What the internet was going to be like in 1981

John Rentoul

This is a fabulous report from KRON, a San Francisco TV station, in 1981, the year in which I started work as a journalist, a reporter on Accountancy Age.

Everything about this 2′17″ report is wonderful: the rounded-screen computers (which remind me of my first computer, an Osborne “suitcase”, in 1983); the dial phone; the handset coupler; the green capitals on lined screen; the advertising for the concept: “A world of information at your fingertips.” The reporter says that there are “an estimated two to three thousand home computer owners in the Bay area”. One of whom says he likes the idea of copying articles from newspapers and printing them out to save. “I think it is the future.”

Then the studio anchor points out what a laughable concept digital newspapers are: “It takes over two hours to receive a whole newspaper” over the telephone line, at a $5 hourly rate.

Via Clive Davis and Tom McLaughlin.

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  • Tony Varadaraj

    I was in charge of setting up Usenet in my company over a uucp connection when I worked in Silicon Valley in the ’80’s. I also remember the anchor lady in the video very well. Brings back a lot of memories.

  • platypus56

    And so here we all are reading a report about online papers on our home computers and it’s instant.. and so far freeish. The media still hasn’t worked out how to make a quid. Hard to imagine a world now without Google, Ebay, Facebook, Twitter, mobile phones, etc. but it did exist not so long ago, along with those funky telephones.

  • Lucette Stanton

    Jacques Fresco was on Larry King in 1974 foretelling in great detail about the internet and cell phones – it’s on youtube – waaay ahead of his time…

  • MikBys

    I just read Marshall McLuhans classic “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” from 1964 and even though I intellectually knew he was talking about the electronic media of the time reading this today his observations are uncanningly spot on of the internet of today.

    Of course many of the people that built the technologies that form the basis of the electronic media of today also read McLuhan.

  • Jaxkr

    This is completely true. To be fair, most of the rudimentary computational luxuries were invented by Xerox.
    For example, the mouse was originally developed by Xerox. Then, Steve Jobs took it and made it more practical and user friendly. Finally, Bill Gates stole the mouse from Apple.

    So really, everyone’s a thief except for Xerox.

  • Fubar

    then give the link?

  • trisul

    Remember the Telebit TrailBlazer :)

    In Europe, we actually printed a directory of email addresses in book form, there were so few of them.

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