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How the Internet Didn't Fail As Predicted 259

Posted by samzenpus
from the series-of-popular-tubes dept.
Lord Byron Eee PC writes "Newsweek is carrying a navel-gazing piece on how wrong they were when in 1995 they published a story about how the Internet would fail. The original article states, 'Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.' The article continues to say that online shopping will never happen, that airline tickets won't be purchased over the web, and that newspapers have nothing to fear. It's an interesting look back at a time when the Internet was still a novelty and not yet a necessity."

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How the Internet Didn't Fail As Predicted

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  • I'd like to read this. /. needs more articles that are actually interesting to read. Maybe more about the past predictions, even? :)

    • by syrinx (106469) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:31PM (#31401670) Homepage

      Here's a good past prediction: http://apple.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/10/23/1816257 [slashdot.org]

      • by sconeu (64226)

        Love it:

        "No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame."

        • Please don't tell me you're now just figuring this out?

          See kids, this is the real reason you should Read the Fine Article!
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ractive (679038)
          This could laughable if you are very superficial about it, but economical success or hype is not necessarily related to a good product, actually if you could perform a really impartial feature by feature (design, software, usability, DRM, format management, compatibility, value, etc) comparison between music players I'm sure the iPod will not come as the best, so back in the day, minus the hype and the financial success, the comment is actually quite logical.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ustolemyname (1301665)
        Priceless comment from that story

        Apple is the Mercedes Benz or BMW of the computer industry. They deliver the best-designed products with "why didn't I think of that?!" features that eventually become commonplace on the Fords and Chevrolets of the computer industry. How many computer makers let you into the case without turning screws? ....

        Apparently Apple disagreed with jcoleman (139158) regarding "easily openable case == design feature"

        Or, "openable case == design feature"

        Source [slashdot.org]

        In all fairness, his remaining 6 points are fairly valid and some are responsible for Apple's success in the market today.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by samkass (174571)

          Apparently Apple disagreed with jcoleman (139158) regarding "easily openable case == design feature"

          Or, "openable case == design feature"

          Apple knows their markets very well. The high-end Mac Pro tower is far, far easier to open and modify than any other tower case I've used. Lift a lever, pull away the side, and you have each access to everything [apple.com]. Because that's what most of the Mac Pro customers want. iPhone customers? Not so much.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Requiem18th (742389) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:21PM (#31402272)

        There is a difference, when that paper was released everybody could see past their BS and realize they were wishful-thinking.

        The iPod *was* lame, as in, lacking features the competition has had since the beginning, the iPod "won" by means of a) Marketing and b) The iTMS.
        By "won" I mean, being the biggest player, it is no the sole player by a long shot.

        I don't have numbers to back this up, over half the media player owners I know own something else than an iPod, but I live in Mexico, does anyone can bring statistics about media players in the world or at least the US?

        • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by jedrek (79264) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:35PM (#31402500) Homepage

          It also "won" because of the interface, something everybody on slashdot keeps ignoring. Do you remember what the interfaces of pre-ipod mp3 players were like? No comparison.

          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by jedidiah (1196)

            You mean the idea of ripping of the basic UI from a CD changer head unit?

            I still prefer a varation on this theme that has buttons rather than a wheel.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Juln (41313)

            Like the way they didn't even have a power button?

            I spent some time playing with my friends original b/w iPod a few years back and actually, I couldn't figure out how to do anything. Then I spent three minutes trying to find the damn power button. Wow, that was an amazing design.

          • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Informative)

            by mobby_6kl (668092) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:39PM (#31404948)

            Yes, I remember. This is just a bunch of vague bullshit which gets accepted as the truth and modded appropriately only because it gets repeated all the time. Of course you can't compare the ipod to the cheap flash-based players of the time, but the Creative hard-drive based players had comparable, and I would say superior interface. Usually you'd have distinct physical buttons for most important functions, plus a rocker type thingie to navigate the menus. The menus themselves were clear and logically organized. Now admittedly the text input was a bit awkward, but at least it was possible to create and save playlists on the fly, as well as search songs by title.

