Return With Us Now to the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear!


I suppose one could do this sort of thing all day. But it did make me smile, when cleaning out some old clip files recently, to find this story from a March 1993 (my clip doesn't include the full date) front page of the New York Times, headlined "Turning the Desktop PC Into a Talk Radio Medium." Some excerpts:

Within a few weeks, a Virginia-based entrepreneur plans to begin broadcasting a weekly 30-minute radio talk show on Internet [no definite article in original], the global computer network that links together more than 10 million scientists, academics, engineers and high-tech industry executives.

Listening to such a program via computer instead of radio might seem merely a digital curiosity. But many computer scientists and telecommunications experts believe it signals the first step in a transformation in which national and even global computer networks will fiercely compete with–or even replace–traditional television and radio networks that broadcast over the air or transmit by cable…..

When the new program, to be called "Internet Talk Radio," make [sic] its debut, Internet users will be able to obtain it as a file of computer data, just as they might "download" from the network a research report, data about a scientific experiment or any of thousands of other data files…..

"We're not all going to start listening to radio on our computers yet," said Paul Saffo…."But…it's proof that the era of mass media is past."

…Initially the new digital radio program will be targeted at the programmers and technically minded researchers who spend their days sitting in front of advanced computers writing or manipulating software and who have the high-speed connections to Internet that permit listening to the program in "real time" as it is received….

It sort of read to me like something I'd expect to find in one of the Onion's historical books mocking the conventions, style, and concerns of a given era's news. I especially loved the quote marks around "download" and "real time." I wonder how long it took the Times to lose that convention? They have lost that convention, haven't they?

NEXT: Drug Reimportation = Back Door Price Controls

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  1. Just because you don’t get enough pedantic nitpicks in your daily life… “Real time” should still be in quotes, because audio streaming is not not real time, which has a precise technical definition relating to kernel scheduling.

  2. I would say that Paul Saffo is 0 for 2.

  3. wow, 10 million! WOW!

  4. There is about a twenty second delay between our broadcast and my 24/7 “live” stream.

    Bend Community Radio

  5. those high-speed 28K baud modems allow for “real-time” “downloading”

    I wonder if there were paleo-lulz enjoyed

  6. The scary thing is that I think 28k may have been just a pipe dream in ’93.

    It still baffles me to this day how as an impatient little kid I was able to deal with the internet back then.

  7. It still baffles me to this day how as an impatient little kid I was able to deal with the internet back then.

    What truly baffles me is as a 5 year old I (and most of my friends who had computers) mastered command line prompts in MS-DOS even though I could barely read.

  8. As an avid computer user starting with my first pc, an Atari 800, back in 1978 or so, through Apple ][+ and ][e machines, a Mac SE, numerous nameless IBM clones, and Gateway and Dell PCs running Windows 3.1, 95, and XP, I can attest that 28k was the standard modem speed in 1993.

    Modem speeds I have known personally include a 110 bps acoustic coupler, 300, 1200, 2400, and 9600 externals (o Hayes, how I loved thee!), 14.4k, 28.8k, 33.?k, 56.6k (with a caveat on every box that the actual high speed was restricted to 52k pending FCC approval or something).

    Of course, in the late 90s, I got cablemodem service, and forgot all about telephone modems, other than to occasionally fax something to some Luddite company. And to serve incoming caller-id info to my home network and TiVos. And to use as a war dialer during American Idol so I could vote for Sanjaya 1,000 times per week, just to piss my wife off (mission completed!).

  9. I know the computer we bought in 1994 most certainly did not come with a 28.8K modem. Try 9600… oh man, that was so slow. Fortunately browsers at the time (specifically, Netscape 1.1) had an option to turn off graphics, so we could at least navigate the important stuff. Actually..I think some browsers today still have that option.

    Anyway, we got a 33.6K modem for christmas a couple of years later, and after the days it took to install it (it was for Windows 95 and we had 3.11, so it took a while to fool the computer), we had BLISTERING speed. Animated GIFs and all 🙂

  10. thanks dad 🙂

  11. to use as war dialer

    Ah, the memories.

  12. I think 28.8 had just come out in ’93. I bought my first computer that year, which had a 14.4 modem, and I’m pretty sure it was not top of the line when I got it. If it wasn’t ’93, then it wasn’t much after that.

