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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At Last! A Comprehensive and Comprehensible Book About THE INTERNET!, 26 Nov 2010
By 
Grady Harp (Los Angeles, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (Hardcover)
Johnny Ryan has managed to gather the respect of millions in this new book A HISTORY OF THE INTERNET AND THE DIGITAL FUTURE: the near mystical aspects of the discovery that has changed our lives in countless ways over the past decades is in this book explained with a humanist approach to the history, the mystery, the benefits, the emergence of an entirely new manner of communication, and some solid speculations about where this technology to beat all technologies may take us. The beauty of this book is just how accessible it is. Ryan writes in a near conversational manner about technical matters that to many of us are floating around in the ether that is being somehow transmitted to most of our fingertips and screens. And at the same time that he addresses issues and shares facts in language easily digested, he simultaneously offers information to the more advanced computer geeks, making his book as democratic a transfer of information as any book written on the subject.

In what may seem a redundant means of upgrading our knowledge of where we all are in the digital age, Ryan elects to open his book with a very detailed history of the birth of the computers, taking us back sixty years to the 1950s discovery of the possibilities of transmitting information and storing it on machines. His journey explains the military's use and polish of the computer, through the concept of dissemination of information over the Internet, to the age of personal use of the computer and all forms of digital transfer of information. This is far too brief a way of describing how Ryan explains the derivation of each term applied to this topic (these definitions alone are worth the investment in this book!), and the process of changing the huge machines into hand-held wildly popular individually owned modes of communication.

But where Johnny Ryan really shines is his ability to inform us as to the strengths and weaknesses of this new generation of information transfer. He deftly discusses the individual versus government interchange access, how this instantaneous form of depersonalized communication isolates us from each other, but opens us to the curious eye of hackers and government eavesdropping, the perils of too freely spreading our thoughts and needs and desires and even gossip that can lead to dangerous results, and at the same time instead of raging about the evils of the computer so popular with other writers, he offers the possibilities of the Internet and www communication that to this reader at least seems like an invitation to global understanding of all cultures, all peoples.

The book ends with an indispensable glossary of terms used in the book but also used on the Internet - many times to the total ignorance of those of us who take advantage of this brave new world. And should the reader need further elucidation to advance from the solid platform of information provided by Ryan, there is a bibliography for research and further investigation. But for the millions of people who now use the internet and computers this book offers gentle but quite competent background and information about how we got here, what we are doing and what we are capable of doing, and when to be cautious. Highly Recommended for everyone. Grady Harp, November 10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read, 22 Dec 2010
This review is from: A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (Hardcover)
Toward the end of Johnny Ryan's "A History of the Internet" he relates an account of a terrorism trial in 2007. The defendents have been charged with inciting terrorism using internet chatrooms, video and forums. At one point in the proceedings the presiding judge pauses the trial to say, "The trouble is I don't understand the language. I don't really understand what a website is". This book is for him and for those of us who, like him, have found engaging with complex and fast changing digital world a daunting experience. Where do you start? How do you get get a handle on it? What is needed is what David Garland, in his book "The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society" called a "history of the present". What events preceded this to bring us here?

From the antecedents of the internet, through the emergence of the world wide web and rise of social networking to present day issues of net neutrality, Google in China and the work of hacktivists Johnny Ryan shows a firm grasp of his material and understands the need to keep the subject accessible, the glossary was really useful.

The digital world tends to attract writers who either evangelise or demonise the web. Ryan does neither. Finally concluding that the freedoms we currently enjoy from the internet are neither fixed or certain, Johnny Ryan has given us an excellent guide to the immediate past with some timely warnings for the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fascinating, 30 Nov 2010
This review is from: A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (Hardcover)
We live in such an exciting age and yet we seem to take the Internet for granted. We visit sites like YouTube, Google, MySpace, Wikipedia, WordPress, Netflix, iTunes, Twitter and Facebook on what seems like a daily basis. But what made these sites possible? This book presents the history of the Internet in great detail. Johnny Ryan did an incredible amount of research! He also answers the following questions:

Who sent the first email?
What was the first book sold on amazon.com?
What did Al Gore really say about the Internet?
When did spam officially appear online?

I personally found this book to be absolutely fascinating. Not only will you know a lot more about the history of computers you will understand exactly what it took to reach the stage at which we all became able to go online. There are also some tasty tidbits about amazon.

If I had to pick one book about the Internet, this would be it!