      • by BeardedChimp (1416531) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:22PM (#31402296)
        On the other hand some of the predictions on slashdot have been bang on such as Linus Says 2004 is the Year for Desktop Linux [slashdot.org]
      • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

        by dunezone (899268) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:25PM (#31402334) Journal
        The iPod was pretty lame when it was introduced. Only worked on Apple, limited space, limited features, pretty much set the stage for most Apple products.

        It was only until several years later when increased the storage, added color, and allowed it to work on PC did it take off.
    • DUPE! (Score:5, Funny)

      by BeardedChimp (1416531) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:42PM (#31401790)
      I swore I read about this 15 years ago. Slashdots getting worse.
  • by Shuh (13578) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:33PM (#31401694) Journal
    A big-wig at I.B.M. predicted the entire world market for computers would be restricted to about 5 units.
    • by T Murphy (1054674) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:41PM (#31401782) Journal
      He's right you know. Those computers were the size of rooms. As demand went beyond 5, they started dividing those computers up into smaller ones. Ever wonder why computers are always getting smaller? They are running out of those 5 original computers, so they have to go smaller and smaller in order to stretch them further.
      • by Luyseyal (3154)

        Haha awesome!

        -l

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cmburns69 (169686)

        The solution to the looming computer shortage is to have more and more people share each of these remaining computers. I have developed an optimal technique for sharing (I call it Normalized Access Time, or NAT for short).

        An alternate solution might be to just build more computers, but I'm not sure the infrastructure is in place for that yet.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      People who think they are very self-important tend to underestimate the impact of things they did not directly influence. Perhaps he was not involved with the PC and thus thought it was destined to failure. You think I'm crazy? Not so. Just think of the old adage, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself" and similar such phrases. True in some cases, sure... but the more self-important one starts seeing one's self, the less able that person is to view the innovation of others as wo
      • by CaptainOfSpray (1229754) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:59PM (#31401994)
        How young are you, friend? The quote does not refer to that piece of Johnny-come-lately unarchitected junk called the PC. The IBMer referred to was Tom Watson Senior, talking in the 50's about the IBM 600. At that point in time, the price of a computer was such that only very few (perhaps 5) customers would both have the dough and see any reason why they should buy one. Back then, no-one had any idea at all about how to justify the purchase by displacing costs, never mind justify by competitive advantage.

        What happened next: not 5, but 18 customers bought one. So IBM designed a bigger faster model, the 650. The pricing team begged to set the price on the assumption that 23 customers would buy one. Finance refused to allow any assumption other than that the 18 customers for the 600 would buy a replacement 650. In fact, over 600 were sold of the model 650. This brought in such a huge mountain of money that IBM could bet on the design of a range of compatible models, the System/360. The rest is history - if you look at the horizon, you can still see the peaks of the mountain range of money that the S/360 brought in.
        • Your sig (Score:5, Funny)

          by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:20PM (#31402260)
          Cock Up Your Beaver" does not mean what you think. That might be true, but googling that phrase will produce exactly the results you would expect.
        • by Colin Douglas Howell (670559) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:51PM (#31405090)
          While the basic theme of your story is correct, you're confused on a number of details.

          Other posters have already pointed out that the remark attributed to Watson appears to be a misquote, though the section of Wikipedia's article on Watson discussing the quote [wikipedia.org] does mention the initial sales results (18 machines vs. a prediction of 5) which you refer to. However, you seem to have confused IBM's 600 series of electromechanical punched-card calculators with its 700 series of large-scale electronic computers. The machine in question was not the IBM 600 (an electromechanical multiplier introduced in 1931) but the IBM 701 [wikipedia.org], the first IBM electronic computer produced in quantity. This was a very large, expensive machine designed for scientific and technical calculations; its market was similar to that of the supercomputers of later decades.

          The IBM 650 [wikipedia.org] was not a bigger, faster version of the 701; that was the IBM 704 [wikipedia.org]. The 650 was a much smaller, cheaper machine designed for customers who could not afford a large-scale computer system. In that sense it was the predecessor to other later small-scale computer systems like the IBM 1620 [wikipedia.org] and the DEC PDP-8 [wikipedia.org]. The 650 was sold as a replacement for IBM's earlier 600 series of punched-card calculating machines.

