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The Internet Technology

Why Didn't the Internet Take Off In 1983? 469

jfruh writes "An amazing pair of videos from the AT&T archives tout a service called Viewtron that brought much of what we expect from the modern Internet to customers' homes in 1983. Online news, banking services, restaurant reviews, shopping, e-mail — all were available on your TV set, controlled by a wireless infrared keyboard. The system had 15,000 customers in cities on the U.S. east coast, but was shut down after $50 million was spent on it. But why did it flop? Was the world just not ready for it?"
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Why Didn't the Internet Take Off In 1983?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:35AM (#39217609)

    Probably because it was ridiculously limited by Internet standards. The Internet took off because you could do pretty much anything with it. The only limits were the technology of the computers and connections, and that technology increased and continues to increase exponentially. The services that AT&T offered were simply not worth the expense. The Internet, when it was eventually privatized, was.

  • Re:Ready? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:41AM (#39217647)

    The system's total storage was around 2 million pages!

    Its basically an interactive teletext service.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @01:42AM (#39217651)

    At launch, they cost $900 and were reduced to $600 when demand was soft. Further, a subscription in Miami cost $12 a month, plus long distance phone charges, if any. There also were additional charges for Hallmark Cards (electronic mail) of $2 per card or 50 cents for stationery. After May, 1984, the partners gave up trying to sell the Sceptre Terminals and changed the pricing system to be $39.95 a month including terminal rental.

    Too goddamned expensive. $900 in 1983 was $2,080 in 2012 dollars. []

    Who the hell is willing to throw down $2000 for an untested system? Maybe if they'd started at $39.95 a month ($92.37 in 2012 dollars []) it would've been able to get off the ground, but the original price point likely killed it.

  • by spacey ( 741 ) <> on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:02AM (#39217769) Homepage

    True, that. In '92 compuserve was established, but its greatest value for geeks was that they had a usenet feed and a mail gateway (which was probably a uucp connection to uunet/alternet, but mail flowed!), and so you could communicate with the rest of the world. It's still sad that they kept denying that this was their future until they couldn't stop hemorrhaging users.

  • Re:no pc (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:09AM (#39217797)

    The Radio Shack TRS-80 model one and Apple II were two of the better known home computers around then. Not many could afford one, but the Apple Lisa came out in 1983 and saw some features added afterwards. It had a GUI similar to the Mac, hard drive, virtual memory, protected memory, expansion slots, and multitasking.

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:24AM (#39217853) Homepage Journal
    From the Way Back archives [].

    I wrote the following article during my tenure as the chief architect for the mass-market videotex experiment conducted by AT&T and Knight-Ridder News called "Viewtron" -- a service of the joint-venture company, Viewdata Corporation of America.

    As can be sensed in the article, I had encountered some fairly frustrating situations and was about to be told by the corporate authorities that my telecomputing architecture, which would have provided a dynamically downloaded Forth graphics protocol in 1983 evolving into a distributed Smalltalk-like environment beginning around 1985, would be abandoned due to a corporate commitment to stick with Tandem Computers as the mainframe vendor -- a choice which I had asserted would not be adequate for my architecture. (At least Postscript survived.) I was subsequently offered the head telecomputing software position at Prodigy by IBM and turned it down when they indicated they would not support my architecture either, due to a committment to limit merchant access to their network to only those who had a special status with the service provider (IBM/CBS/Sears). The distributed Smalltalk system was specifically designed to allow the sort of grassroots commerce now emerging in the world wide web -- particularly as people recognize JavaScript is similar to the Self programming language and the Common Lisp Object System. This wasn't in keeping with IBM's philosophy at that time since they had yet to be humbled by Bill Gates.

    My independent attempt at developing this sort of service was squashed by the U.S. government when it provided UUCP/Usenet service to a competitor in San Diego and would not offer me the same subsidy via MILnet -- a network that was not for public access, by law, and which was exclusively for military use. My complaints to DoD investigators resulted in continual "We're looking into it." replies.

    Videotex Networking and The American Pioneer

    by Jim Bowery (circa 1982)

    With the precipitous drop in the price of information technology, computer-based communication has come within the technical and economic reach of the mass-market. The term generally used for this mass-market is "videotex" because it reduces the cost of entry into the home by using the most ubiquitous video display device, the television screen, to deliver its service.

