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July 6, 2023 · 14 min read

Season 4, Ep. 14 – TWiTH: Happy birthday, internet! With

Has there been a modern invention that has had a more profound effect on humanity than the internet? This week, Chris steps in as guest host and talks with Victoria about the birth of the internet, its growth through the teenage years, and all the ways we continue to use it well into its adulthood.


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Chris (00:05):

How’s your day been?

Victoria (00:07):

I haven’t been off of video since nine <laugh>. (Chris: Nice.) You get a haircut?

Chris (00:15):

I did.

Victoria (00:17):

Oh, it looks great.

Chris (00:18):

I had to go to a wedding in (Victoria: Oh.) Bainbridge Island last week.

Victoria (00:24):

Had to clean up.

Chris (00:25):

Had to clean it up a bit. I started my day today calling Home Depots in LA.

Victoria (00:34):

LA <laugh>?

Chris (00:35):

Yeah, because someone was buying welders, a nail gun, and paper towels at multiple, sorry, Lowe’s, not Home Depots, Lowe’s with my PayPal account.

Victoria (00:56):

Like, they were buying all of those things at like, different like, all three of those things at different locations, or like, they went to multiple different Lowe’s?

Chris (01:06):

They bought them online for pickup today. So luckily, I was able to catch them before they picked them up.

Victoria (01:16):

What a fun little sting operation <laugh>.

Chris (01:19):

I want a welder, and I don’t think my wife would’ve believed me if I was like, “No, really! I didn’t buy a welder.”

Victoria (01:29):

<Laugh>. This one wasn’t me.

Chris (01:31):

Yeah. This was not <laugh> my welder.

Victoria (01:33):

Well, that sounds like a fun little, like, this is now a true crime podcast. Sounds like fun <laugh>.

Chris (01:40):

Yeah. Yeah. Like, I have 50 things to do today, so this is how we’re gonna start the day.

Victoria (01:50):

Good <laugh>. It’s productive.

Chris (01:51):

(RETRO SYNTHESIZER MUSIC FADES IN) You have a very fitting topic today, because we wouldn’t be here without today’s topic. Who knows what we would be doing?

Announcer 1, via 1960s report (01:58):

(AUDIO OF VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) These are days of mechanical and electronic marvel. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new one for the Navy. It’s a whirlwind electronic computer. With considerable trepidation, we undertake to interview this new machine. Now to MIT in the computer lab at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Announcer 2, via 1960s report (02:17):

Hello, New York. Hello, New York. This is Cambridge, and this is the oscilloscope of the whirlwind electronic computer. I assume that like any delicate, finely tuned piece of mechanism, this has a human element involved, too, has it? (AUDIO OF VIDEO CLIP FADES OUT)

Chris (02:33):

July 3rd, 1969, UCLA issued a press release, stating that it will become the first station in a nationwide computer network, which for the first time, will link together computers of different makes and using different machine languages into one time sharing system. It went on to say that creation of the network represents a major forward step in computer technology and may serve as the forerunner of a large computer network of the future.

Victoria (03:06):

If only they knew <laugh>.

Chris (03:08):

Yeah. Yeah. Really under-promised, over-delivered on that one. (Victoria: <Laugh>.) They were right, there. So it initially consisted of about 15 research institutes, mainly in California, but also Utah. This was the beginning of the Internet as we knew it. In the ‘80s, research at CERN led to the development of the World Wide Web. The person most often credited with inventing the World Wide Web, as well as HTML, is a man by the name of Tim Berners-Lee. In the 1990s, the release of the Mosaic web browser spurred massive growth of the commercial internet.

Reporter, via 1993 CNN news report (03:48):

(AUDIO OF VIDEO CLIP PLAYS) It spans the globe like a super highway. It is called internet. “The net”
to longtime users.

The Internet is a whole group of networks.

Internet expert, via 1993 CNN news report (03:56):

Reporter (04:00):

The net is made up of some 12,000 individual computer networks. Internet began back in 1969. It was a tool of the Pentagon, but nowadays, just about anyone with a computer and a modem can join in, usually for a nominal fee. (AUDIO OF VIDEO CLIP FADES OUT)

Chris (04:16):

Private internet service providers, ISPs, emerged, which gave the public access to the Internet for a monthly fee. Unless you got one of those free AOL CDs in the mail. Did you? You had AOL, right?

Victoria (04:30):

I don’t know that we did.

Chris (04:33):

You were too young for AOL?

Victoria (04:34):

Well, I don’t know that I’m too young for AOL, I just don’t think that we had a computer in my home (Chris: Oh.) <laugh> until like, later. I think we were probably a little bit more of like, a mid to late adopter <laugh> (Chris: Alright.) of internet. (RETRO SYNTHESIZER MUSIC FADES OUT)

Chris (04:54):

We definitely…

Victoria (04:55):

I’m from Nebraska. What do you want from me <laugh>?

