A debut collection of magazine articles explores the genesis of the internet.
Before the dawn of the new millennium, in an era before YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, the internet was not quite as ubiquitous as it is today. In the mid-1990s, Moore was tasked with explaining it to the readers of the underground publication WWWiz Magazine. His book delivers a collection of the articles from that period, covering an array of topics ranging from chat rooms, cybersex, hyperlinks, search engines, and download speeds to the ever evolving technology that ran it all. The culture in these articles may occasionally seem familiar—the thin-skinned Apple users of today sometimes resemble their thin-skinned Macintosh counterparts of yesterday, and the taboo of online dating has still never quite dissipated. But this ’90s version of cyberspace was only beginning to attract average users at a time when two megabytes was considered a “big file” and the patience of Job was required to get QuickTime to load on a Windows PC. A true introduction to the internet’s beginnings, Moore’s articles include concise, still-relevant information about how personal computers—to the surprise of Xerox, IBM, HP, and others—became more than just rich hobbyists’ playthings. The collection goes as far back as the ’50s and ’60s to look at the postwar influence on the internet, and the contributions of Tim Berners-Lee, the CERN engineer and computer scientist responsible for creating the World Wide Web, complete with a short interview. All the articles are stereotypically ’90s, littered with references to cultural hallmarks like Seinfeld, Dilbert, and the scandal involving President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The lone break from these past insights is the assortment of occasional observations from the 21st century, pithy footnotes to readers following up on the successes or failures of the technologies or companies discussed—enjoyable additions to the text that the book could ultimately benefit from more of. But even when the material is dated, there’s a lot to learn here for those looking for an approachable guide to the origins of the internet, particularly from an embedded perspective.
A useful time capsule of the internet in its infancy.