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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

who took the initiative to create the internet?

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen points to an old article by Brian Carnell on who is really responsible for the age of communication:
Back in the mid-1980s the Internet was the sole province of universities and government institutions. Private individuals who just wanted to send e-mail over the Internet would have had a hard time doing so.

But that doesn't mean there weren't vibrant computer networks. In fact there were tens of thousands of Bulletin Board Systems around the country that were relatively cheap to join and offered e-mail, files, discussion forums and a whole host of things that are now largely on the web; although some remnants of this BBS culture still exist.
And when did the internet really start to take off? Guess:
The floodgates of the Internet came open only after key resources became privatized and companies and individuals could operate on the Internet. For much of its existence, commercial activity on the Internet had been forbidden. The removal of that barrier is primarily responsible for the Internet we have today, where both anarchists and Abercrombie and Fitch use the web to broadcast their respective messages.
But the contrast is even starker than either Cowen or Carnell suggest. The Federal government has been impeding communications technology for many, many decades. Early in the twentieth century, the Feds granted a monopoly to Ma Bell and seized control of the airwaves, stifling innovation and efficient use of the electromagnetic spectrum for decades to come. It's only recently that unused portions of the airwaves have been free and the explosion in wireless technology has been the result. Praise the Feds for creating the internet after doing so much damage? I think not.


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