Prehistoric Internets


The Guardian has published a fascinating article about Cybersyn, the "socialist Internet" of Salvador Allende's Chile:

What this collaboration produced was startling: a new communications system reaching the whole spindly length of Chile, from the deserts of the north to the icy grasslands of the south, carrying daily information about the output of individual factories, about the flow of important raw materials, about rates of absenteeism and other economic problems.

Until now, obtaining and processing such valuable information—even in richer, more stable countries—had taken governments at least six months. But Project Cybersyn found ways round the technical obstacles. In a forgotten warehouse, 500 telex machines were discovered which had been bought by the previous Chilean government but left unused because nobody knew what to do with them. These were distributed to factories, and linked to two control rooms in Santiago. There a small staff gathered the economic statistics as they arrived, officially at five o'clock every afternoon, and boiled them down using a single precious computer into a briefing that was dropped off daily at La Moneda, the presidential palace.

I was aware that there's a subtribe of socialists who believe the calculation problem can be overcome with sufficiently powerful computers. I was not aware, until today, that anyone had tried to put that particular dream into place so early.

[Via Slashdot.]