still kind of rings true:

You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them—one’s a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn’t work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question…

1 Comment

  1. “Those who say the book is moribund often cite the computer as the asp on the mat. But the electronic highway is for bulletin boards on esoteric subjects, reference works, lists and news — timely, utilitarian information, efficiently pulled through the wires. Nobody is going to sit down and read a novel on a twitchy little screen. Ever.”

    —Annie Proulx in 1994 (https://www.nytimes.com/books/99/05/23/specials/proulx-top.html)

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