Thinking Tech

The Internet Circa 1994, Institutional Extinction

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The Internet has been an integral part of our lives for a long time, waging a ferocious assault on institutions such as newspapers and magazines. So c...

The Internet has been an integral part of our lives for a long time, waging a ferocious assault on institutions such as newspapers and magazines. So check out this video with Tom Brokaw, Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt discussing the Internet 15 years ago as they stroll around Comdex, the Fall computer extravaganza in Vegas that disappeared at the turn of the decade. Also, look below at 25 things about to be extinct.

I was at that Comdex and recall seeing the dynamic duo walking the show floor as Brokaw conducted the interview. As dated as it seems, what they said was as prophetic as it now seems corny. Gates and Schmidt, now Google's CEO, extol the 'Net's wonder in amusing fashion. At one point Gates said, "It's very hip to be on the Internet right now."

Although unidentified, veteran NBC reporter George Lewis provides the intro. I recognize his voice because he interviewed me at that Comdex for one in my handful of appearances on the Nightly News as news editor of newsweekly PC Week (now eWeek).

"It's showtime. A dazzling array of information, documents, animations, sounds and even moving pictures piped to your computer screen through something called the Internet. The new electronic world promises to have virtual shopping malls where you can roam from place to place and buy things at the click of the mouse." You think?

And while we're at it, a list called "25 Things About to Become Extinct" is making the rounds on e-mail and in blogs. I could not dig up the author, but it is striking for the number of troubled institutions and technologies, thanks in part to "something called the Internet." I can't vouch for the accuracy of each rationale so I will only rerun the winners, er, losers. But you can see the whole thing here.

The list is neither comprehensive not particularly accurate. Family farms have been endangered since their inception and probably half of the people reading this don't remember The Milkman. And the list omits gas-powered SUVs, full-size pickups and General Motors which are endangered list, too. You know what else is on it: Interviews like the one Brokaw conducted with Gates for the evening news.

1. The Family Farm 2. Analog TV 3. News Magazines and TV News 4. Honey Bees 5. Mumps & Measles 6. Drive-in Theaters 7. Personal Checks 8. Wild Horses 9. Hand-Written Letters 10. The Milkman 11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys 12. Incandescent Bulbs 13. Cameras That Use Film 14. Answering Machines 15. The Swimming Hole 16. Ham Radio 17. Ash Trees 18. VCRs 19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs 20. Phone Land Lines 21. Dial-up Internet Access 22. Movie Rental Stores 23. Classified Ads 24. Yellow Pages 25. U.S. Post Office

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure