A brief history of the future : from radio days to Internet years in a lifetime /

Main Author: Naughton, John
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, 2000.
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Review by Booklist Review

A damnable thing about the Internet is its extraneous spam and double-click.com ads. An admirable thing about a well-written book is its distillation of the essence of its subject without any hypertext distractions. That's what Naughton does in this readable narrative of the beginnings of the Internet. For all the kudos heaped on Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, or on Vint Cerf, inventor of TCP/IP codes for electronic mail, Naughton underscores that the Internet's lineage reaches back to the 1930s and 1940s, when Vannevar Bush, then the czar of American science, cogitated about linking computers. Naughton smoothly segues the story to the 1960s, when computer networking became a vital concern to the Pentagon, whose Advanced Research Projects Agency financed the development of the first networks. The author clearly explains how various software engineers appraised problems in networking and designed solutions, such as breaking messages into packets for faster transmission; and he salts the technotalk with interesting anecdotes, as about the ubiquitous

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

One of the better meditations on technology and the Internet to burble up from the digerati in recent years, this fact-filled volume offers a selective history of computing as it traces the dawn of the World Wide Web and honors the engineers who created it. Naughton, a Cambridge fellow and a columnist for the Observer (U.K.), plunges into the nuances of packet-switching and compression algorithms as he indulges his obsession with communication, first evidenced by an intense interest in short-wave radio during his childhood in rural Ireland. Conveying detailed aspects of programming with relative ease, Naughton surveys the heroes of the Internet and reviews their achievements. We meet J.C.R. Licklider, the MIT-trained engineer who first pondered the tantalizing potential of "man-computer symbiosis," and the great Paul Baran, a talented young engineer at the RAND think tank who in 1959 developed the first distributed digital network for the U.S. military (which was stoutly resisted, Naughton points out, by top brass at the analogue-based AT&T). The heaviest hitter, however, is probably Tim Berners-Lee, who got interested in the idea of hyperlinks as a way of aiding his terrible memory and went on to develop the first Web browser and the now-ubiquitous HTML language for the Web. With amusing asidesÄthe first e-mail message may have been sent by an engineer in L.A. asking his colleagues to retrieve a razor he left at a conference in the U.K.Äthis is a particularly thoughtful and readable history of the Web to date. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Journalist and academic Naughton (a fellow of Wolfson Coll., Cambridge) has written a compelling and thoroughly readable history of the information revolution. Because he includes the personal stories behind the growth and development of communications technology over the past 50 years, his book is not, unlike other titles on the Internet, a dry, bare-bones history of science but rather an often humorous and ironic saga of technological advances from the clumsy, massive computers of the 1940s to today's high-tech, high-speed machines. Dedicated to Vannevar Bush and Tim Berners-Lee, whose work was essential to the underpinnings of what would become the Internet, Naughton's history reads like a drama, detailing the major players in the battles of the 1990s involving Bill Gates, Netscape, and Linus Torvalds, among others. This is a book for anyone who wants a clear picture of the growth of the net and an understanding of what led to its ubiquity. An excellent complement to Berners-Lee's own Weaving the Web (LJ 10/1/99) and Joshua Quittner and Michelle Slatalla's Speeding the Net (LJ 6/15/98), it is highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Dayne Sherman, Southeastern Louisiana Univ. , Hammond (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-The title will draw readers right in, and Naughton's anecdotal writing style and breadth of information will hold them. The author starts with his own childhood and the appearance of the new technology in his home. He recalls the bedroom he shared with a sibling and a lone radio. That bedroom and radio have evolved into the modern study complete with an Internet-capable computer. He tells wonderful stories about the computers of the `50s and `60s and the people who invented them and reinvented them, making them subsequently more and more powerful, smaller and smaller. Toward the middle of the book he gets bogged down with details concerning the Internet creators. He gives maybe a bit more extraneous information about the people themselves than computer techies would welcome, but it is entertaining for those who are always looking for the "warm fuzzy" side of the computer experience. Naughton does not set himself up as an expert, which probably accounts for a few technical errors. They don't detract from a very satisfying, richly informative read.-Cynthia J. Rieben, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A brief history of the Internet, told by a British engineer and journalist. British journalist Naughton (The Observer) begins by reminiscing about ham radio, an early example of the sort of virtual community the Internet has created. He then points out how, without advanced technical knowledge or training, anyone with computer access now has the ability to communicate almost instantly, and without intermediaries, with a huge fraction of the human race. Surprisingly, the technology that permits this stunning access to the world was created very haphazardly. In the beginning was Arpanet, the by-blow of a Cold War defense agency's desire for easy exchange of data between computers. To make certain that key information could survive a large-scale nuclear attack, the equipment was designed to full military specifications; the first "modems" came enclosed in heavy steel cases and were painted battleship gray. But the project assumed a life of its own almost from the day of its inception. A key theoretical breakthrough, the transfer of data in byte-sized packages, came from a British research team. E-mail, which rapidly became the single most popular feature of the net, was an unauthorized extension of a program originally meant to trade messages between users of a single machine. And the original Web browser came from the desire of a scientist at CERN, the European nuclear research facility, to organize the masses of data the scientists had to deal with. Naughton's ability to give the nonspecialist reader a sense not only of the people but of the ideas and processes involved in the creation of the Internet is complemented by a style that emphasizes the human dimension of his subject, and (best of all) lets the reader see why it is worth caring about. A comprehensive and remarkably well-written overview of this key event in recent history. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.