Chris (04:58):

Okay. I mean, I’m from Wisconsin, like, Farm Town, Wisconsin. But it’s such a bizarre concept to me to like, think back to like, we had like, you got the, I mean like, first off, that marketing campaign is amazing that they just like, direct mailed like, what must have been hundreds of thousands of CDs out, and you just like, popped these CDs in your computer, and you’re “Like, yeah. Like, whatever. Like, let’s give it a shot.”

Victoria (05:34):

Can you imagine that being done now?

Chris (05:37):

Yeah. The security behind that is terrifying. (Victoria: Yeah <laugh>.) But then I remember getting this like, massive book of the like, pre-Google of the best websites on the Internet and like, looking through this book, like, being a little kid, you know, this like, terrible computer, like, looking through this book about like, trying to find the best websites to go to. Like, totally innocent. (Victoria: <Laugh>. Very, very.) Yeah. It seems like, I mean, it was a long time ago, I guess, but…

Victoria (06:12):

I don’t think that we had AOL. I don’t think I ever had like, an AOL or like, AIM screen name. I think that’s how much like, my family was such like, a late adopter into <laugh> the dot-com boom <laugh>.

Chris (06:29):

Well, speaking of, the dot-com boom led to the launch of companies like Amazon, eBay, and Google. In the ‘00s, high-speed broadband access and the ubiquity of WiFi in mobile devices led to mainstream adoption of the Internet Web 2.0 technologies like social media, Facebook launched in 2004, video sharing, Youtube launched in 2005. Blogs and wikis reshaped how people used and interacted on the Internet. Today, the Internet has become inextricably linked to nearly every aspect of society. It serves as a platform for communication, e-commerce, education, news, and more for over 5 billion people. The current wave of innovation we’re seeing in wireless networks, virtual and augmented reality and AI, will shape how we live and work with the Internet in the coming decades. Overall, the Internet has been one of the most transformative inventions in human history.

Victoria (07:21):

This is your introduction to the Internet. Where will we go from here? Excellent question. (Chris: Yeah.) I do think the progression is super interesting. Even just sort of this breakdown, as far as you can have really specific highlighted moments within almost decades of the Internet launching, to now it being almost like, a day-to-day basis, there’s something new <laugh>, (Chris: <Laugh>.) I think is really interesting. I think the communication aspect of like, the Internet has always been fascinating and probably, at least from my perspective, probably one of the biggest like, growth components of being, I guess, so widely adopted, was how easy it made things, but I mean, maybe that’s the same now. I don’t know. I’m gonna have an existential crisis like, during this conversation <laugh>.

Chris (08:15):

<Laugh>. I feel like there’s a real tipping point for me. I went to college, and I graduated high school in 2005, and then went off to college, and one, I remember going to my orientation, and people being like, are you on Facebook? And being like, “Whoa, what is that?” and coming home and like, setting up a profile. But then shortly after I went to school, my parents moved from the U.S. to China, and, (Victoria: Mmm. Super different.) yeah. And it, you know, it really wasn’t that big of a deal, because we could always just jump on a video call. (Victoria: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) You know, it wasn’t like, to me, I always told people that, regardless of where they were, if they were still in the Midwest, or because they were back in Detroit at the time, before that, that if they were there, or if they were in China, they were always like, a video call and some flights away. (Victoria: Yeah.) Like it, you know, it was really the, it didn’t matter, but if we weren’t able to talk on a video call or easily talk, if it was through a dial up, I don’t know what that would’ve been like. I think life would’ve been drastically different, and frankly, I don’t know if they would have done the same thing. I think they would’ve probably stayed put.

Victoria (09:49):

Yeah. I think that’s also…gosh, I just don’t think I’ve ever thought about words like, the capability to really, really have communication anywhere that there is internet, as far as being able to have a video conversation with someone halfway around the world. Even in the ‘90s, when my dad was overseas, it was phone call based for him and my mom. Like, no video chat. (Chris: Yeah.) That like, I mean, even then, I don’t even know if it was like, a concept necessarily of like, one day this will exist in like, our lifetime. People will just like, livestream each other’s faces <laugh>. I don’t know.

Chris (10:29):

I mean, that kind of gets back to what you are getting at earlier that, you can look back at decades of (Victoria: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) of change, but you know, now it’s hard to remember a time where you couldn’t just use an iPhone (Victoria: Yeah.) to video chat someone.

Victoria (10:52):

To have everything you need, just in your pocket, versus having to go home and look it up. Or even before that, not having that option, and having to go to a library or just knowing someone that knew. Like, I think it’s really, really interesting, the progression and the rapid progression, I guess now. As, I don’t know, we understand technology, uses of internet, a little bit more and conceptualize ways to use it in more beneficial ways to help with communication or information sharing.

Chris (11:33):

So originally, the government funded the project so that we could communicate, or I guess, the government could communicate, in the event of nuclear war breaking out. Do you think researchers who originally worked on the project could have foreseen what inventing the Internet would actually do? I mean, I don’t think they thought like, people dancing to like, (Victoria: <Laugh>.) “Baby Shark” on TikTok was going to happen, but do you think the scale of the magnitude of change was something that they thought of?

