Saturday, September 20, 2008

Where Wizards Stay Up Late

Where Wizards Stay Up Late - Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon
I picked this up because while I was reading Protocol I decided I wanted some more background on how the Internet was developed . It is literally a blow by blow account of the building of the Internet, funding, hardware decisions, development of protocols, etc. The authors make the case that the Internet was not developed specifically to withstand a nuclear attack (as has often been said) but rather to be a reliable network for sharing scientific research. This is despite an early 1960s report by the Rand Corporation that focused on the need for a distributed network to keep military command and control intact in the event of such an attack. It is a good read up to a point but the authors go way overboard in the amount of personal detail about the various engineers and programmers - down to what they ate, their quirky behaviors, etc. This would be fine if the story centered on a small group of people that you followed through the book, but the book introduces a couple dozen people so it ends up being a clutter of superficial details. I did like the image of electrical engineers in the 1960s using the symbol for electrical resistance as an anti-war statement though.


decomposition said...

Hi Al, does the book go into the relationship between the scientists/engineers who developed the Internet and the academics/artists/activists at The WELL (the early BBS co-founded by Stewart Brand)? Being in San Francisco in the early '90s was interesting in that there was a lot of interaction among these different communities. It was very utopian ( boom & bust, that is), and I thought it was interesting that the WELL had its roots in the hippie-era Whole Earth Catalog.

p.s. - my mom taught computer skills, so I was encouraged to get online early on...she taught me UNIX to use Lynx and Pine!

AL LARSEN said...

Doesn't really go into that. But this book totally does:

From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism by Fred Turner.

Is pine like pico? I kind of miss using that stuff.

decomposition said...

Great, thanks for that book info.

Pico was the UNIX text editor used to write messages in Pine (which the email program), so you must have used both!