Kids (and Less Savvy Marketers) Imagine the Internet in 1995

In 1995, a group of 5th grade kids in Hele­na, Mon­tana got togeth­er and made a PSA for the Inter­net (above). And, man, were they hip, with their tech­no music and their “by the time I’m in col­lege, the inter­net will be your tele­phone, tele­vi­sion, and work­place.” In the annals of overblown pre­dic­tions and tech­no­log­i­cal hubris, mid-nineties inter­net-fever will go down as the ulti­mate excep­tion. These kids even antic­i­pat­ed the cute cat mania that would infect the inter­net for­ev­er. Of course, none of them could have fore­seen the Twit­ter rev­o­lu­tion, the Face­book decline, rub­bable gifs, or spher­i­cal panoram­ic views of Mars, but that’s just quib­bling.

It real­ly is aston­ish­ing to look back a mere sev­en­teen years at what a prim­i­tive tech­nol­o­gy the inter­net was. Of course it wasn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly evi­dent at the time that the online world would indeed become our “tele­phone, tele­vi­sion, and work­place,” and some naysay­ers, like astronomer and hack­er-catch­er Clif­ford Stoll, called BS on the hype. In a 1995 Newsweek arti­cle titled “The Inter­net? Bah!,” Stoll wrote:

The truth is no online data­base will replace your dai­ly news­pa­per, no CD-ROM can take the place of a com­pe­tent teacher and no com­put­er net­work will change the way gov­ern­ment works.

In 2010, Stoll was forced to retract, com­ment­ing on Boing Boing cov­er­age of his sour­puss skep­ti­cism with:

“Of my many mis­takes, flubs, and howlers, few have been as pub­lic as my 1995 howler.

But who could blame him? This was the age of such clunky Web ser­vices as AOL, which promis­es much in a 95 ad below, but ulti­mate­ly deliv­ered lit­tle.

Not all web adver­tis­ing in 1995 looks so dat­ed and sil­ly. AOL’s com­peti­tor Prodi­gy, which fared even worse, cer­tain­ly had a bet­ter ad agency. Their 95 ad below, fea­tur­ing Bar­ry White, is a romp.

All of this reflec­tion war­rants more wis­dom from a chas­tened Clif­ford Stoll, who in a 2006 TED talk says: “If you real­ly want to know about the future, don’t ask a tech­nol­o­gist, a sci­en­tist, a physi­cist. No! Don’t ask some­body who’s writ­ing code. No, if you want to know what society’s going to be like in 20 years, ask a kinder­garten teacher.”

via Pre­fix

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.