          I don't know where your estimated and actual sales numbers for the 650 came from, but they appear to be incorrect as well. However, the machine was indeed far more successful than IBM's original sales predictions for it, with over 2000 being produced. But since it was a relatively low-cost system, I suspect that IBM's "mountain of money" available for the System/360's development was mainly brought in by other products, such as their 700 and 7000 series computers.

          No, I wasn't around in the 1950s. I'm just a computer history nut. :)
    • by Rei (128717) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:11PM (#31402152) Homepage

      One of my favorites was from Danny Hillis [wikipedia.org], a pioneer in parallel computing. "I went to my first computer conference at the New York Hilton about 20 years ago. When somebody there predicted the market for microprocessors would eventually be in the millions, someone else asked, 'Where are they all going to go? It's not like you need a computer in every doorknob!"

      Years later, Hillis went back to the same hotel. He noticed that the room keys had been replaced by electronic cards you slide into slots in the doors. There was indeed a computer in every doorknob..

    • by Eggbloke (1698408) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:24PM (#31402316)

      A big-wig at I.B.M. predicted the entire world market for computers would be restricted to about 5 units.

      'But I predict that within one-hundred years, computers will be twice as powerful, 10,000 times larger and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will be able to afford one....'

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      What makes their not-gonna-happen predictions especially bad is the fact that some of those things were already happening in 1995.

    • Actually, no, he didn't. But it makes a nice urban legend. As a footnote, he supposedly said it in 1943, which would mean his prediction was correct for about ten years, which is better than a lot of people have done forecasting technological progress.

  • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:33PM (#31401702)
    from the original article

    What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is that the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don't know what to ignore and what's worth reading.

    And along comes Slashdot et al with moderation and meta-moderation schemes to allow the crowd to edit the stream. Problem solved (sort of). Hard to imagine that it was impossible to see lack of editing as anything other than an insurmountable obstacle. But the article was written by journalists with editors, so maybe that explains their limited vision.

    • The great irony is that nothing changed, "professionals" were always biased, Wikileaks had more scoops on important issues then all major newspapers had in decades. "amateurs" = 1, Pro's = 0, the internet has it's drawbacks because anyone can open their mouth but it also means ANYONE WHO KNOWS can open their mouth in response, discussion has added so much to news stories and propaganda and newspapers basically had to add user comments or risk having less of an audience and less investment in their site. It

  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:35PM (#31401718) Homepage Journal

    From TF95A:

    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.

    Oh, how I wish the network were still missing that "essential ingredient". On the page containing the 1995 lament, I now see ads for:
    * Hugh Downs' Artery Cleaning "Secret" (now with 50% more Nobel Prize Laureate!)
    * Acai Berry Exposed - Official Test
    * Drivers from Minnesota wanted! (of course, I'm in Dallas... with a MN proxy server)
    * Saint Paul - Mom Lost 46lbs Following 1 Rule (MN mislocalization again)
    * DON'T Pay for White Teeth (with the requisite sugar cube clenched in teeth, WTF?)

    Meanwhile, *my* neighborhood mall -- the first air-conditioned mall west of the Mississippi -- is now a grass-covered field [wikipedia.org].

    That said, I don't think I could go back to 1995, though it would be a fun challenge. The best part was doing DNS reverse lookups of domain names, since the company's network didn't have a DNS server. I could read David Letterman's Top Ten list the next morning, if I plugged the right octets into something called "Netscape" -- I thought I was livin' large.

  • Negroponte (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gibson123 (1740752)
    If you have not done so, a must read is Negroponte's book "Being Digital", it's amazing how far in the future he can look, one of the best books talking about digital technology I've read, still, 15 years later: http://www.amazon.com/Being-Digital-Nicholas-Negroponte/dp/0679762906 [amazon.com]
  • by Wowsers (1151731) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:38PM (#31401744) Journal

    Did they predict that governments will attempt to crack down on free speech on the internet by dreaming up fake terror threats and copyright nonsense to control the internet, and thus please the governments corporate whore masters?

  • by Cytotoxic (245301) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:39PM (#31401756)
    From the original internet criticism:

    What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another.

