Teach them well and let them lead the way

(Posted by Eric Magnuson)

If you’re like me – and since you’re reading blogs on a summer day, I somewhat safely assume that you are – the internet has worked its way deeply into your daily life much like sand bugger did to Chekov in “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan“. How many of us open a browser and start surfing through our favorites in the morning even before we make a cup of coffee? And for how long has that been the case? I remember back in ’93 seeing a grad school prof almost burst into flames with nebbish delight when he showed myself and a handful of other techie minded journalism students the wonder that was Mosaic. I assume we all have similar if not far earlier exposure to this world-changing technology. It’s a part of our lives. It is evolving daily. But if one snaky law firm in Philadelphia is successful, the history of the net will be much harder to hang onto.

For those of you that didn’t see coverage of the suit I’m referring to, what looks like a crappy healthcare information company claims that the beloved non-profit Internet Wayback Machine has violated the DCMA (the Hollywood-friendly broad-reaching intellectual property law). So they want…well, I’m not exactly sure what they want except for money justified by some vague claims of privacy protection conjured up by their law firm. But when I read that the Wayback Machine info-archive now contains 1 petabyte (1 million gigabytes) and that it is growing at around 20 terabytes a month, I took a briefly Googled trip down the memory lane of internet phenomenons from the past 9 years or so. Going back that far felt like setting the dial for the 19th Century. But thankfully it’s all seemingly still out there in the ether.

Who can forget the beloved silliness of Mr. T and Chewbacca’s all-consuming taste for testicles? The WIRED interview with the originater of the joke thanks to a broken exit light in a freshman dorm hallway sheds much needed irreverent delight on that craze from ’96.

Or the still brilliantly inane all your base are belong to us.

And what of Mahir? How many of us have longed for his red speedo and ping-pong pics circa ’99 to appear again in the hottest lane on ye olde information superhighway?

Will any of these old diversions have any sort of impact on kids today? I’ve got a 4-month old daughter who I hope won’t see the importance of any of these things, even if the Dancing Baby might still conjure a giggle or two from her in the years ahead. But I, for one, strongly appreciate that the Wayback Machines and Googles of the world are protecting this largely irrelevant history. For our children and our children’s children.

Any faves in your own personal Wayback Machines? Beguiling minds want to know.

5 Comments on “Teach them well and let them lead the way”

  1. I suspect that they’ll look on these things the same way I look on Schoolhouse Rock — just a dim and silly part of childhood.

  2. I haven’t spent much time looking for nostalgic material on the Wayback Machine, but I can share how useful it’s been for me.

    There was once a magazine called “Capital Trends,” that had various pieces on the Japanese economy and related issues. It was put out by available for free on the Internet.

    Now, if you look for it — nada. It disappeared off the face of the earth. Some digging of news found an article saying the group that produced it, Nikko Research Center America, was declared ineligible for World Bank contracts because of some sort of corruption or fraud, and liquidated. The site redirects to nationalcherryblossomfestival.org, probably the only remaining vestige of the organization.

    So what can I do when I find praised articles in it referenced? Not damn much, as all the world’s libraries, so pleased it was available for free, filed it simply under its URL!

    Except, as I finally realized, the Wayback Machine. There I can browse to my heart’s content, and save everything I need.

  3. There have been studies done about people that can’t forget anything – and how hard their lives are.

    I’m forced to wonder if something similar is in our own futures, with more and more information becoming ‘permanent’…

  4. The Dancing Baby? Giggle? Yikes, the Dancing Baby is the all-time creepiest thing I have ever seen.

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