A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet Paperback – 5 Oct 2000
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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
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 centurySee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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?
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...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent. A good companion read to 'Where Wizards Stay Up Late'.Published 12 months ago by Robert D Cheer
This could sound like a "techy" book, but is surprisingly interesting about how the internet was created and is written in a very accessible style even for people who are... Read morePublished on 12 May 2014 by eeyore
An excellent, well written, easy to read description of how the internet was developed. With so many contributors the book could not possibly name them all but in my opinion not... Read morePublished on 2 July 2011 by bernard hardy
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