    The central importance of this new market is that it brings the capital cost of establishing a publication with nation-wide distribution to within the reach of the mass-market as well. This means that anyone who is a "consumer" of information on this new technology can also be a "producer" of information. The distinction between editorial staff and readership need no longer be a function of who has how much money, but rather, who has the greatest consumer appeal. The last time an event of this magnitude took place was the invention of the offset printer which brought the cost of publication to within the reach of small businesses. That democratization of cultural evolution was protected in our constitution under freedom of the press. Freedom of speech was intended for the masses. In this new technology, the distinction between press and speech is beginning to blur. Some individuals and institutions see this as removing the new media from either of the constitutional protections rather than giving it both. They see a great danger in allowing the uncensored ideas of individuals to spread across the entire nation within seconds at a cost of only a few cents. A direct quote from a person with authority in the management of this new technology: "We view videotex as 'we the institutions' providing 'you the people' with information." I wonder what our founding fathers would have thought of a statement like that.

    Mass-media influences cultural evolution in profound ways. Rather that assuming a paternalistic posture, we should be objective about these influences in making policy and technology decisions about the new media. It is important to try and preserve the positive aspects of extant media while eliminating its deficits. On the positive side, mass-media is very effective at eliminating "noise" or totally uninteresting information compared to, say, CB radio. This is accomplished via responsible editorial staffs and market forces. On the negative side, much "signal" or vital information is eliminated along with the noise. A good example of this is the way mass-media attends to relatively temporal things like territorial wars, nuclear arms, economic ills, social stratification ... etc. to the utter exclusion of attending to the underlying cause of these events: our limits to growth. The need for "news" is understandable, but how long should we talk about which shade of yellow Joe's eye is, how his wife and her lover feel about it and whether he will wear sun-glasses out of embarrassment before we start talking about a cure for jaundice?

    Mass-media has failed to give appropriate coverage to the most significant and interesting issue facing us because of the close tie between institutional culture and editorial policy. Institutional evolution selects people-oriented people -- individuals with great personal force. These people are consumed with their social orientation to the point that they ignore or cannot understand information not relating in fairly direct ways to politics or the psychological aspects of economics. Since institutional evolution is reflected in who has authority over what, editorial authority eventually reflects the biases of this group. They cannot understand life, except as something that generates politics and "human interest" stories. They may even, at some level of awareness, work to maintain our limits to growth since it places their skills at a premium. In a people-saturated environment (one at its limits to growth) people-oriented people are winners.

    Actually, this is an ancient problem that keeps rearing its ugly head in many places in many forms. In my industry its called the "Whiz Kids vs. MBAs" syndrome. Others have termed it "Western Cowboys vs. Eastern Bankers". The list is without end. I prefer to view it as a more stable historical pattern: "Pioneers vs. Feudalists".

    Pioneers are skilled at manipulating unpeopled environments to suit their needs whereas feudalists are skilled at manipulating peopled environments to suit their needs. Although, these are not necessarily exclusive traits, people do seem to specialize toward one end or the other simply because both skills require tremendous discipline to master and people have limited time to invest in learning.

    Pioneers want to be left alone to do their work and enjoy its fruits. Feudalists say "no man is an island" and feel the pioneer is a "hick" or worse, an escapist. Feudalists view themselves as lords and pioneers as serfs. Pioneers view feudalists as either irrelevant or as some sort of inevitable creeping crud devouring everything in its path. At their best, feudalists represent the stable balance and harmony exhibited by Eastern philosophy. At their worst, feudalists represent the tyrannical predation of pioneers unable to escape domination. At their best, pioneers represent the freedom, diversity and respect for the individual represented by Western philosophy. At their worst, pioneers represent the inefficient, destructive exploitation of virgin environs.

    The Atlantic and Pacific Oceans selected pioneers for the New World. The Pioneer is in our cultural and our blood. But now that our frontier resources have vanished, the "creeping crud" of feudalism is catching up with us. This change in perspective is making itself felt in all aspects of our society: big corporations, big government and institutional mass-media. As the disease progresses, we find ourselves looking and behaving more and more like one big company town. Soviet Russia has already succumbed to this disease. The only weapon we have that is truly effective against it is our greatest strength: innovation.

