Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Still Looking For The Silver Bullet: After Al Gore Invented the Internet

It seems likes the Dark Ages when the fax machine was the chosen mode of communicating the written word quickly.

I started using email in or around 1994; People For Puget Sound was an early adopter. So was National Audubon. I was happily amazed when I learned that Helen Engle, the Doyen of Audubon, was an early adopter, too.

In 1994 Willem Scholten worked with People For Puget Sound and the Seattle Library to establish a ‘Green Gopher’ portal that allow access and transmittal of the library cataloge and documents in ASCII format.

Later that year, Scholten helped launch People For Puget Sound’s website, SoundWeb.

Those were good years. Paul Brainard and Denis Hayes of The Brainard Foundation and The Bullitt Foundation, respectively, thought it was necessary for Northwest conservation groups to move into the digital age. They included money funding hardware, software and training in program grants. One Northwest (now Groundwire was born.

Back then, we were so pure. I recall the huge hoo-ha that went on when some Southern lawyer posted a commercial message and sullied the integrity of “The Internet.”

It wasn't easy to do research using the web in the early days. Educator Stephanie Raymond explained to me why it wasn't a good idea to have our intern use the web to research the subject "octopus" as I'd suggested. The entries in those days were predominantly for sex toys.

So, how many emails have you received today? How many hours have you been “surfing” the “World Wide Web”? How many Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn postings have you received today? How many have you sent? Counting how many doesn’t seem to be the point.

I like to think I could have foreseen where we are today back then. No way. How good is your imagination? How will we be communicating in 2025— and will we be understanding each other any better than we were before Al Gore invented “The Internet?”

--Mike Sato

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