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A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet [Paperback]

John Naughton
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

5 Oct 2000
The Internet is the most remarkable thing human beings have built since the Pyramids. John Naughton¿s book intersperses wonderful personal stories with an authoritative account of where the Net actually came from, who invented it and why, and where it might be taking us. Most of us have no idea of how the Internet works or who created it. Even fewer have any idea of what it means for society and the future. In a cynical age, John Naughton has not lost his capacity for wonder. He examines the nature of his own enthusiasm for technology and traces its roots in his lonely childhood and in his relationship with his father. A Brief History of the Future is an intensely personal celebration of vision and altruism, ingenuity and determination and above all, of the power of ideas, passionately felt, to change the world.

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A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet + From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: What You Really Need to Know About the Internet + Tubes: Behind the Scenes at the Internet
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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix; 2Rev Ed edition (5 Oct 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075381093X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753810934
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 311,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

Histories of technology usually go one of two ways. Some focus on the science; others emphasise personalities and culture at the expense of technological detail. But engineering professor-cum-Observer columnist John Naughton has written a book that does both. A Brief History of the Future weaves together scientific account and personal anecdote, and the result is a mesmerising account of the origins of the Internet.

The Internet, argues Naughton, is one of the 20th century's greatest inventions ("a force of unimaginable power"), but the individuals who built it have been overlooked. Truly great programmers "are like great poets or great mathematicians" and should be treated accordingly. In a volume sprinkled with literary references, Naughton redresses that oversight, starting at MIT in the 1930s, where the seeds of the Net were planted by three fascinating personalities, Vannavar Bush, Norbert Weiner and J.C.R. Licklider.

Later chapters explore the work-sharing ethos and Open Source movement that grew up among the programmers who worked on the Internet, and the World Wide Web, the system invented by Tim Berners-Lee that has been largely responsible for the popularisation of the Internet. Always the professor, Naughton has included a glossary of terms and an associated Web site with up-to-date reference material. He never shies away from explaining important technical innovations like packet switching and TCP/IP, but does so using metaphors that are accessible to non-scientists.

But the heart of the book is Naughton's account of his own fascination with the Internet. Growing up in remote rural Ireland he loved the radio, which made "links to other places, other cultures, other worlds". The Web allows communication on an even larger scale, and he heralds the democratic promise of this fundamentally open, communal and evolving system. Clearly Naughton is enraptured with the Net, and that passion comes across on every page of this intelligent, compelling book. --Tamsin Todd

Book Description

The only book that tells the whole story of the internet from its origins in the 1940s to the advent of the worldwide web at the dawn of the 21st century

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
John Naughton writes about the Internet with the same enthusiasm Nick Hornby displays when writing about Arsenal FC or rock music. From his early childhood days in rural Ireland to his current role as journalist and academic, Naughton describes his continuing sense of wonder at the development of communications technologies, and their implications for the future of our society. "A Brief History of the Future" conveys the author's passionate interest in the medium, while describing the development of the technology in terms that even the most technophobic reader can understand. If you've ever stopped to wonder how the @ sign got into your email address, or exactly what TCP/IP protocols are, then this book is for you. Packed with fascinating anecdotes about the team who transformed the pioneering ARPANET into the Internet we know today, it is an engrossing read and highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating history of the Internet 29 Feb 2004
By Darren Simons TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
One of if not the most significant change in lifestyle over the past 50 years has been the development of technology, and how it has affected all our lives. At the very centre of this is the Internet which rather than being simply a technical innovation is the combination of a number of innovations to provide something usable by everyone.
In this book, Naughton provides a detailed history of each of the characters who could be considered the forefathers of the Internet. Starting with its background in academia and military research, the author knits a number of separate threads together providing a rich narrative of the Internet which has after all developed very quickly. It is superbly written and unlike other books on this subject is written in a way that a non-technical person would appreciate it. I cannot recommend this book enough if you are interested in finding out the history of how so-called geeks have had such a huge impact on our daily lives.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for all enthusiasts of the internet. 5 Sep 2001
Format:Paperback
A totally brilliant book based on the history of the internet and how it developed. I bought it for my studies towards a BSc Degree (first year) on the internet and I have been studying a module written by Mr Naughton. It has helped me understand and make sense of the history of the net without being boring. I enjoyed reading it and have recommended it to all my friends. Easy to read with good explanations. This book is a must for all!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
A superbly written book, with facts, anecdotes and a writing style that makes the history of how the Internet developed not so much interesting as exciteing. I found myself remembering what I was up to when certain significant events took place, events that have led to the globalisation of information like almost no one imagined.
The writing itself was free flowing and the book laid out well. If I can critisise anything it's what I determine to be a slight inconsistency in how he writes quotes from other people, sometimes in the "traditional" way and at others by presenting the quote as a seperate block of text. I like the style, but there were a few points when I thought "why didn't he block the text here like before"....A very very minor quibble!
This book should be a required text for all students studying anything, but especially IT related subjects.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 5 July 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a very well written, well researched history of the internet. It is not a dry technical account, but an exciting narrative of the key steps which have led to the Internet of today and the world wide web. A must for anyone who is interested in how it all came to be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tells the story very well 25 Nov 2004
Format:Paperback
Going from the origins of computing (those that would later impact on the Web), through to the Microsoft v Netscape battle of the mid-late '90s, Naughton tells the story very well. Given the potential for the subject to be dry and "techy", Naughton kept the attention of this reader (interested non-techy).
I knocked off a star as I felt the glossary was not full enough. Around the middle of the book I was drowning in acronyms which were explained once in the text, but not in the glossary. However, the author's enthusiasm for the subject carried me through.
May be due for updating soon?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read on how it all began 30 Dec 2003
Format:Paperback
When you have read this book a lot of the pieces fall into place, as to why the world of computers runs the way it does. From the reason it all came about to the way it looks and is managed today, Naughton tells a fluent and largely unbiased story. He brings to life the grand scale of the internet's development in terms of both time and effort. A thoroughly deserved five stars. I would highly reccommend this book to anyone studying in computers or enthusiasts wishing to know more about the internet's history. Lastly I would like to congratulate the author on an excellent book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Book 24 Jan 2003
Format:Paperback
Fascinating and interesting account of the origins of the internet. You would probably need a pretty keen interest in the subject before you start reading it, but it always remains accessible and never delves too deeply into dry theory. It tells the human story of the internet - who was where, what they were working on, and the series of chance events that led to Arpanet and eventually to the Internet we know today.
Did you know that if NASA had not been created we might not have the internet now - and not because NASA had anything to do with it? You will after reading this...
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