A Brief History of the Future

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I am reading A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet by John Naughton. It was recommended as some extra reading for the networking module at Birkbeck and I thought I might as well give it a try (though I had to order it from Amazon as it now seems to be too old to be found in a bookshop).

It’#s over a decade old – and that makes it all the more interesting: do you remember “the world wide wait”? Though it also has a slightly naive pre-9/11 feel (hardly the author’s fault): eg the idea that the internet could be “switched off” is dismissed out of hand, yet that is exactly what is under-discussion (as an emergency measure, of course) in the US and several other states.

And the general celebration of the internet (or “the Net” as the book keeps calling it – odd that the shorter version is the one that feels archaic today) as uncensored also sits ill against the knowledge that in so many places – including the world’s biggest user of the internet (China) it very much is censored.

I had not realised that Naughton was Irish (and a gaelgoir to boot): something which gave the book an addition piquancy for me, especially his descriptions of the west in the 1950s.

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