We salute the early pioneers



image by Ray Maclean

Apart from waiting for the final assessment score, the EDCM (E-Learning and Digital Culture MOOC) is basically over (officially that is because some of us have decided to carry on the connection in some way), and I have started another MOOC Internet history, technology and security

The first week looked at Alan Turing, Bletchley Park and post war computing and communication. An inspiring introduction! I think we forget that the basis of computing and the Internet (as well as other things) was started way before our time.

Listening to the lectures I am amazed at the minds that were working on projects to help win the war which would then transform the world as we know it. But did they know it? Could they possibly have foreseen what impact their creations would have?

I read the predictions by Paul Baran, who played a key role in the development of the Internet, and it’s mind blowing. I couldn’t imagine some of these things in the 1980s or 1990s but to have this foresight in the 1960s!

The predictions were taken from a report by Baran called “Toward a Study of Future Urban High-Capacity Telecommunications Systems.”

In 1971 Ray Tomlinson sent the first network email. He said

“The invention of email came out of a personal desire for a more convenient and functional way to communicate. Basically, I was looking for a method that did not require the person to be there when the message was sent and enabled the receiver to read and answer communications at their convenience. I still use email every day. In fact, it is my preferred form of communication.”

I wonder if he realised at the time what an impact email would have.

Martin Cooper, inventor of the mobile phone appears to have known, or hoped, the impact his invention would have.

I know there are lots of other things that have been invented that could be considered more worthy, medicine, vaccinations etc. But mobile phones, technology and the Internet are truly revolutionary in that they affect all of us. Even if you don’t use the Internet or own a mobile phone something you do will require its use. Transferring money, receiving the news, heating your home, using a supermarket. All of these things will involve the Internet some where along the line.

Whether you consider technology to be utopia or dystopic you cannot deny its impact and for this we must salute the inventors for their vision.

NB, they don’t always get it right. In the 1940s IBM president, Thomas J Watson, allegedly said: “I think there is a world market for about five computers”!


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