A bit OT - Urban Myths?

Paul Robinson paul at iconoplex.co.uk
Wed Jul 16 09:51:29 BST 2003

On Tue, Jul 15, 2003 at 04:30:49PM +0100, Paul Richards wrote:

> Well, to be fair to what he was thinking at the time, it must have
> been Compuserve that he really was looking to compete with since
> the Internet barely existed.  I don't have figures to hand but the
> number of internet sites was probably still in the thousands at
> the time that he was writing that book.

Not quite true. The Internet had been around for some time. Demon was
offering ISP services back in 1992, and MSN was being touted around the time
of Windows 95, so call it mid-1995. The Road Ahead was written after that. I
seem to remember seeing it around late '95. By that point in the UK, there
had been at least two TV series about the Internet, three internet related
magazines were being distributed and Internet Explorer was well established
as a browser. It was hardly "just born" - it was mainstream.
> I may be a few years out with my recollections from but at that

Yup! :-)

> time the JANET was still on X25 and the LANs were Novell IPX.  The
> TCP/IP protocol was still predominantly a "Unix thing" and the
> "Internet" was still mostly made up of University computing depts
> who ran Unix. The web was something just starting to break out of
> these depts, the Internet as we know it today was just being born.

No, sorry but I think you're out a bit here. :-) A few weeks back me and my
friends had a "google for the first evidence of your net presence"  
competition. Earliest I could find was '95, but a friend who was working at
UMIST could prove 1993, but his recollection was that UMIST was fully hooked
up in 1991. At the time, mail was UUCP only, but it was there.

To be fair, Manchester is not a good example. Even today, as it was back 
then, it's pretty much the core of the bleeding-edge JANET stuff and even 
the former polytechnic (now MMU, where I work) has gigabit to every 
department directly hooked up.

However, it's fair to say that in 1995, when Gates was going to try and take
on the world with MSN, every University except the very poorest ones, were
hooked up to the net.

You are right about Novell though. The bigger universites are all still keen
Novell fans because nothing else quite works as well for what they want.
> I don't think anyone at the time could have predicted what was
> about to happen, and Bill Gates actually had a pretty accurate
> vision of what this new world would be like (which he goes into
> in some depth in the book) but I think he expected that Microsoft
> would be at the forefront of building it. The Internet just shot
> off and created all the infrastructure for him, so he was pretty
> smart really to just jump on the bandwagon rather than create a
> competing network infrastructure.

He was smart, but he hadn't realised that the Internet had already won. He
figured "well, my non-tech friends aren't on it, so it must be for geeks
only". He hadn't realised that the mainstream acceptance of the net (mainly
driven by the web, invented circa early-94, and decent SMTP e-mail, ditto)
was already happening - I'd actually argue a lot of it had already
*happened*. Thousands of journalists were screaming at him he was a
pretentious idiot for doing what he was doing, but he just put his fingers
in his ears and started going "La la can't hear you, not listening la la".

I think you are out on your years - I'd say by at least 2 years. :-)

Paul Robinson

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