    I firmly believe that, except to the extent that they have been silenced by the media's endless barrage of feudalistic values, the American people are pioneers to their core. They are starved to share these values with each other but they cannot because there is no mode of communication that will support their values. Videotex may not be as efficient at replicating and distributing information as broadcast, but it does provide, for the first time in history, a means of removing the editorial monopoly from feudalists and allowing pioneers to share their own values. There will be a battle over this "privilege" (although one would think freedom of the press and speech should be rights). The outcome of this battle of editorial freedom vs. control in videotex may well determine whether or not civilization ends in a war over resources, continues with the American people spear-heading an explosion into the high frontier or, pipe-dream of pipe-dreams, slides into world-wide feudalism hoping to control nuclear arms and "equitably" distribute our dwindling terrestrial resources.

    There is a tremendous danger that careless promotion of deregulation will be dogmatically (or purposefully) extended to the point that there may form an unregulated monopoly over the information replicated across the nation-wide videotex network, now underdevelopment. If this happens, the prophecies of a despotic, "cashless-society" are quite likely to become a reality. My opinion is that this nightmare will eventually be realized but not before the American pioneers have had a chance to reach each other and organize. I base this hope on the fact that the first people to participate in the videotex network will represent some of the most pioneering of Americans, since videotex is a new "territory".

    The question at hand is this: How do we mold the early videotex environment so that noise is suppressed without limiting the free flow of information between customers?

    The first obstacle is, of course, legal. As the knights of U.S. feudalism, corporate lawyers have a penchant for finding ways of stomping out innovation and diversity in any way possible. In the case of videotex, the attempt is to keep feudal control of information by making videotex system ownership imply liability for information transmitted over it. For example, if a libelous communication takes place, corporate lawyers for the plaintiff will bring suit against the carrier rather than the individual responsible for the communication. The rationalizations for this clearly unreasonable and contrived position are quite numerous. Without a common carrier status, the carrier will be treading on virgin ground legally and thus be unprotected by precedent. Indeed, the stakes are high enough that the competitor could easily afford to fabricate an event ideal for the purposes of such a suit. This means the first legal precedent could be in favor of holding the carrier responsible for the communications transmitted over its network, thus forcing (or giving an excuse for) the carrier to inspect, edit and censor all communications except, perhaps, simple person-to-person or "electronic mail". This, in turn, would put editorial control right back in the hands of the feudalists. Potential carriers' own lawyers are already hard at work worrying everyone about such a suit. They would like to win the battle against diversity before it begins. This is unlikely because videotex is still driven by technology and therefore by pioneers.

    The question then becomes: How do we best protect against such "legal" tactics? The answer seems to be an early emphasis on secure identification of the source of communications so that there can be no question as to the individual responsible. This would preempt an attempt to hold the carrier liable. Anonymous communications, like Delphi conferencing, could even be supported as long as some individual would be willing to attach his/her name to the communication before distributing it. This would be similar, legally, to a "letters to the editor" column where a writer remains anonymous. Another measure could be to require that only individuals of legal age be allowed to author publishable communications. Yet another measure could be to require anyone who wishes to write and publish information on the network to put in writing, in an agreement separate from the standard customer agreement, that they are liable for any and all communications originating under their name on the network. This would preempt the "stolen password" excuse for holding the carrier liable.

    Beyond the secure identification of communication sources, there is the necessity of editorial services. Not everyone is going to want to filter through everything published by everyone on the network. An infrastructure of editorial staffs is that filter. In exchange for their service the editorial staff gets to promote their view of the world and, if they are in enough demand, charge money for access to their list of approved articles. On a videotex network, there is little capital involved in establishing an editorial staff. All that is required is a terminal and a file on the network which may have an intrinsic cost as low as $5/month if it represents a publication with "only" around 100 articles. The rest is up to the customers. If they like a publication, they will read it. If they don't they won't. A customer could ask to see all articles approved by staffs A or B inclusive, or only those articles approved by both A and B, etc. This sort of customer selection could involve as many editorial staffs as desired in any logical combination. An editorial staff could review other editorial staffs as well as individual articles, forming hierarchies to handle the mass of articles that would be submitted every day. This sort of editorial mechanism would not only provide a very efficient way of filtering out poor and questionable communications without inhibiting diversity, it would add a layer of liability for publications that would further insulate carriers from liability and therefore from a monopoly over communications.

    In general, anything that acts to filter out bad information and that is not under control of the carrier, acts to prevent the carrier from monopolizing the evolution of ideas on the network.

