— Sebastiano (@SebaDT11) May 26, 2014
My brother-in-law sent me the above tweet this morning, knowing I’ve been ensconced in computer history the last few months. The “Kids React to Old Computers” video he pointed me to is going viral, and it provides an interesting premise the think about computer history. Namely, just how unintuitive computing thrity five years ago seems to us today. The role of personal computing in defining current moment is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and no one frames that evolution better than Alan Kay in this 1987 video.
It’s also interesting how folks like Wes Clark, back in 1967, saw personal computing and the nascent internet as somewhat antithetical movements. In fact, I’ve been reading Stephen Levy’s 1984 book Hackers about the emergence of a whole movment of computer hackers who were best know for breakthroughs in hardware and software for personal computing. That said, there is only tangential discussion of the internet as the force we understand it as now. That seems odd primarily because so much of our current understanding of computing history is defined through the lens of the world wide web. It seems to me the mid-1990s was the moment when these realted, but seemingly distinct, histories of the internet and personal computing became less and less distinguishable. The mid-1990s, thanks to this brave new protocol for sharing resources, marks a moment when personal computers and the internet became more and more synonymous.