    So he was able to see that human contact was the thing that was missing from the internet - and then blew it. Because of his lack of vision, he's still eating Ramen Noodles. Meanwhile Zuckerberg and Tom Anderson and many others made billions on Facebook and Myspace etc. solving exactly those problems.

    Actually, that's a nice lesson for the Slashdot crowd. Remember that idea you were just panning as stupid and unworkable because of xyz flaw that only you could spot? Yep, that's opportunity knocking.

    • by Marcika (1003625) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:56PM (#31401950)

      From the original internet criticism:

      What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact. Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities. Computers and networks isolate us from one another.

      So he was able to see that human contact was the thing that was missing from the internet - and then blew it. Because of his lack of vision, he's still eating Ramen Noodles. Meanwhile Zuckerberg and Tom Anderson and many others made billions on Facebook and Myspace etc. solving exactly those problems.

      Actually, that's a nice lesson for the Slashdot crowd. Remember that idea you were just panning as stupid and unworkable because of xyz flaw that only you could spot? Yep, that's opportunity knocking.

      And he didn't have much of an excuse to bemoan the lack of human contact and virtual communities either... Cliff Stoll back then was a net guru and quite active on usenet, so it's not like he wouldn't have imagined how the net connects people...

    • by characterZer0 (138196) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:59PM (#31401986)

      Zuckerberg and Anderson are not rich because they had vision to bring human contact to the internet.

      Zuckerberg and Anderson are rich because they realized that most internet users cannot or will not learn to use use their computers well enough to handle an email application, an IM application, a news reader, and a web browser, and that most internet users are not online for content but for mindless entertainment.

    • Actually, ICQ solved that problem in 1996! It already had the ability to create user profiles, (chat) groups, and search for people with similar interests. Then came the imitators (AIM, MSN, etc), who chose to imitate it in a way that was basically only good for instant messages anymore.
      And then, much much later, came Facebook, MySpace, etc. Who did the same thing. Except in the crappy website fashion. Plus they sold off the users’ data.

      Meanwhile, I still use ICQ. (Amongst others like XMPP or IRC.) Vi

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kristjansson (624846)
      You know, if Clifford Stoll [wikipedia.org] is eating Ramen at this point, I think it's because he wants to... I also have to wonder if everybody here is really this ignorant of who the man is...
      • by Cytotoxic (245301)

        Actually, I was ignorant of his existence. Thanks for the link. He sounds like a pretty cool guy. By his bio it seems that he had his fingers on several great opportunities that he failed to grasp, yet still managed to make quite a nice life for himself. I could say the same about myself.

        That's one of the things that I don't understand about the "social warfare" crowd. I come from modest means and have literally missed dozens of opportunities to get rich. Some because I just didn't want to go that ro

    • So he was able to see that human contact was the thing that was missing from the internet - and then blew it. Because of his lack of vision, he's still eating Ramen Noodles. Meanwhile Zuckerberg and Tom Anderson and many others made billions on Facebook and Myspace etc. solving exactly those problems.

      Well they haven't really solved those problems. Nobody has solved those problems yet. Instead, I'd say they did something like... provide us with such an addictive semi-social activity that we don't realize how isolated we are. It is indeed very clever and profitable.

      Reading and posting on a social networking site is not "human contact". Maybe we will someday have such a terrific VR system on the Internet that we can emulate genuine human contact and provide most of the physical/psychology health benef

      • by Cytotoxic (245301)

        Reading and posting on a social networking site is not "human contact". Maybe we will someday have such a terrific VR system on the Internet that we can emulate genuine human contact and provide most of the physical/psychology health benefits of interacting people other people, but Facebook aint it.

        You're right! There's a business opportunity..... no, wait.... Google says there's something called WoW that people do. Apparently, they WoW around the clock and even get married in WoW. Dang, too late again.....

    • by glwtta (532858)
      Meanwhile Zuckerberg and Tom Anderson and many others made billions on Facebook and Myspace etc. solving exactly those problems.

      I have to wonder if he wasn't talking about something more fundamental than "lack of user profiles". Saying that Facebook et al outright "solved" the problem of substituting communication for human contact seems a little short-sighted.

      "Computers and networks isolate us from one another."

