January 28, 2014

The Internet Newspaper - 33 Years Ago

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

When my boss at the time bought the company's first fax machine in the mid-80s, it was the beginning of a love-hate relationship.  For all its promise of modern convenience, it was a noisy, undependable monstrosity that took up too much space in the mail room.  Still, we regarded it with a certain awe, because it was, after all, from the future.

Little did any of us know that something even more Jetsons-worthy was coming down the pikethe Internet.  Developers were already taking the concept of transmission by telephone and expanding it to a global network.  This 1981 video provides an entertaining flashback to an early experiment in online publishing:


We may chuckle now at its naivety and perhaps even short-sightedness, but at a deeper level it's exciting to consider that right now, someone somewhere is working on an innovation that, within a few years, will revolutionize what we currently consider the state of the art in communication and publishing.

I thrill to the fact that I haven't had to keep the Yellow Pages in my desk for years, nor be discouraged that the book I want to use for research is in the Reference section and I can't take it home.  Now we can look up anything we like from the comfort of our keyboard.  And the time we save via immediate search results gives us more time to browse for things like Cats That Look Like Hitler.

But the best part is, we are all publishers now.  Andy Warhol's legendary prediction about everyone being famous for 15 minutes seems as antiquated as that 1981 video, now that everyone is online.  For the price of a domain, anyone can be a worldwide web celeb. 

As writers, we have even more to gain by spearheading this avalanche of words. Inexpensive exposure and an audience beyond anything we can imagine is right at our fingertips whenever we sit down at the computer.

Next time you read a newspaper headline online or write a blog post, thank those visionary newspaper people who helped put the power of the press into our hands. They probably innovated themselves right out of a job. 

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