The networking of the world’s personal computers in the 1990s was heralded as creating a virtual new dimension of human experience. On the face of it seems to be an extraordinary claim, given that most technologies in this history have depended on exactly the establishment of such networks by corporeal or incorporeal means. In order to provide a context for outlining the development of the Internet we need to go back to the beginning, to the start of electronic communications, to show how central the building of networks has been to their success and how much the current networking of computers conforms to these historical patterns. In this last part, then, I will be revisiting all the technologies previously discussed, from telegraphy on, to describe how the concept of the network determined their diffusion and effectiveness.
The idea of interconnectivity, even incorporeal interconnectivity, is far from novel. Bell, despite his contribution to the ‘invention’ of the telephone being far less than popular understanding imagines (p. 48), nevertheless was one of the few who clearly saw this potential. On his European honeymoon with Mabel he drew up a prospectus for investors in the companies his father-in-law Hubbard was founding:
At the present time we have a perfect network of gas pipes and water pipes throughout our large cities. We have main pipes laid under the streets communicating by side pipes with various dwellings, enabling the members to draw their supplies of gas and water from a common source. In a similar manner, it is conceivable that cables of telephone wires could be laid underground, or suspended overhead, communicating by branch wires with private dwellings, country houses, shops, manufactories, etc., etc., uniting them through the main cable with a central office where the wires could be connected as desired, establishing direct communication