Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17, 2000: Internet Crosses 50-Yard Line in U.S.


2000: Half of United States households have internet access, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Nielsen is best known for measuring the popularity of a certain other mass medium that went viral a half-century earlier. How fitting that this paradigm shift came with fin-de-si├Ęcle serendipity to a millennium that had already witnessed staggering technological advancement.

Not since television transformed the world in the early 1950s had anything entered the collective consciousness as quickly or pervasively as the internet, which began its life 40 years earlier as "Arpanet," a relatively humble military experiment. (In style, BTW, "internet" — even "the internet" — is lower case.)

Like television, experiencing the internet initially required the procurement of expensive, finicky equipment. And as in TV's earliest days there wasn't much to see. One internet service provider (ISP) even playfully reminded us of the limits of the net in a TV ad during which a menacing voice told a web surfer: "You have reached the end of the internet. Please go back."

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