    As a tool for coordinating organizations, a customer-driven videotex communications facility would be just as revolutionary in its impact. In particular, organizations with simple hierarchical structures could automate almost all of their accounting and coordination via a videotex network. In addition to the normal modes of organizational management, new modes will spring up that are impractical outside of an information utility. Perhaps the most important example involves the way individuals are given authority within organizations. Traditional organizations select authority via a top-down, authoritarian system or via a bottom-up democratic system. The authoritarian system is more efficient than the democratic system, but it is also more vulnerable to mistakes and corruption. The democratic system gets harder to maintain the larger it gets. People have a natural limit to the number of people they can effectively associate with. In large representative democracies, such as our government, a national union, etc. virtually no one voting for a candidate knows the candidate personally. This, combined with the event called "election" creates the "campaign" where the virtues of democracy are almost entirely subverted by its vices. A very simple system of selecting representation or proxy exists which eliminates "elections" and thus campaigns, excessive politics and corruption. It is called CAV: "continuous approval voting". It is too expensive to maintain manually, but with a videotex network, it becomes just as cheap as any other system (it may be less expensive).

    In CAV, a group of people who associate with each other select a representative from among themselves. Each member has an "approval list" which only they can see and alter. On this list, they give the name of every individual they feel is competent to be their representative. The person whose name appears on the most approval lists is the representative. At any time, a member may change their approval list. That change could put another at the top of the approval heap and therefore force a recall of the previous representative. A hierarchy of such groups could grow to unlimited size, still with no campaigns and everyone evaluating only those who they are in a position to associate with. Of course, thresholds for recall, terms of office and other embellishments may be included to optimize the system for particular purposes. The point is that this represents just one of many new forms of democracy that could change the way privilege and accountability are allocated in our institutions.

    The power of this sort of tool will be so profound that the first organizations to take advantage of it will represent an unprecedented political and economic force. As stated earlier, it appears the demography of early customers will favor organizations oriented toward pioneering values. If the development of technology for utilization of nonterrestrial resources continues, it is quite likely that an organization will form to exploit those resources, by-passing government, military and traditional corporate planning. Of course, these institutions won't like this, just as third-world governments tried to tie down nonterrestrial resources with the so-called "Moon Treaty". The ensuing political battle will probably come out in favor of allowing the organization to develop the resources in exchange for some form of taxation.

    Professional societies will be able to carry on continuous year-round conferences. The time for feed-back determines the rate of advance in most advanced technologies. Videotex can reduce that feed-back time from months to minutes. Again, societies structured appropriately will be able to take maximum advantage of this sort of system. This means only new or flexible old societies will receive the full force of this technology's benefits. A society which places internal politics before its primary purpose will be by-passed. Once again, pioneer values will be promoted.

    The conferencing system would probably be organized in a hierarchy of discussions. Everyone would see the top level discussion but only those at the top could contribute to it directly. At the bottom levels, individuals could comment and if received with enough credulity by higher level members, their comment could be raised to a higher level in the conference, thus reaching a number of people increasing geometrically with each level. The key to the success of such a hierarchical conference, as in any conference, is the way "speakers" are selected, or the credulity factor mentioned above. If this sort of conferencing system combines with the CAV system mentioned above, the resulting conferences will be even more interesting.

    Currently, almost half a researcher's time is spent searching through hierarchies of reference indexes, or in duplicating efforts that could be avoided if they did such searches. If professional conferences and articles were submitted and published on a videotex network, this time would be reduced to insignificance. Furthermore, the interpersonal communications would allow a researcher to ask an author questions about his publication and get answers, potentially within seconds, without the inconvenience or imposition of a phone call.

    (to be continued)

  • Re:No Porn! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @02:34AM (#39217901)

    A great system, no malware or viruses of any kind. Access to a lot of databases, chat rooms, etc...
    Everyone had one terminal, home or business. Business could order from their suppliers online etc...
    The only 2 downsides were it was text based and the connection was billed by the minute.

    But its no surprise for it having lasted for over 2 decades in France.

  • by Tastecicles ( 1153671 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:16AM (#39218117)

    Prestel was in use still until very recently (I can say with certainty within the last 8 years).

  • Re:Ready? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:28AM (#39218173)

    It probably failed where Minitel succeeded ...

    Minitel succeeded?