Victoria (12:12):

Yeah, I don’t think that dancing videos were quite a part of it. I feel like the communication aspect was obviously well considered, as far as the number one reason to sort of fund the project. But I think, even consistently, as you see sort of use cases for the Internet, it has been information sharing and communication-based. I don’t think that anyone would be able to predict, probably the scale, versus it being, you know, a way for government agencies to communicate, or even within sort of the university structure, to be able to communicate, truly making it a world wide web <laugh>.

Chris (12:55):

I wonder how much, I mean, because originally, it was really just universities, right? And then I remember in school, figuring out how to send messages to like, your buddy’s computer in between like, while you were supposed to be playing like, Oregon Trail or something, but I wonder how much they thought that it would be something that everyone would have in their own home.

Victoria (13:27):

Yeah, like, the personal computer aspect I think is interesting.

Chris (13:34):

Like, did they loop Radio Shack into this conversation or not?

Victoria (13:39):

<Laugh>. That’s also something else really interesting. I think about sort of the waves in technology or internet, so like, home computers and having stores and spaces really dedicated to that, versus now, it just feels like a Genius Bar and like, maybe a few Best Buys <laugh>. Everything is so mobile driven, where your phone or tablet serves as sort of your way to connect to everything.

Chris (14:06):

I don’t know how much you think about this, but I feel like we’re kind of at that point in time, or that age now, that like, we can look back on younger generations, and it’s particularly poignant that like, between Zoom meetings and social media, then it has changed how we interact, and I think like, our generation, like, you and I aren’t that different in age, our generation growing up, versus Gen Z growing up, it’s a very different, like, digital natives have a very different relationship with the Internet than even we do and our parents’ generation. Do you think, I mean, gut feeling, is that better or worse? And what do you think could help?

Victoria (15:05):

I was just having a conversation with my mom about this actually. She’s fascinated by AI. She’s like, “I’m so excited for the possibilities of it,” and she’s like, “I don’t think that like, anything ‘crazy crazy’ is gonna happen in my lifetime.” I was like, “Who really knows?” but we were having a conversation around it. I feel like, our sort of generation and older, we know what it’s been like to not have the Internet, I guess, to not have everything at our fingertips, and I think in some ways that’s almost better.

Chris (15:42):

It simply is what is right, and all we can do is make the best choices that we can make right now. I was having a conversation with Teja the other day. Like, I’ve often had this thought about like, you know, he’s said that he’s gotten into the habit of, on Friday nights, going out to dinner and leaving his…<dog barking>. Bowie has something to say. That’s our Cavalier, David Bowie <laugh>. He has gotten into the habit of going out to work, sorry, out to dinner on Friday nights, and leaving his phone at home, and not checking it until Saturday morning, which I think is great. And, you know, I also have had the thought of like, I really enjoy meditating and gardening, going surfing, and all of these things that don’t involve having access to the Internet.

Chris (16:43):

And it’s struck me as, have we kind of come full circle to the realization of like, alright, where we figured out where this should fit into our lives, or have I just gotten old? And I’m not sure which one it is. It’s, <laugh> I think it exists on a continuum, I’m pretty sure. It’s somewhere in the middle. I think it is a continuum that speaks to, we’ve figured out a little bit of how to have a healthy relationship with the Internet and a little bit of my slow descent into yelling at people to get off my lawn. It’s a little bit of both. The really interesting part about the different platforms to me, and staying up to date on them, is not necessarily the technology, itself, but it’s the different culture of each individual platform and the culture of the content that’s on it and what works on it.

Chris (17:58):

So from a, specifically, marketing perspective, the content that works on say, LinkedIn, is something that is, you know, much more polished and put together generally than something that works well on TikTok, which is much more organic and less produced, and that’s what I think I fall behind on. Partially, because I am just not like, cool enough to like, keep up on like, TikTok trends, you know? Like, that’s not like, in my wheelhouse, I’ll admit. The fascinating thing about video, the short form video content, to me is that it’s so, I guess it’s approachable in that there’s so much more nuance that can be shared, and there’s not the same barrier to entry as written word is. So I think it opens up so much more culture that used to be gate kept in some ways, which is really amazing. So I do, obviously, there are security concerns and that whole other side to it, but I think it’s a really fascinating thing, despite my lack of being able to create cool content myself, but I’m working on it. (THE FRONTIER THEME FADES IN)

Victoria (19:44):

Yeah <laugh>.

Chris (19:46):

Well, this has been fun.

Faith, via previous recording (19:48):

Thanks for listening to the Frontier Podcast, powered by We drop two episodes per week, so if you like this episode, be sure to subscribe on your platform of choice, and come hang out with us again next week, and bring all your internet friends. If you have questions or recommendations, just shoot us a Twitter DM @theFrontierPod, and we’ll see you next week. (THE FRONTIER THEME ENDS)

Chris (20:23):

What should I do? Restart the browser, free some hard disk space, and avoid incognito mode. Alright, so I think we were just…holy hell, I’m looking at the wrong thing. Cool. Looking at a job posting. (Victoria: Good start, good start <laugh>.) Great. I was like, what is this <laugh>?