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(Forbes)   In 1965 Western Union proposed building the entire Internet and failed   (forbes.com) divider line 33
    More: Interesting, Western Union, strategic plan, Department of Defense, ARPA, educational institutions, continental United States, information ages, power generation  
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4156 clicks; posted to Geek » on 25 Aug 2013 at 7:11 PM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-08-25 06:03:42 PM  
Subby, it was Western Union, not Western Electric. You might have heard of something called a telegram, or maybe Telex.
 
2013-08-25 07:19:09 PM  
thanks subby
great article
I just skimmed the original doc, amazing bit of history.
 
2013-08-25 07:29:07 PM  
The electric power grid and the institutional architecture that supports it are creatures of the Industrial Age. They are centrally controlled and governed by well-defined standards and processes.
By contrast, the internet is "the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had," as Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, put it. It is decentralized, heterogeneous and rapidly evolving.


I think that's a hugely wrong take away. The internet itself, the meat... the actual physical layer, is very centrally controlled. The problem is ubiquity and building it out to match demand. In a way it did match power generation when it took off. Large clusters of industrial users became the basis and other users found ways to use the product that didn't involve industrial use.

I imagine the problem they had in the 1960s was the cost vs technology. There was some products which could perfectly mimic a fax machine before faxing came out. The problem was they required a direct hardwired connection between points and the person would have to trace by hand the image on the paper. It didn't catch on because the cost and utility. In the 1960s as carriers became more standardized and modulating and demodulating a signal became more standardized it became cheaper and easier to implement. Eventually modulating and demodulating digital systems across analog copper lines became feasible for midsize business users.

Keep in mind the evolution of carrier networks. At first, every spot in America was connected through analog copper lines. If you called from Maine to Florida, it was a copper connection the entire way with no analog to digital conversion. Operators/crossarms would connect your two little wires to another two little wires and so forth and so on.
 
2013-08-25 07:34:08 PM  
Read a great book a few years ago called "Where the wizards stayed up late" covering the inception and early days of what is now the Internet.  BB&N wanted a packet switching network, but the telecom infrastructure was set up to be circuit switched.  AT&T did a lot to prevent this from happening, and I think it was finally money from the DoD that convinced them otherwise.  Even after that, the connections were crappy from a digital transmission standpoint.  WU might have had an infrastructure, but I don't know much about it.
 
2013-08-25 07:41:24 PM  
It is an amazing accident that the internet and the world wide web grew up to be open, where any guy can register a domain and put a picture of a squirrel on it and reach the same potential audience as a giant corporation. Had this scheme in TFA succeeded it sounds like it would be a centrally owned and managed network where only corporations would have a presence and chat rooms and forums would be limited to corporate run sites. Think early AOL as the whole internet.

It's staggering that we can do what we can and we have to ensure that isn't slowly taken away from us.
 
2013-08-25 08:01:37 PM  

namatad: thanks subby
great article
I just skimmed the original doc, amazing bit of history.


Look up JCR Licklider.

http://groups.csail.mit.edu/medg/people/psz/Licklider.html

These guys were inventing this stuff, because it seemed useful in and of itself, not because some test pilot in rubber underwear had to go in a vacuum.
 
2013-08-25 08:11:39 PM  

namatad: thanks subby
great article
I just skimmed the original doc, amazing bit of history.


No, that was a ridiculously stupid article.  The story is very interesting, but the article is a piece of crap.
 
2013-08-25 08:18:17 PM  

Flint Ironstag: It is an amazing accident that the internet and the world wide web grew up to be open, where any guy can register a domain and put a picture of a squirrel on it and reach the same potential audience as a giant corporation. Had this scheme in TFA succeeded it sounds like it would be a centrally owned and managed network where only corporations would have a presence and chat rooms and forums would be limited to corporate run sites. Think early AOL as the whole internet.

It's staggering that we can do what we can and we have to ensure that isn't slowly taken away from us.


i5.photobucket.com
 
2013-08-25 09:00:49 PM  
I wonder if Western Union was responsible for that creaky old AUTOVON network we had at bases in West Germany back when in the 1970s?
 
2013-08-25 09:12:44 PM  
It's been a pretty amazing few decades. The first piece of computing equipment I ever got to try was a four-function, eight-digit calculator that belonged to a friend's dad (they were quite well-to-do). It had the equivalent of about four bytes of storage and cost $250US. A few decades later, that same amount gets you roughly four *trillion* bytes of storage.

Moore's law is imperfect but pretty damn close.

