Friday, May 25, 2007

Mid 90s view of the future Web: cable modems, and the insights of John Naisbitt

It was the mid 1990s. The awesome possibilites of a future broadband Internet were before us. We introduced the Web to a famous futurist, and reported the dreams of how cable modems and content deals would transform the world.

In October 1995 my friend John Liskey arranged for Chuck Severance and me to interview some impressive folks at the Midwest Cable Show in Indianapolis. We interviewed the famed author of Megatrends, John Naisbitt. We had a cable modem set up at the show so we could demonstrate the future world of residential broadband. Naisbitt had been out of the country, in Asia, researching a book. It's my impression that he saw the Web for the first time via that cable modem.

Besides Naisbitt, I interviewed an engineer explaining a radical new device that provided Internet access to the home at 10 megabits per second. Dr. David Walker of the late, lamented Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) described the cable modem they offered at the time. Just a few months earlier,Liskey had a cable modem installed at my house; thus since summer 1995, making me, I claim, one of the first few hundred people in the country with residential broadband. (I have no way to verify this claim.) Dr. Walker gave the example of finding Beatles outtakes and bloopers on the Net, and how broadband could bring multimedia to the home. Looking back, he accidentally predicted both YouTube and RIAA lawsuits.

David Coles spoke optimistically to Chuck about @Home, TCI's venture at the time to deliver content over broadband to homes and small businesses.

Lo how the world has changed.

TCI is now long gone, devoured in the many mergers of the dot com era. @Home is a footnote in the history of broadband. And my Comcast cable modem in the basement offers service at a fraction of the speed serving our house in 1995.

Hmmm.... What is John Naisbitt thinking about today?

Check out the video, a wistful window into the excitement and anticipation we all felt in the 90s about the future of the Internet.