The first time anything was transmitted over the internet was October 29, 1969: Leonard Kleinrock, Charley Kline, and Bill Duvall attempted to send the word “login” from one computer to another, and the internet was born.
Their initial attempt was . . . marginally successful:
“So I’m on the phone to SRI and I type the L and say, “OK I typed in L, you got that?” Bill Duvall, the guy at SRI, is watching his monitor and he has the L. I type the O. Got the O. Typed the G. “Wait a minute,” Bill says, “my system crashed. I’ll call you back.”
Interested? Read more about the day in this Q&A with Charley Kline.
Later that afternoon, they managed to send the entire word. And a mere 47 years on, we can send letters, cash checks, make friends, order pizzas, go to school, and more, all over the internet — and October 29th is now International Internet Day.
In honor of the series of tubes that changed everything, here are five of our favorite pieces on the internet and its influence to help you celebrate this weekend. (What, have you not planned a party for the internet yet? There’s still time!)
Text doesn’t map directly from the printed page onto a screen. Writing in Vox Populi, editor Michael Simms looks at the struggles of formatting poetry online — and the growth opportunities that come from adapting to a new medium:
The internet offers a cheap and efficient way for poets to reach millions of readers and listeners. So far there are no censors and very few laws stopping us. Seventy years ago, we (that is, poets) snubbed our collective noses at the opportunity to bring poetry to the people through television. Let’s don’t blow it this time. As the business consultants say, “There are no problems, only opportunities.”
The internet isn’t just screens and wires — it’s people. An interview with Ra, the blogger behind WordPress.com community favorite Rarasaur, drives home the substantial and unexpected ways relationships bloom from laptop to life:
In 2014, I went to prison for over a year, and while incarcerated, my husband — also a WordPress blogger — passed away at the age of 35. In the face of so much chaos, the bloggers I’d befriended — and some I’d never crossed paths with directly — reached way beyond the wires. They sent over 900 letters through my 438 days of incarceration, attended and spoke at my husband’s funeral, and raised money so I could begin again when I came home.
Like Michael Simms, Stratechery’s Ben Thompson sees untapped possibility in the ways the internet is forcing traditional publishing to change:
Oh, and did you catch that? Saying “the addressable market is the whole world” is the exact same thing as saying that newspapers suddenly had to compete with every other news source in the world; it’s not that the Internet is inherently “good” or “bad,” rather it is a new reality, and just because industries predicated on old assumptions must now fail should not obscure the fact that entirely new industries built with new assumptions — including huge new opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurship by individuals or small teams — are now possible. See YouTube or Etsy or yes, journalism, and this is only the beginning.
Is the internet an unmitigated good? On his blog Idiot Joy Showland, Sam Kriss pokes not-so-gentle fun at the affirmation addiction that springs all too easily from a life lived online:
You’re streamlining your life now. You went out and bought twenty shirts, all in the same shade of grey, because life is too important for clutter. You’re going to go for walks in the park and read books in cafés and cook simple but wholesome meals incorporating flavours from three lesser-known continents. You’re going to stop wasting time and do work, real work, good work. Maybe a novel. But before you go, you’re going to write a little meditation on why you have to go, something longform, something thoughtful, and then you’ll compose your final missive to that abandoned, insular world. ‘Goodbye, Twitter,’ you’ll write. ‘I’m off, and here’s why.’ You’ll think for a moment. You’ll add a short appendix. ‘#Media #Twitter #Writing.’ You’ll think for another moment. You’ll delete the hashtags. You’ve been thinking a lot lately.
What happens to your Facebook profile when you die? L.M. Sacasas reflects on the digital presence of friends lost:
Upon clicking over to their profile, I read a few odd notes, and very quickly it became disconcertingly clear that my friend had died over a year ago. Naturally, I was taken a back and saddened. He died while I was off Facebook, and news had not reached me by any other channel. But there it was. Out of nowhere and without warning my browser was haunted by the very real presence of death. Momento mori.
In a serendipitous overlap of timing, October 29th is also National Cat Day in the US. To pay due respect to the internet’s favorite animal, here’s Gorby, a cat who’s traveling with his people in an RV to visit all 59 of America’s national parks:
(You can learn more about him and other globetrotting cats on Adventure Cats, one of our recommended travel and animal blogs.)
Thanks for everything, internet. We mean it.