      That quote annoys me about as much as any snide aphorism would, but there's some truth
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:44PM (#31401824)

    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,

    Heh. Lets cut and past "date of the Battle of Trafalgar" into the location bar of Chrome here...

    and instantly...

    "Battle of Trafalgar — Date: 21 October 1805
    According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Trafalgar [wikipedia.org]"

    Proving that internet search made the internet useful. The article's author had a stunning failure of vision.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192)

      Sometimes I miss the old days of internet search. Sure, you had to hunt through half a dozen pages of results to find the information you were looking for. But half the fun is in the search. The other half is ending up in places you never would have thought to go on your own. These days you can find what you're looking for in a few clicks. Somehow that makes the internet feel smaller.

  • To be fair... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jiro (131519) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:49PM (#31401878)
    To be fair, if you actually read the original article he mentions books and newspapers right after talking about books on disk--in context he's obviously referring to ebooks and not ordering a book and having it physically delivered (which would be nonsense for newspapers anyway). Paying for electronic books and newspapers is better than in 1995, but it hasn't exactly taken over, and newspapers are more outcompeted by free sites than by anything you buy.
    • by wagnerrp (1305589)
      Didn't the WSJ, or one of the other business rags have a service in the 90's where your computer would automatically dial into their servers early in the morning, and have a copy of the paper in your printer by the time you woke up?
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:54PM (#31401924) Homepage
    As I said on my blog [codemonkeyramblings.com]****, the irony was that within 1 year of his article JavaScript was released in Netscape Navigator 2.0 and Brin and Page began Google. The former played a key role in enabling a lot of the usefulness in the web and the latter played a key role in organizing it effectively from the viewpoint of the public, especially to the extent that his point about how hard it was to find useful data was negated by Google.

    I have to agree with Newsweek's writer who criticized him by saying that his problem wasn't in stating what the problems were, but his blithe assumption that they would never be overcome. That, right there, was the fatal flaw as it assumed that the computer industry was not invested in the Internet's future. That's almost like assuming that the established auto companies have no interest in the electric car market and would gladly let Tesla take it over unmolested.

    ****Just an ironic dig since he figured that blogging would never become mainstream, let alone that some bloggers (myself excluded) would become powerful players in the media.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by trash eighty (457611)

      A few months after this article being published i was in my first job... creating an online store selling stuff over the internet. I believe Amazon was just getting started then too. They have done quite well for themselves...

      Things did change very quickly though, Netscape 2.0 was the game changer as you say.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hurricane78 (562437)

      No, what makes it really ironic, is that one year later (1996), ICQ was released. The first social network. (Yes, it had all the functions to count as a real social network. I know because I had my first blind date because of it. [Turned out not so well though. ;])

      • I think JavaScript and Google, however, count as the foundation for the actual coffin itself because they were critical to making it so genuinely useful in ways that allowed for a lot of what he dismissed. JavaScript really enabled all of the applications he said wouldn't exist and Google enabled us to easily find them.
  • Maybe it has split into multiple bubble universes, and the people who are dealing with the consequences of the collapse of the Internet multiverse are simply beyond our cosmological horizon.

    We are unaware that anything has gone wrong, because *our* universe continues to expand.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      How do we know that you didn't die in childbirth in several of the multiverses, and thus the people in those universes were spared the discomfort of having to read that silly post?
    • Well, depends if you look at it from the 4chan realm. ;)

  • Not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Back in 1995, I was just finishing up a Journalism degree at a Big Ten university, and in more than one media class, the subject of the internet (and its future) came up. But it was the students that brought it up...not the professors or the teaching assistants.

    Unfortunately, the subject was always dismissed as some kind of fad. In fact, in one class, the assistant refused to even discuss the subject at all, almost as if he was annoyed by it. So, I'm not surprised at all that some in the mainstream media ha

  • I read his response...

    At the time, I was trying to speak against the tide of futuristic commentary on how The Internet Will Solve Our Problems.

    Sounds like a perfectly fine thing to caution people about. Problem is he then goes on to say these THINGS won't happen when in fact they DID happen but they still didn't solve our problems.

