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Here's how NPR introduced the Internet 20 years ago

Two decades have passed since NPR first hooked its staff up to the Internet. The original introduction memo has surfaced, and it's a blast from the past.

World Wide Web cc image

It was April 28, 1994. A memorandum floated around NPR, addressed to "All Staff." It started with an excited statement: "Internet is coming to NPR!" The two-page memo is a reminder of how the world looked at the Net back when it was so much newer.

The missive contains a solidly succinct explanation of what exactly the Internet is: "Internet is a collection of computer networks that is connected around the world." That still holds true, but the Internet has since blossomed into something much greater. At the time, NPR was more concerned about communicating what it was and how people would use this new thing called "email."

One particularly pertinent descriptive passage on the history of the Internet follows:

It began as a communications link between defense and scientific research institutions, but today is the fastest growing "organization," such that any statistic on the numbers of connected computers and users is obsolete before the numbers are uttered. The term "organization" is used loosely to refer to the Internet, because only the links among computers are users are managed, which is simply for self-replication/preservation.

The memo refers to "friendly software" like Gopher, Veronica, Cello, Mosaic, and World Wide Web as ways to access data on other computers. The memo promises training courses to get staff members up to speed.

Remember "netiquette?" Back then, it was a real thing. "A code of 'netiquette' exists among users and within user groups, but otherwise, you pay your money, find your niche and take your chances," it reads.

The NPR Internet memo is a fun little slice of history. I can't remember the first time I used the Internet, but I wish I had a historic letter reminding me of the momentous occasion. One other piece of the memo is still very relevant today: "If you do not want to use Internet, simply do nothing."

The NPR Internet memo. (Click to enlarge.) Picasa