Prophecies of the Internet, 1971
Earlier this week, I posted about the death of Paul Baran, co-inventor of packet switching — the core technology of the Internet — and a co-founder of Institute for the Future, the non-profit forecasting thinktank where I’m a research director. Yesterday, as we looked through our library of Baran’s brilliant, and still-relevant, research papers, we came across a mind-blowing report from 1971, titled “Toward a Study of Future Urban High-Capacity Telecommunications Systems.” At the time, Baran and his IFTF colleagues were considering how the military’s ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet, might someday change our everyday lives if it became publicly accessible. This particular report contained a delightfully prophetic page of forecasts titled “Brief Descriptions of Potential Home Information Services.” Click here to see a full scan of the page. Here are a few of my favorites (remember, this was 1971!):
* DEDICATED NEWSPAPER. A set of pages with printed and graphic information, possibly including photographs, the organization of which has been predetermined by a user to suit his preferences.
* PLAYS AND MOVIES FROM A VIDEO LIBRARY. Selection of all plays and movies. Color and good sound are required.
* RESTAURANTS. Following a query for a type of restaurant (Japanese, for instance), reservations, menu, prices are shown. Displays of dishes, location of tables, may be included.
* LIBRARY ACCESS. After an interactive “browsing” with a “librarian computer” and a quotation for the cost of hard copy facsimile or a slow-scan video transmission, a book or a magazine is transmitted to the home.
“IFTF Celebrates Paul Baran: Forecasting the Internet” (IFTF, thanks Jean Hagan!)
“Paul Baran obituary” (The Guardian)