  • by fatboy (6851) on Monday March 08, 2010 @12:58PM (#31401974)

    In 1995 or 1996 Cliff was the keynote speaker at the Dayton Hamvention. He really got those old men fired up and hating on the Internet. He was promoting a book named "Silicon Snake Oil", IIRC. It was quite humorous for the next two or three years to watch the reaction of some of those guys asking about manuals for stuff I was selling in the Dayton boneyard. I would direct them to check in the Internet, and they would loose all manner of sensibility. Too funny.

  • To err is human... (Score:3, Informative)

    by drewhk (1744562) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:02PM (#31402040)

    You should read the end of TFA:

    "At the time, I was trying to speak against the tide of futuristic commentary on how The Internet Will Solve Our Problems.

    [...]

    And, as I’ve laughed at others’ foibles, I think back to some of my own cringeworthy contributions.

    Now, whenever I think I know what’s happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff

    Warm cheers to all,

    —Cliff Stoll on a rainy Friday afternoon in Oakland"

  • ...predicts that we'll soon buy ... newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

    Well, it's true that nobody's buying newspapers over the Internet. Isn't that one of the newspapers' biggest problems?

  • Stoll? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sperbels (1008585)
    Clifford Stoll? Seriously? That guy has never been much of an authority on computers. He was just a guy who capitalized on the little bit of street credit he got from bringing down the hacker Markus Hess. Stoll's opinions were never worth much.
  • I am old enough to remember reading this article back in 1995. His view was uncommon back then, though shared by a lot of anti-Internet curmudgeons. His article was a reaction to all the people touting the Internet as something that would swallow up all commerce.

  • by SiliconEntity (448450) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:26PM (#31402362)

    According to the article, Stoll's excuse is that he was trying to play the contrarian:

    At the time, I was trying to speak against the tide of futuristic commentary on how The Internet Will Solve Our Problems.

    Contrarianism helps sell magazines (and garners pageviews) but let us not forget that it is usually WRONG. Yes, humbling as it may be to admit, the great unwashed masses, the "sheeple", are usually right in their collective opinions. Contrarians often escape punishment for their folly because no one cares, but in this case Stoll got properly burned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      According to the article, Stoll's excuse is that he was trying to play the contrarian:

      At the time, I was trying to speak against the tide of futuristic commentary on how The Internet Will Solve Our Problems.

      Contrarianism helps sell magazines (and garners pageviews) but let us not forget that it is usually WRONG. Yes, humbling as it may be to admit, the great unwashed masses, the "sheeple", are usually right in their collective opinions. Contrarians often escape punishment for their folly because no one cares, but in this case Stoll got properly burned.

      Heh...these apology for bad predictions articles are always funny as hell, so do you know why you don't see more of them, even though "contrarianism helps sell magazines"? It's because the contrarians are usually right and then you don't have the apology article years later, it's just business as usual.

      The unwashed masses suck at predicting the future. Think about the future predictions of the 50's and 60's and wonder why you don't have a flying car, a robot maid, and why even though computers have made t

  • The flip side of the coin is that every new media since Edison's phonograph (and probably before) has been touted as fixing the broken education system. yet for the most part, they dont.
  • by damburger (981828) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:38PM (#31402548)

    In 1920 they published an incredibly snotty editorial ripping on Robert Goddard, arrogantly stating scientific errors (such as that a rocket could not work in a vacuum as it lacked something to 'push against'), and generally claiming that even a high school student could see that this Goddard fellow was a crazy loon.

    They published a 'correction' of the editorial on July 17th, 1969.

  • It's easy to see how one would make this mistake, when they've actually been to the future : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNGJkkkagGw [youtube.com]
  • Cliff Stoll? (Score:3, Informative)

    by smd75 (1551583) on Monday March 08, 2010 @01:50PM (#31402704)

    For someone with worthy experience to talk about the internet, Im quite surprised he wrote A) That article from 1995 and B) Silicon Snake Oil. His book The Cuckoo's Egg was excellent. I felt he had a firm grasp as to where the internet could go. I admired the guy for his work. I guess all those Berkeley kids aren't on top of their game. The guy _was_ an astronomer after all.

  • He neglected to see the Eighteen Wheelers cruising down the Information Superhighway that would make roadkill of his article, and didn't realize that If You Build It They Will Come.