    Gads, that seems like a long time ago.

  13. to use as war dialer
    Ah, the memories.

    Indeed. I remember using my Apple and attached modem to war dial for MCI and Sprint long-distance codes while I was in college. Those were the days when you reached MCI or Sprint through a local access number, then dialed your destination number followed by a personal access code. Needless to say, six digits was no real obstacle, even to a 6502 processor.

  14. The V.34 standard (28.8k) wasn’t ratified ’til 1994 but there were 28.8k modems available in ’93. They cost about as much in 2007 dollars as consumer-grade desktop computers do today, and getting 28.8k service was a crap-shoot, but they did have them in ’93.

    I never had a 110 baud acoustic coupler, but I did have a 300 baud modem cartridge for my VIC-20. Kids these days have it so easy with hi-res video porn in all sorts of varieties. We had to make do with dirty stories and perhaps some ASCII art drawings of nekkid ladies.

  15. ASCII art porn! Ah, the mammaries!

  16. I remember writing simple DOS batch files that would display prompts like “Critical failure. Formatting drive C: will being in 15 seconds” whenever my little brother tried to play Ultima IV.

    Of course that’s back when Clinton was preparing to take over the Bush White House. Oh, how times have changed.

  17. They wrote about Internet the way one would write about Urkobold.

  18. Brian, that’s a great story.

    And right now, I’m listening to Sky FM on the Internet (Bose speakers). It’s free and has very few commercials. My connection isn’t as reliable as yours but it mostly makes it through the day.

    Unfortunately, it’s probably going away because of that whole Internet royalty thing where they put the screws to the Internet broadcasters. I don’t fully understand that so I’ll leave it there.

  19. Okay, now this is old….

    I remember playing interactive computer games in my high school’s computer room in Minnesota, on a 10 character per second teletype device. Oregon Trail anyone? There was also a Star Trek game, of course. When our computer club upgraded to an Apple with a 90 character per second interface we really kicked Klingon keister.

    I also recall some kind of Hayes modem later on, where you actually had to insert the phone handset into a receptacle the size of a Kleenex box.

  20. I only had one computer class in my life and we used these.

  21. I remember typing in computer games into my friend’s Commodore 64–in assembly language!–around 1984. In high school, mid- to late-eighties, we had some mainframes (“minicomputers” at the time) and a fleet of Commodore Super PETs. Next thing I know, it’s 1997, four years after college graduation, and I’m sitting in front of Windows 95 at a Kinko’s confronting Microsoft Word for the first time. I missed out on all that rise of (the) Internet stuff 🙁

  22. “We’re not all going to start listening to radio on our computers yet,” said Paul Saffo….”But…it’s proof that the era of mass media is past.”

    Nobody EVER listened to radio on their computer, per say. We all stream the internet stuff wirelessly to our media PC’s and run it through our home theater systems. Why be tethered to a PC?

  23. I remember typing in computer games into my friend’s Commodore 64–in assembly language!–around 1984.

    Real men played games on an Nintendo Entertainment System!

  24. Well aren’t we just a pack o’ nerds around here?

    Let’s see, I learned LOGO – and PAWS taught me how to type – on an Apple II. We had a IIC (Portable!) and an IBM-compatible at home on which I played Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, Lemonade Stand, Topper, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Wildcatter, and Oregon Trail.

    You have died of cholera.

    I was an early adopter but it took me a long time to figure out how everything works. Until I got to college I thought 5 inch disks were floppies and 3 1/2 inch disks were “hard”. That said, can someone explain to me the meaning of HD in HD radio? All I know is, it isn’t High-Definition… so what is it?

  25. For the record, it’s March 4, 1993.

  26. I had an intellivision! Does that count? And our first computer was some old IBM with a grey screen and red lettering…and the printer was ribbon-one, moved back and forth to print…

    oh ya, and I’m only 23.

  27. I remember the first time I ever heard our Apple II+ play a digital music recording. It was around 1987. I downloaded (from a local BBS, probably at 300bps) clips of The Who (Won’t Get Fooled Again) and Van Halen (maybe Cathedral). They were short and sounded pretty terrible (not least because they were through the Apple’s built-in speaker), but we were highly impressed. Now I have a couple million songs available to stream for a few bucks per month. Amazing to think how an ipod would have been seen as alien tecnology back then, about like a Terminator’s arm…

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