/trivia: used to know some guys from BBN. They were absolutely insistent that the devices (which, of course, they were certain they developed alone) were "rooters", when everyone in the world knew they were actually "routers". Confused the f*ck out of the guys at the sears tool department, I'm certain.
 
2013-08-25 09:17:30 PM  
FTA: Western Union articulated a vision of its future self as an entity eerily similar to what most people would probably describe today as simply the Internet.

It would be "eery" if the guy who thought of the concept put the ideas in a sealed envelope, locked it away in a safe somewhere without telling anyone until the envelope was opened decades later and the original ideas revealed .

Otherwise, openly sharing the ideas influenced the actual future.

/pet peeve
 
2013-08-25 09:38:38 PM  
DNRTFA

So we just missed videotex on this side of the big pond?
 
2013-08-25 09:51:13 PM  

WelldeadLink: Subby, it was Western Union, not Western Electric. You might have heard of something called a telegram, or maybe Telex.


and TWX

Started working there in 1972
 
2013-08-25 10:02:52 PM  

RobDownSouth: I wonder if Western Union was responsible for that creaky old AUTOVON network we had at bases in West Germany back when in the 1970s?


No, that was just a telephone system.  They were involved in Telex services which I remember the military using in the '80s.  They were called TWXs and had a very arcane format and addressing scheme.  You had to use a Julian calendar and Zulu time based date time group in the header and the message was typed up using an OCR font on a daisy wheel typewriter then handed off to a communications room for transmission.
 
2013-08-25 10:14:09 PM  

Mrbogey: Keep in mind the evolution of carrier networks. At first, every spot in America was connected through analog copper lines.


I can't find it, but there was a famous quote by one of the 'top men' talking about how a computer in every home was totally unreasonable as there wasn't enough copper in the world to connect them all. Fiber optics was a bit of a game changer.


steve_wmn: They were involved in Telex services which I remember the military using in the '80s.  They were called TWXs and had a very arcane format and addressing scheme.  You had to use a Julian calendar and Zulu time based date time group in the header and the message was typed up using an OCR font on a daisy wheel typewriter then handed off to a communications room for transmission.


LoL - thanks... I'd forgotten. Around that time I worked with a guy who had been stationed in Japan and had become a Sumo addict. He used to get updates over the system when he got stationed on the other side of the planet, heh.  Fine use of that system  ^;^
 
2013-08-25 10:23:24 PM  
Meh, it's probably a good thing they didn't. I don't think there's any money in this 'internet' idea of theirs. It'd fail to take off, just like those whackjobs that think the horseless carriage is going to be the new mode of transportation in the future. Ha ha, yeah right. No thank you, I'd rather put my faith behind the tried-and-true method of horses and carriages and telegram services.
 
2013-08-25 10:59:36 PM  
ring.cdandlp.com
 
2013-08-25 11:00:00 PM  
My father worked for GE in satellite communications in the 60's/70's.  He always had a dish in his test lab set to receive AP news reports and knew what would be the big story in tomorrow's newspaper.
 
2013-08-25 11:08:21 PM  
Neal Stephenson actually wrote a great article for Wired about all the logistics and slapfights involved in laying international internet cables.

Link
 
2013-08-25 11:28:58 PM  

Flint Ironstag: It is an amazing accident that the internet and the world wide web grew up to be open, where any guy can register a domain and put a picture of a squirrel on it and reach the same potential audience as a giant corporation. Had this scheme in TFA succeeded it sounds like it would be a centrally owned and managed network where only corporations would have a presence and chat rooms and forums would be limited to corporate run sites. Think early AOL as the whole internet.

It's staggering that we can do what we can and we have to ensure that isn't slowly taken away from us.



Or something like Minitel
 
2013-08-25 11:53:53 PM  
And the romans had working steam engines.

It takes more than just an idea to become a successful invention. It has to address a need.
 
2013-08-26 12:34:03 AM  

LemSkroob: And the romans had working steam engines.

It takes more than just an idea to become a successful invention. It has to address a need.


Nailed it
 
2013-08-26 01:06:35 AM  
I read that as "In 1955 Western Union...", and I thought "But of course!"

www.craveonline.com
 
2013-08-26 02:41:01 AM  
I recall reading in a national newsmagazine from the early 1970s that email was conceived of as something that would be transmitted only from post office to post office.

Basically, you'd go to the post office to create an electronic message, the PO would transmit and the person at the other end would be notified it's there. (Or maybe at that point it was treated as just ordinary mail to be picked up at the normal time, I forget what the article said exactly.)

Does this early idea of email sound familiar to anyone?
 