    In France ? Sure it succeeded considering that its been in use for 30 years, and only in june of this year will the service be taken permanently offline. And by in use I mean millions of people used it, not geeks but joe six pack.
    Your average mom and pop, grandma and granpa. Universities used it, business used it, large, medium and small businesses. Mintel was BIG, so BIG that many doubted that Internet could even succeed in France in the ninties and early 2000s. The system was closed and not exceedingly expensive but it worked. It was secure, it worked and tens of millions used it. If this is not a measure of success then I don't know what is.

  • Re:Ready? (Score:5, Informative)

    by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:28AM (#39218181) Journal
    From the Wiki article:

    "In February 2009, France Telecom indicates the Minitel network still has 10 million monthly connections, among which 1 million on the 3611 (directory). France Telecom is planning to retire the service on 30 June 2012."

  • Re:no pc (Score:4, Informative)

    by macshit ( 157376 ) <> on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:45AM (#39218243) Homepage

    nobody had a computer at home

    Not really true. Lots of people, even relatively "ordinary" people had computers at home back then, albeit somewhat crappy computers by today's standards. I was the hacker type in my family, so I had a single-board thingy which I programmed in assembly—but my completely non-techy brother had an Atari 400 (cheap, mostly used for games, but a real computer nonetheless). Friends had VIC-20s, some richer ones had the original IBM PC or Apple IIs, the Commodore 64 was gaining popularity, etc. The TRS-80 etc had been around for years.

    Obviously many fewer people had computers then than now, but computer ownership was definitely gaining at that point, and starting to go beyond the enthusiast class (often in the guise of a "game machine with a keyboard", many of which were relatively cheap).

  • by Zenin ( 266666 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @03:46AM (#39218253) Homepage

    "Imagine waiting a half second for each character of the (text) file you requested to appear on your screen. Those were the days of the 2400 baud modems, which were in fact that slow."

    What utter crap.

    2,400 baud is 2,400 bits per second...even with overhead that's 240 characters per second, a far cry from 0.5 characters per second you claim. Not even the 300/1200 Apple modem I started with was that slow. Hell, telex of the 1940s was still five times faster then your claim of half a second.

  • Re:Ready? (Score:5, Informative)

    by leuk_he ( 194174 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @04:51AM (#39218475) Homepage Journal

    Yes, and that would have been enough to start.

    However the thinking of AT&T at that tie was "pay per minute", which would translate to pay per page. Imagine that you would go on the internet and pay one cent for every page you vistited, correct of not. The only way to boot it was to make it available for free, just like the BBS hobby systems that came shortly after this.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:14AM (#39218573) Journal

    You know how fast are the network connections in between cities back in the early 1980's?

    300 baud - that's the speed for an "ultra fast" modem

    Yes, we do have "networks" back then, it's called "FidoNet", and it's the sysops (system operators) who are carrying out all those internode connections

  • Re:Ready? (Score:5, Informative)

    by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @05:25AM (#39218629)
    No, in the 1980s, desktop computers took about 1 second to boot up: Click, beep! and you are going. However, modems were horribly slow. France and a few other countries had Minitel terminals that worked remarkably well. The fact that it flopped in the US of A, doesn't mean it flopped everywhere.
  • Re:Ready? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shazback ( 1842686 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:05AM (#39219003)
    Even if you consider the service a success, it was much more a political than technological or commercial success. The PTT (now France Telecom) was still a state-owned company when Minitel started, and in order to get the Minitel service kick-started, PTT was "ordered" to fit one in each post office in France for free. That didn't really get the ball rolling though, so the PTT was ordered to "give away" about 5M units for free to businesses and end users. Given that France's population was just north of 50M at the time, I'll let you consider what that means in terms of market penetration.

    At its "peak" in the second half of the 1990s, Minitel had around 9M end user terminals in operation, as well as those in post offices and businesses. The total revenues through the system were about $1B, of which three quarters were siphoned through to service providers and companies selling goods through Minitel. Effectively, for the PTT/France Telecom it was a $250M business, that enabled them to cut back slightly on print runs of phone directories.That sounds good, but when you consider they had to pony up the cost of 5-6M units before even starting to get revenues, that's a slight damper. With an average sales point of $150 (in 1983), even if you think they made a nice 30% mark-up, having to give away 5-6M units (+ installing them, + the network, +R&D...) comes out at over $600M. I don't know how much the PTT saved through not printing phone directories. But Minitel is not quite a clear success in the PTT/France Telecom's cap. It might have ended up turning a small profit over the lifetime of the service, and it definitely did enable new business models to be created (many, many, many of which were porn-related), however it was far too little with regards to the massive push PTT gave to get it started. The real success was a political one (with both sides of the spectrum fighting to take ownership of it) : politicians could say France was high-research, connected, yadda yadda, everybody was on the information superhighway, security, etc.
  • I was online in 1983 (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:16AM (#39219057) Homepage Journal

    It was called CompuServe, and IIRC was $3 per month. But there were a lot of reasons being online didn't take off.

