A Life Experience Measured By Change, and The History of The Internet

My wife and I were talking yesterday about her grandfather, who was born in 1898 and lived for nearly an entire century. We were reflecting on the incredible change he experienced in his lifetime, a lifetime that coincided with an age of exponential technological discovery, innovation, and advancement. We quickly listed some of the major innovations and technologies that her grandfather experienced, it’s a pretty incredible list:

  • electricity
  • radio
  • powered flight
  • motion pictures
  • automobiles
  • the telephone
  • commercially available air travel
  • the highway system
  • jet powered flight
  • the guided rocket
  • nuclear energy
  • computers
  • television
  • satellite communications
  • manned spaceflight
  • unmanned, robotic solar system exploration
  • networked computers
  • manned moon missions
  • hypersonic flight
  • robotics
  • humans continuously living in orbit
  • disco
  • fax machine
  • personal computer
  • GPS
  • Hubble space telescope
  • mobile phones
  • the internet

All of that, experienced in one lifetime. It’s astonishing, really, and this list is by no means complete.

The list above ended with the internet, the history for which spans just about half of my wife’s grandfather’s lifetime. Out of all of these, this is perhaps the most revolutionary in how it has paradigmatically changed the human experience for a rapidly increasing percentage of humans on our planet. From communications to research, from community to connectivity, and from education to entertainment, the internet has altered our reality. The video above is an excellent backgrounder on the history of the internet, the history of how we’ve gotten to this point. Given the relative ease and pervasiveness of accessing the internet today, it is easy to take it for granted and forget the culmination of events that have led us here. Think back 10 years. Think back to your daily life 20 years ago. Much has happened in a very short time to radically change the ways in which we communicate and access information, and this is only the start.

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