~The Rebecca Review
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 16 Nov 2010
This review is from: A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (Hardcover)
This is a really easy to read and excellent history book and like every good history book it shows how the past might shape the future. To like this book you dont have to be a techie just interested in how the internet came to be. I have tried to read a few books about the internet but found them either too technical or too up in the clouds, this has the right balance.
If you are in business and have to utilise the internet (dont we all) then this book is a great way to find out where it all came from and where it might be going.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting, 29 Nov 2013
By 
M. O'Connor (Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A very informative and interesting read. If you want to know how the Internet was developed and evolved then this is a must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both definitive and readable., 4 April 2013
By 
Jason T. O'Mahony (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Whilst leaning slightly towards tech-heads, the book still manages to tell a surprisingly human story of how we got to the web age. A great read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story, good insights, 9 Mar 2013
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This book not only sets out the facts and the story behind the internet but it also draws positive conclusions for what this means for future society. We are now at a cusp in human development where the power of the internet and digital age can be used either to underpin a "big brother" Orwellian world or (and this is Ryan's view) create a decentralised and human scale world. Corporations and governments should read this book - the emerging digital world is a reality they cannot ignore. Certainly the story of the internet shows how imaginative humans can work and co-operate without top down authority or money reward - the world of the "wiki" has now begun.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why the Internet is "a centrifugal force, user-driven, and open", 21 Nov 2012
By 
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (Hardcover)
I read this book when it was first published in 2010 and then re-read Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor (first published in 1999) and strongly recommend that both be read in combination. The three defining characteristics in the title of this review are what Johnny Ryan has in mind when noting that Berners-Lee "came to realize the potential of a system that would allow a loose arrangement of ideas and data unconstrained by hierarchies or categories."

Berners-Lee had developed a piece of software called "Enquire" in the 1980s to map relationships between and among the various people, programs, and systems he encountered at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland and the world's largest particle physics laboratory. "Enquire marked the first step in his invention of the World Wide Web."

Ryan explains that there were three phases of the development of the Internet: its emergence (discussed in Chapters 1-4); the maturing of its technologies and culture of networking between and among communities (Chapters 5-9); and finally, he examines "how the defining characteristics of the Internet are now transforming, culture, commerce and politics (Chapters 10-13). Ryan also explains the three characteristics "that have asserted themselves throughout the Internet's history, and will define the digital age in which we must all adjust: the Internet is a centrifugal force, user-driven, and open."

These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me and they also give some indication of the range of subjects that Ryan discusses:

o Paul Baran and Project RAND (Pages 20-22)
o The Homebrew Club, Apple, IBM, and personal computers (56-61)
o The telephone network opens, the grassroots networks form...(66-69)
o Metcalfe's Law (85-86)
o Death of a Gopher (109-111)
o dot Tulip (122-126)
0 The peer-driven Internet (143-145)
o "Open-source" campaigns (166-177)
o Control in the Centrifugal World (182-187)
o iWar and the new pioneers(194-197)

Ryan has much of value to say about the quite different roles of dozens of "pioneers" who made significant contributions to the development of the Internet and then of the World Wide Web. They include the aforementioned Paul Baran (RAND) and Tim Berners-Lee (CERN) as well as Marc Andreesen (Netscape), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Vannevar Bush (chief science advisor to FDR), Vint Cerf, Friedrich Hayek, Leonard Kleinlock, J.C.R. Licklider (ARPA), Linus Torvalds (Linux), and Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia).

When concluding the final chapter, Promise and Peril, Ryan observes, "Humanity faces the risk of ruining the Internet even before it becomes a mature technology, before its benefit as a global commons can be fully realized. It must weigh the prospect of failure." I am curious to know what Ryan thinks now, about three years after composing that passage.

No brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of material that Johnny Ryan provides in this volume but I hope that I have at least suggested why I think so highly of him and his work. Also, I hope that those who read this commentary will be better prepared to determine whether or not they wish to read the book and, in that event, will have at least some idea of how the information, insights, and wisdom could perhaps be of substantial benefit to them and to their own organization.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fascinating, 25 July 2011
We live in such an exciting age and yet we seem to take the Internet for granted. We visit sites like YouTube, Google, MySpace, Wikipedia, WordPress, Netflix, iTunes, Twitter and Facebook on what seems like a daily basis. But what made these sites possible? This book presents the history of the Internet in great detail. Johnny Ryan did an incredible amount of research! He also answers the following questions:

Who sent the first email?
What was the first book sold on amazon.com?
What did Al Gore really say about the Internet?
When did spam officially appear online?

I personally found this book to be absolutely fascinating. Not only will you know a lot more about the history of computers you will understand exactly what it took to reach the stage at which we all became able to go online. There are also some tasty tidbits about amazon.

If I had to pick one book about the Internet, this would be it!

~The Rebecca Review
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiring Piece of Work, 8 Feb 2011
This review is from: A History of the Internet and the Digital Future (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed this book. It satisfied all the requirements I have for a good read. It is extremely well researched but not dull. It is full of thought provoking ideas but always realistic. It tells the full story of the foundation of the internet (in detail I had never seen before) while making interesting and insightful predictions for the future.

I flew through the book in a few sittings because the author has a very engaging style - he opens with interesting anecdotes (much like Malcolm Gladwell) and then goes on to explain his points with facts.

Ryan's perpetual beta concept is fascinating and the people who grasp it will be best placed to understand the future of web.

For me, this book was Malcolm Gladwell meets serious research meets an extremely relevant topic.

I would heartily recommend it for anyone involved in the policy, academic or business side of the web and the digital future.
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A History of the Internet and the Digital Future
A History of the Internet and the Digital Future by Johnny Ryan (Hardcover - 1 Sep 2010)
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