The Digital Environment: Taking the Long View

2. Histories: Computers, Networks, & Business Models

History of Computers

WWII and Post-war research (code breaking and fusion/nuclear explosion calculations)

1951-1968 Early Computer Magnetic Tape Units- History IBM, Univac, RCA, Ampex

Computer History, Part 2: From IBM to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Big Data Tools and Technologies


GUI interface (Apple/Microsoft)

-Engelbart’s mother of all demos

History of the Internet

Why was the Internet invented?

-Command and control/defense issues: Cold War, nukes, serial/centralized US phone system, multiple (un-connected) networks.

-Knowledge generation issues: scientific work generating large data sets at multiple (global) sites.

How and where and by whom?

-Independent labs doing government work.

-US government funding for a broad range of loosely connected projects that did not have immediate payouts.

-Some important work overseas as well (especially UK).

-Lots of post-nuclear scientists redeployed into the private sector, especially universities.

-Private enterprise could not have done this alone: As demonstrated by AT&Ts lack of interest, there didn't really appear to be any money in it and the basic R&D and roll out was HUGELY expensive.

Plus, contrary to computer and nuclear weapon development, Internet projects were not secret and info was shared across geographic boundaries.

-The initial importance of the BBNs/IMPs: admins were only willing to attach by proxy, but they were willing to do that.

-The immediate need to "connect" a widely diverse set of devices and networks. UNDERLYING AND COMMON STANDARDS were required to solve.

-TCP/IP: Established a standard.

-The defeat of x.25, AT&T’s attempt to pull back from their initial mistake of rejecting the internet by establishing a proprietary standard for data transmission over their lines.

-LAN (local area networks) and evenually Ethernet

- Packet Switching


-Online bulletin boards, "communities," and gaming


-AOL (intranets and internet)


TBL's proposal for "the web"

Early sample of TBL's screen, illustrating the web

One of TBLs early web pages (no image of the first exists), circa 1992

The first graphic/image posted to the web

Internet growth charts (.ppt)

- Blogs/Vlogs and Social Media

-Internet history timeline:

-History of the Business Models: From East Coast Banks to West Coast Venture Capitalists

These three links connect to NPR audio about Silicon Valley Origins. Text of the stories are provided for reading instead of/along with listening.

-A Rare Mix Created Silicon Valley's Startup Culture

external link:

-America's Magnet For Innovation, And Investments

external link:

-Intel Legends Moore And Grove: Making It Last

external link:

-Apple v. Microsoft Models

-Web 1.0 to Web 2.0: From static to "interactive" Web

From the "vision" to the "reality": if it's going to self-support, targeted marketing rules.(O'Reilly working group)

But note the near total inversion of entire enterprise: the majority of the strong positive potentials of Web 1.0 were non-commercial, egalitarian, and participatory. The majority of the outcomes/realities of 2.0 and beyond are commercial and consumerist. Make no mistake: Web 2.0 was/is a strategy with wide implications. From information for all to information about all.

Concept 2 Application Note article:

"Tech Industry Confronts A Backlash Against 'Disruptive Innovation"

Want to learn more?

Clive Thompson. Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, Penguin Press, 2019.
Yuval Noah Harari. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Harper-Collins, 2017.
Jonathan Taplin. Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy. NY: Little, Brown and Company, 2017.
Ken Auletta. Googled: The End of the World As We Know It. Penguin, 2009/2010.
Timothy Wu. The Master Switch. Knopf, 2010. 
Nicholas Carr, The Big Switch. Norton, 2008.
David Kirkpatrick. The Facebook Effect. Simon & Schuster, 2009.

(A) Concept Exams

(B) Text Reading

(C) Concept Application
Notes & Discussions
(D) 3-part-Research Writing Project
(E) Extra Credit Grading Special Considerations
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