2013-08-26 03:11:28 AM  

Flint Ironstag: It is an amazing accident that the internet and the world wide web grew up to be open


I'm not so sure it's an accident. Computer interconnection on a large practically requires openness, or else a monopoly on production. Either it had to be one monolith (like if everyone were on AOL), or it had to be an open system where anyone can connect with anyone else.

It'd be like if you could *only* make calls to other people on your specific cell phone carrier- it'd severely limit the usefulness of the device. They would still be useful in and of itself, but as soon as someone comes along that offers the more-free option it's instantly more desirable than the closed option. This was actually an issue in the early days of landline telephone- you could only call other people who belonged to your exchange/company/etc. You see how long that lasted.
 
2013-08-26 03:42:49 AM  
bks9.books.google.com

The first emergence of the world wide telegraph network gave all sorts of examples of what we did with the internet. Orders placed, news flashed, and chat between the distant telegraphers between doing actual work. The most curious thing that happened was that there was a reversal in business communication after telephones became the norm, despite telex, and the emergence of the internet brought back the serious business of communicating pure business data. When shuffling data got cheap it made things like shipping management much more efficient, and preceded JIT and transdocking.
 
2013-08-26 04:52:29 AM  

Mrbogey: LemSkroob: And the romans had working steam engines.

It takes more than just an idea to become a successful invention. It has to address a need.

Nailed it


It has to do even more than that :

1. The idea must exist
2. It must fulfill a need
3. That need must be strong enough to merit attention
4. That attention needs to be organized and developed into an application of the idea against the need
5. Failures and weaknesses must be overcome
6. The Idea must not go against an existing, working solution (unless exceeding it by an order of magnitude or more)
7. The idea must not pose a clear and present danger to any of the parties involved.

So ... yeah, it's a little more complicated.
 
2013-08-26 08:34:35 AM  

rubi_con_man: It has to do even more than that :

6. The Idea must not go against an existing, working solution (unless exceeding it by an order of magnitude or more)


"An order of magnitude" is overstating things. A product or service doesn't have to be ten times better in order to compete; an improvement of 10% (which one one-hudredth of an order of magnitude) could be sufficient if the improvement can be expressed in ways that are tangible and desirable for the customer.

Incremental improvements are much more common than quantum leaps.
 
2013-08-26 08:39:24 AM  

LemSkroob: And the romans had working steam engines.

It takes more than just an idea to become a successful invention. It has to address a need.


Uh, there obviously was a need. You need a society that sees the need. The Romans had slaves.

Cybernetic: an improvement of 10% (which one one-hudredth of an order of magnitude)


Que?
 
2013-08-26 10:21:17 AM  
Somewhere on Earth-1322, we had the internet in 1966 running Multics.

Unfortunately, this is the same earth where Nixon's cronies never got caught for Watergate, and he was able
up upgrade this with his own plan to wire up the nation with broad and centrally controlled information
services that would allow him to clamp down on dissent.
 
2013-08-26 10:48:14 AM  
I ran a Western Union/Trailways Bus station in Redding California in the early '80s. We had a TTY(?) in my office for receiving telegrams, money orders and other business. Our regional office was in Reno, and in talking to the operators there, I was clued in that I could receive AP news. I mostly used it to update sports scores. I knew jack about computers at the time, so I didn't use it to it's fullest extent. Still don't know what all it was capable of.
 
2013-08-26 11:29:49 AM  

Quantum Apostrophe: LemSkroob: And the romans had working steam engines.

It takes more than just an idea to become a successful invention. It has to address a need.

Uh, there obviously was a need. You need a society that sees the need. The Romans had slaves.

Cybernetic: an improvement of 10% (which one one-hudredth of an order of magnitude)

Que?


Probably not the clearest way to make my point. If x=5, A 10% improvement on x adds 0.5, while an order-of-magnitude improvement adds 50. The 0.5 is one hundredth of 50.

It was a fairly awkward attempt to make the point that order-of-magnitude improvements aren't necessary in order to compete successfully with an existing product (although they certainly don't hurt). Smaller incremental improvements can also be competitive.
 
2013-08-26 11:39:27 AM  

MarkMartinFan: WelldeadLink: Subby, it was Western Union, not Western Electric. You might have heard of something called a telegram, or maybe Telex.

and TWX

Started working there in 1972


TWX was AT&T's service, using similar equipment. Western Union is famous for its telegraph service, later used teletypes for telegrams, and built the U.S. network of the international Telex service.

You can get a feel for how the telegraph permeated the "Wild West" era by reading Pinkerton's detective tales. Following people around the country on trains, while coordinating with others through coded telegrams. Thanks to the Internet, we can easily read about the telegraph. :)
 
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