  • A nice example of why reporters should stick to reporting and quit with the constant conjecture and personal opinion. Too much personal opinion, paid opinion and otherwise influenced opinion and conjecture fill what passes for "News" these days. A reporter's only job is to report the facts, but somehow that lesson, learned in journalism 101, does not make it out of academia anymore.
  • It failed in ways no one predicted.

  • Stoll versus Lanier (Score:3, Interesting)

    by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot.davidgerard@co@uk> on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:16PM (#31403008) Homepage

    It's instructive to look at the differences in what Clifford Stoll says versus what someone like Jaron Lanier says.

    Clifford Stoll reminds us that technology is not a panacea, and to stay human.

    Jaron Lanier is upset by "numb mobs composed of people who are no longer acting as individuals" - you know, that the peasants were let onto the ARPAnet. His main gripe with the Internet is that he doesn't get the attention any more [newstechnica.com].

  • by mschuyler (197441) on Monday March 08, 2010 @02:44PM (#31403420) Homepage Journal

    he got his 15 minutes of fame from Cuckoo's Egg, the book AND the movie. He's a PhD astonomer who was in the right place at the right time. I've heard him speak. He's witty, funny, and energetic, a delight to hear, really. I've never understood why he turned on the Net. He was, after all, on the bleeding edge for a time, and seemed poised to take off on a career of internet promotion rather than demotion. Strange.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Obfuscant (592200)
      I've never understood why he turned on the Net. He was, after all, on the bleeding edge for a time, and seemed poised to take off on a career of internet promotion rather than demotion. Strange.

      Because at the time, the "bleeding edge" was not "the web", it was the Internet.

      It's hard to remember back when "the web" didn't exist, but today "the web" is all that people think of. Today, when you say "internet", people expect your next words to be "double-u double-u double-u". Try saying "FTP" or "UUCP" and w

  • by plopez (54068) on Monday March 08, 2010 @04:08PM (#31404564) Journal

    *"What the Internet hucksters won't tell you is tht the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data."*

    That hasn't changed.

    *"What's missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact."*
    Still no real change. Despite social networking sites. It just isn't the same.

    His point about teachers is still true. Technology is secondary to good teachers.

    I love this quote:
    *"But today, I'm uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community."*

    The interweb is still trendy and oversold.

    So, somethings have not changed. Not at the core anyway.

  • 15 years later (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cliff Stoll (242915) on Monday March 08, 2010 @06:21PM (#31406526) Homepage

    I agree with many of the Slashdot posters who've commented on my article of 15 years ago. There's a great deal to munch on - plenty of hilarious mistakes as well as several ideas still worth thinking about.

    That 1995 article grew from my questioning attitude. When I hear nearly unanimous commentary without any critical dialog, I become skeptical. Perhaps too skeptical, as that article shows.

    At the time, I saw my role as encouraging questions about then-common predictions. As a way of introducing dialog through debate, if not deliberation.

    Clearly, I'm no futurist, able to extrapolate across decades. If anyone, I suspect that school teachers are the most in touch with future generations.

    Now? Oh, I try to stay away from predictions; two teenagers gleefully keep me informed of my daily mistakes. I teach physics, speak at meetings, and write the occasional article for Scientific American. I make Klein Bottles ... and, yes, I sell them online, in obvious contradiction to that 1995 article.

    Best wishes to all,
    -Cliff (in Oakland California, on a Monday afternoon without sunspots)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RobertB-DC (622190) *

      You're the Klein Bottle Guy? That's got to be the best tongue-in-cheek site selling an actual product, in the history of ever.

      Not surprisingly, you were too modest to plug your site, so I'll do it for you: Acme Klein Bottle [kleinbottle.com].

      Sample awesomeness, from the Conditions of Acme's Unconditional Guarantee:

      We at Acme Klein Bottle strive to create the finest nonorientable surfaces and hope that you will be satisfied with your new Acme manifold. For this reason, we are pleased to offer this UNCONDITIONAL GUARANTEE com

"And do you think (fop that I am) that I could be the Scarlet Pumpernickel?" -- Looney Tunes, The Scarlet Pumpernickel (1950, Chuck Jones)

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