Brief History of the Future

John Naughton’s 1999 history of the internet, A Brief History of the Future: From Radio days to Internet Years in a Lifetime, arrived at my house this afternoon. I plan on reading it during my imminent travel to Dallas, but I started flipping through it this evening when I noticed the following in the acknowledgements:


Wait, what? Martin Weller? Isn’t he that wierd dude from Wales who runs a lot, does early histories of cross-dressing revolutions, and blogs about edtech. I know that guy, in fact I am a BIG FAN! More seriosuly, Martin Weller, Tony Hirst, and Scott Leslie independently pointed me to this book, and if that’s not a resounding recommendation from an edtech brain trust, I don’t know what is.

What’s more, reading Martin Weller’s name here actually reminded me how fortunate I am to have so many awesome folks regularly giving me feedback, recommendations, and encouragement on this blog. I know it shoudn’t take the acknowledgements section of a book published in 1999 to spark that realization, but this evening it did. Probably because I deal with Martin somewhat regualrly through his virtual presence and regular thinking on the web that he’s become just another person in my network—which is good in so many ways. But he is also someone who has a lot of experience and experitse in this field, and he has been really generous with sharing it, and has made me a better edtech as a result. I really appreciate that. Thanks Martin, and every other edtech hippie on the internet that shares their work and makes mine better as a result. I am a BIG FAN!


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6 Responses to Brief History of the Future

  1. Gardner says:

    This is a wonderful book. I discovered it in a used bookstore in South Philly after EDUCAUSE 2011 and immediately looked up Doug Engelbart in the index. I can often judge a book by how it describes Doug’s work. Naughton was deeply insightful, as indeed he typically is about all things networked. He has taught me much. His follow up book, “From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg,” is also quite fine. I follow his blog, Memex 1.1, religiously, and today was delighted to learn that he became a blogger because of Dave Winer, whom I also follow, and to whom I was introduced (conceptually and virtually) by Jon Udell. When the streams cross, portals open up to other worlds. 🙂

    Naughton worked for many years for the Open University. I’m guessing that’s where he met and worked with Martin Weller. Naughton has my favorite professorial title ever: “Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology.” I think every department should have a “Professor of the Public Understanding of [your discipline here]” and it should be an extraordinarily high honor to have such a chair.

    Enjoy the book!

    • Reverend says:

      I just read the first chapter and his discussion of his realtionship with radio, his father, and the underlying limit of class in rural Ireland was brillaint. Very rarely do I well up, but I was holding them back in Reagan national for some bizarre reason.. The personal frame for his text is really powerful, reminds me of your Computer Romance article in EDUCAUSE a while back. All to say, I’m enjoying it immensely already, and it’s very encouraging to know there is yet a fourth brilliant edtech mind confirming this is time well spent. I came to a lot of this stuff years after you were digging in back with Memex to YouTube, but damn is it good.

  2. Martin says:

    I love that you’re doing a history of the net type course – John and I did one back in 99, I used Cringely’s Accidental Empires to teach about how computers worked and why they were significant and John used “Where Wizards Stay Up Late” to do the same for the net. I think using these stories are a very powerful way to get people involved in a techie subject.
    And btw – BIG FAN

    • Reverend says:

      You were co-teaching Internet course before they wee cool 🙂 I have a revisioning of this class I want to do, and I am wondering if it might be a broader thing with a variety of folks. Also, “Where Wizards Stay Up Late” will be one of the foundational texts for the next time around, that books provides a pretty amazing background, I really enjoyed it.

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