Forty years is a long time for any ethereal creature. It seems especially long for an almost ubiquitous entity called the Internet. A few weeks after hippies in Woodstock were listening to music and dancing in a rather silly manner in the mud, two computers at the University of California, Los Angeles, hooked up and exchanged equally silly data over an experimental military network called Arpanet. In 1990, 21 years after that relatively quiet marriage of two streams of data, Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web while trying to develop a system by which you didn’t have to physically hook up computers to control the data in them. The rest, as they, say is http mythology.
But 40 years is not a long time when you sit down and turn your computer off and think about it. While the Net has definitely made information more accessible to us at the click of a mouse, has it set us on an evolutionary trail that will make us retain less information in that mother of all computers, our heads? This might seem like a thought from a Luddite, someone who views any technology as a nasty piece of work. But even if we don’t intend to prepare ourselves for a life without the Net, could we, imaginative creatures, imagine a life without it? And by that we don’t mean not using the internet during that long weekend or over that summer break. What we mean is to cope without the Net forever — or at least till all systems are restored after a complete wipeout.
There has been much research in terms of how easy or hard it is to bring a world-straddling network like the internet down. The more intricate it gets, the more difficult it might be to destroy or even damage the behemoth. But theoretically, it can be done if one deviant entity targets its ‘nodal’ points. If that happens — when it happens — it’ll be back to books and paper again. One small step for the newspaper man; one giant step back for mankind.