Volume 51, Number 1 (Feb/Mar 2016)

Exhibiting Information: Developing the Information Age Gallery at the Science Museum

Tilly Blyth


We explore the gap between broad conceptions of the Internet common in daily life and the rather narrow framing of most existing work on Internet history. Looking both at scholarly histories and popular myths we suggest that the expanding scope of the Internet had created a demand for different kinds of history that capture the development of the many technological and social practices that converged to create today’s Internet-based online world. Finally, we summarize the papers in this special issue which collectively demonstrate that there is more than one history of the Internet.

Making Computers Boring: Some Thoughts on Historical Exhibition of Computing Technology from the Mass-Market Era

James Sumner


During the 1990s, when the Internet became a common communication medium in the United States, its history was recounted in numerous works that were intended for popular American audiences. In the context of the new legitimizing discourse of the techno-political order of post-Fordist society that views network technology at the center of an emancipatory social transformation, this article critically analyzes the role of the authors, as well as the main characters, actions, plot, and narrative of these works. The authors wrote for specific intended audiences, casting the history of the Internet into the mythopoetic form of the technological romance that dramatizes the eroticized prodigious work of the so-called Internet pioneers.

Self-Fulfilling History: How Narrative Shapes Preservation of the Online World

Marc Weber


One history of the Internet is the history of changing perceptions of this particular innovation over the course of time. This paper argues that the societal perception, concepts and images of the Internet, and the changes to it are to a large extent affected by the traditional media. Against this background, the study gives a historical analysis of Internet-related news coverage in the leading liberal newspapers in Germany, Great Britain and Italy between 2000 and 2012.

Brains, Tortoises, and Octopuses: Postwar Interpretations of Mechanical Intelligence on the BBC (TBA)Brains, Tortoises, and Octopuses: Postwar Interpretations of Mechanical Intelligence on the BBC

Allan Jones


Historians have demonstrated how systems like Usenet and Minitel fostered the social practices that we now associate with the TCP/IP Internet, but no one has considered networked computing in education. From 1965-75, Minnesota implemented interactive computing at its public schools and universities with time-sharing systems – networks of teletypewriter terminals connected to computers via telephone lines. These educational networks, created with different priorities than military-sponsored networks, were user-oriented from the start and encouraged software-sharing and collaboration. Focusing on the educational setting gives us a history of the Internet firmly grounded in the social and political movements of the long 1960s.

Putting the Spooks Back In? The UK Secret State and the History of Computing

Jon Agar


Internet history cannot entirely reflect the complexity of the network of networks’ genesis and development if not by taking into account parallel or rival projects and national paths. This article shows how the study of a specific network, e.g. RENATER (the French National Telecommunications Network for Technology, Education and Research, both a public interest group and a network born in 1993), can also shed light, in a detailed way, on Internet history. It seeks to demonstrate how this case study allows for a more nuanced picture of some “internet-centric” and teleological vision of Internet history.

Computing and the Big Picture: A Keynote Conversation

Jennifer S. Light


Remarks to the SIGCIS annual meeting “Computing and the Big Picture,” November 9, 2014, Dearborn, Michigan. Provides an overview of computing history in several fields and calls for greater conversation across these research streams.

This issue can be found on Project MUSE