Magazine article Technology & Learning

Two Tin Cans and a String: The Internet Begins

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Two Tin Cans and a String: The Internet Begins

Article excerpt

Pop Quiz: How many devices do you own that can go online anytime and anywhere? You know the right answer, but the point is that our norm in 2015 was at best a dream in the early days of the Internet.

For its tenth anniversary, Technology & Learning offered predictions for the future, stating, "In the 90's schools will look to technology more than ever before for educational solutions." TERC's director, Dr. Robert Tinker, predicted the development of an international telecommunications network for K-12 education by 1995. And digital video with the ability to send full-motion video over a network was another wish.

The early Internet--The Information Superhighway--was a network of networks that linked mostly academic and government networks to carry information and sendees such as electronic mail, online chat, and file transfer. Only later would it include pages hyperlinked on the World Wide Web.

Email started in 1965 as a way for timesharing mainframe users to communicate, and became popular on personal computers in the mid-1980's. In 1986 Classroom Computer Learning (Tech & Learning's former name) identified the Internet's top three uses as email, teleconferencing, and databases. Online research meant using Boolean searching, access with FTP (file transfer protocol), and programs like Gopher, Telnet and Fetch. Popular, too, were discussion forums and message boards.

The Internet looked very different in those days. There were no Smartphones to tap a few keys on--or speak instructions to-and connect with the world. You used dial-up sendees like America Online and CompuServe and an acoustic coupler--a hardware device that enabled a modem (a device to convert signals from analog to digital and from digital back to analog) to connect to a voice circuit. You put a telephone receiver into the coupler and waited for the telltale squawk.

The NYC school system developed its own dial-up service called Nycenet. As a high school teacher/computer coordinator in the late 1980's, I used a 300-baud acoustic coupler, a telephone line, and my Nycenet chat account so students could participate in a project to communicate with celebrities in real time. For example, when Jets' wide receiver Wesley Walker was online, I typed in the students' questions and read Walker's answers aloud from my computer screen. …

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