The NBC employee who released footage of Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric, and Elizabeth Vargas struggling to define the Internet back in 1994 has been fired. So much for (corporate) information wanting to be free.
But I also don’t quite understand what all the fuss has been about. Sure, their conversation sounds silly to us today. But this was only 16 years ago. If anything, this clip and its popularity demonstrates how quickly the Internet has become an part of everyday life. Back in 1994, the Internet was not used by the common American. My family got AOL in the next year or two, I remember a friend’s family having Prodigy around this time, but most people had no access and realistically, no need for access. Couric, Gumbel, and Vargas were like many Americans: just trying to figure out what this new technology was and how it was used.
More broadly, this released video fits with patterns of more modern people laughing at or commenting on how much better life is now compared to the past. From the vantage point of 2011, we can see the benefits of the Internet and we are bombarded with messages from companies suggesting we need even more of it (in our phones, in our treadmills, etc.). But anytime new technology is introduced, it takes time for the mass public to figure out whether it is a good change or not.