NPR on the future of the Internet, 1993

17 years ago, Internet radio pioneer (and future rogue archivist) Carl Malamud and search engine inventor (and future Internet Archive founder) Brewster Kahle appeared on an historic segment of NPR's Science Friday to talk with Ira Flatow about the amazing future of the Internet. Scientists from Xerox PARC helped them put this broadcast onto the Internet, and they even received call-ins from people on powerful Unix workstations at academic institutions with blazing-fast ISDN connections (which no doubt sent their sysadmins into a panic as the traffic across the campus routers spiked). Call-in guests asked how we'd manage the glut of information, how we'd figure out what was true, what you could do with your overstuffed email inbox, and, of course, how copyright would fare. Good times!

Science Friday, 1993: The Future of the Internet

MP3 link

(Thanks, AnotherTucker!)

(Image: 1994/1995 Flatland BBS Menu Screen, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from timpatterson's photostream)


  1. That menu looks disturbingly familiar. . .Slackware on a 386SX. . .IIT math coprocessors. . .2meg simms costing more than my car. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!

  2. Earlier today I got in the car and tuned in to NPR and Science Friday. However, the show was in progress and I hadn’t heard any introduction. For a few moments there I experienced a very strange sensation of being in some sort of a bizarre time warp!

  3. Wow! This reminds me of playing Trade Wars on SAILOR via my old 9600 baud. And even then I felt like an old-timer!

    And only 3 years later I almost wet my pants when AOL 2.5 “gave” us access to the WWW. Soon after I was visiting the old “Calvin and Hobbes Jumpstation,” which blew my mind because they used Bill Watterson’s handwriting to spell the titles of now-considered pirated C&H archives. Those were the days.

  4. It brought tears to my eyes to hear “no one controls the Internet, it’s just a loose collection of networks.” I miss those days.

  5. My mom and I were in the car when this came on NPR. Totally confused the hell out of us. Until they went to a break, we had no idea it was a rebroadcast from 1993. We were certain that the folks at Science Friday had either lost their minds or decided to pull a bizarre prank on everyone a la War of The Worlds.

  6. Oh man I feel old. I can blame to downfall in a way on it. Aeons ago as a student I found out about BITNET on the university computers. Which led to me deciding to take a job in the computing lab (as I wanted to get paid for the questions I was answering anyway). And then started my path to patching windows servers in the wee hours of Saturday evenings and other such things.

    And Xerox PARC at the time hosted Lambda MOO a social MUD which a coworker convinced me to check out. Where I eventually on a whim and use of vacation time went to visit a girl and end up marrying her. So now near 20 years later usenet has pretty much become a footnote but Lambda (now running out of a residence a few miles away from me on Mercer Island WA) and other mud’s are still working even with the lure of MMO’s.

    It amazing how few of my coworkers now know what any of that old school stuff from before the web even the ones older than me.

    1. FYI, LambdaMOO helped PARC conduct research on how a sense of place can create more meaningful interaction on the Internet. This resulted in a spin-out company (1996) called Placeware which provided users with a live, web-based presentation solution for field and customer communication, and became the largest Internet meeting solutions provider — it was acquired by Microsoft (2003), which later released LiveMeeting.

  7. Some of us are still running BBSes today! Call mine, just telnet to, port 23!

    Actually, you know what, don’t bother calling mine. I’ve barely put any time into it, and it’s mainly there so my wife and I can play Legend of the Red Dragon.

    Just enter keyword “telnet BBS” on Google to find tons more with lovingly hand-crafted ASCII & ANSI graphics.

    Telnet BBSes, the model train sets of the future!

  8. I grew up listening to Science Friday, it was (is) my favorite day on Talk Of The Nation. Thanks for sharing this, it is pure gold!

  9. Caller: “I like music, and it would be neat if there were a way you could find your favorite record labels online and download songs from them. You could pay with your credit card.”

    Host: “That’s a great idea!”

    I’m just glad no one said anything about pictures of their cats, or my head would have asploded.

  10. I’m still logging into (via SSH 3DES) my favorite public access unix system for which I have a shell account. Gopher is *still* the best distributed document delivery system and as of this comment, there is at least one modern gopher server currently being developed and maintained. Email and IRC are still with us, as is FTP but with all its shortcomings, why hasn’t Gopher replaced FTP as was intended by the University of Minnesota? Email has been long in need of some serious upgrading (security-wise) and I’m glad to see that happening, as of late. I see little in terms of social-networking that doesn’t hark back to the Bulletin Board Systems of way back when, but the supposedly “free” social-networking sites aren’t really free at all. They pay their costs and squeeze a profit by selling, bartering or otherwise distributing any and everything they can find out about you and your friends.

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