“The internet is just a fad” … Newsweek, Feb. 26, 1995

Interesting retro piece republished by the Daily Beast

Punch line: Famous quote from some dude in the patent office: “all things have already been invented”

Tom Watson, IBM CEO of long ago, predicted at most 6 computers would be bought.

And, in 1995, Newsweek stepped forward to declare the internet “nothing but a bunch of hype”.

Oops.

Excerpted from Newsweek: The Internet? Bah!, Feb 26, 1995

Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn’t, and will never be, nirvana

After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two.

But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community – the internet.

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense?

The truth in 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.

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on a computer. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.

Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet.

Uh, sure.

The Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness.

Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data.

Then there are those pushing computers into schools.

We’re told that multimedia will make schoolwork easy and fun. Students will happily learn from animated characters while taught by expertly tailored software. Who needs teachers when you’ve got computer-aided education?

Bah.

Can you recall even one educational filmstrip of decades past? I’ll bet you remember the two or three great teachers who made a difference in your life.

Then there’s cyberbusiness.

We’re promised instant catalog shopping — just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete.

So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?

Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet — which there isn’t — the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

What’s missing from this electronic wonderland?

Human contact.

Discount the fawning techno-burble about virtual communities.

Computers and networks isolate us from one another.

A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee.

A poor substitute it is, this virtual reality where frustration is legion and where — in the holy names of Education and Progress — important aspects of human interactions are relentlessly devalued.

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3 Responses to ““The internet is just a fad” … Newsweek, Feb. 26, 1995”

  1. Tim Williams Says:

    Here’s another great technology prediction I saved just a few years ago. It seemed especially funny considering the guy’s job title:

    “If you’re looking for the next big thing, stop looking. There’s no such thing as the next big thing.” Nicholas Donofrio, IBM EVP of innovation and technology, 14 March 2006.

  2. The Eastern Sea | You hear that?!? Says:

    […] property values? That has to be one of the wrongest things ever said, right? On par with “No online database will replace your daily newspaper” and “My cat probably won’t mind being given a […]

  3. A look at Some Interesting Web Predictions - TechCity NG Says:

    […] As predicted by Newsweek, 1995- Websites will never replace newspapers. […]

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