    One was technology. 300 baud was the norm, far slower than 28.8, The most powerful PC at the time (I'll get disagreement over this; Amiga for one) was the IBM XT. 8088 processor, 64k of memory, and a humungous ten meg hard drive. Cost was prohibitive, an IBM cost thousands of dollars.

    There was little content and no search capabilities.

    It was a walled garden.

    "Why in the world do you have a computer?" Only us nerds had computers back then.

    It was text only, with no hypertext.

    I found it to be pretty useless. Later in the decade I was on the BBSes on a used IBM with 28.8, and even then my online presence was mostly sharing software. An email could take days to be delivered, since the BBSes were seldom online 24/7 and few had many connections. I still got most of my software on floppies from shareware stores.

    The internet didn't happen because nobody and nothing was ready for it. The internet happened when it was time for it to happen.

    It was the 80's, everyone was too busy with hairspray, good music and doing coke to care about the internet.

    I saw far more hair spray in the '60s, most music sucked than as badly as now (although thankfully disco had died and there was a lot of good rock and roll). Most music has always sucked. The "90% of everything is crap" has always been true. And coke was always too expensive for most people to do much of; coke was mostly a yuppie thing.

  • by weave ( 48069 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:28AM (#39219123) Journal

    It was called CompuServe, and IIRC was $3 per month.

    It was $5 PER HOUR off peak. Peak business hours were like $30/hour. And it was slow. It sometimes took 10 minutes just to start the CB radio chat program.

  • Re:Ready? (Score:4, Informative)

    by speculatrix ( 678524 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @07:29AM (#39219125)
    Teletext was an enormously successful service in the UK, any TV above the most very basic had it. the User interface simply consisted of choosing in a page number on the remote control. Pages were delivered over a data stream hidden in the non-visible parts of the picture, being sent in a cycle with some being sent more frequently such as index pages. Some TVs even incorporated extra memory so as to cache many pages to allow instant page navigation rather than wait sometimes 10+ seconds for one to arrive!

    It was used by many companies to carry up to date adverts, with special discounts on holidays being particularly successful, with many travel agents listing their deals and also using them in their retail outlets.

    Once the internet began to take off, it began to die. the company tried to transition to internet marketing but was too late: [] is now a spent force.
  • by Arrogant-Bastard ( 141720 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @08:08AM (#39219265)
    It's just that it wasn't called "the Internet", and that in part was because it was composed of disparate but interconnecting pieces. By 1983, Usenet/UUCPnet had about 500 nodes; the next year it had doubled to around 1000. CSnet was a couple of years old and was growing. Same for BITNET. And of course the ARPAnet was still expanding.

    There was no web, of course, but the web isn't the Internet. And a lot of people didn't use computers to access it -- they used terminals, connected to computers via serial lines or phone lines. But it was growing quickly, it was used heavily by folks in academia and research, and a lot of experiments/projects were underway.

    Granted, the "club" was limited: you either had to work in the right places, or be a student there. But it was already large and growing. (And one of the ironies that often strikes me is that it was quite routine for Unix users to edit with vi, format documents with troff, read mail with Berkeley mail, and issue remote execution/file retrieval requests...all at the commad line. And I don't mean CS types: I mean everyone from undergraduates to the secretarial staff. A lot of them were very fast and efficient with those tools. Compare/contrast with today. This moment of rose-colored geezer reflection brought to by the letters V, A and X and the number 780.)
  • by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @08:36AM (#39219371) Journal

    Never subscribed to alt.folklore.computers. Even in '93 Usenet had too much content for one person to read it all. Who is this Dave Fischer bloke anyway?

  • by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Friday March 02, 2012 @11:57AM (#39220665)

    SMS is 160 7bit characters.. which is only 140 bytes.

You can observe a lot just by watching. -- Yogi Berra