A Brief History of the Future: From Radio Days to Internet Years in a Lifetime

Naughton, John

Published by Overlook Books
ISBN 10: 1585671843 / ISBN 13: 9781585671847
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Synopsis: "There is genuine passion in his writing about technology, and readers leave knowing the deep respect Naughton . . . has for the people who created the thing he loves." ( Boston Globe)

"If knowledge is power, this book is an essential read for anyone who wants to be an active player in the 21st century." ( Washington Times)

The Internet is one of the most remarkable and far-reaching achievements of mankind. Yet even as the Net pervades our lives, we begin to take it for granted. Most of us have no idea where the Internet came from, how it works, or what it means for society and the future; John Naughton has the answers.

A Brief History of the Future is a passionate book whose heroes are the visionaries who laid the foundations of the postmodern world; it celebrates the engineers and scientists who implemented their dreams in hardware and software, and explains the values and ideas that drove them. It is also a highly personal account: John Naughton writes about the Net as a part of life, and as a key influence on his own voyage from solitary child to established academic and writer. Above all, A Brief History of the Future is the story of vision and determination, and of the power of ideas to transform the world.

Review: John Naughton, to judge by this learned but lightly written history of modern communications technology, is deeply interested in just about everything. It mystifies the Irish-born Cambridge University scholar that so few people share his fascination with the Internet--and, he grumps, "the higher you go up the social and political hierarchy the worse it gets."

A Brief History of the Future, whose title is just right, is Naughton's attempt to educate the uninitiated in how the Internet came to be. Although its development occurred in starts and stops over a half-century, the Internet came into its own only in the 1990s, with the arrival of the World Wide Web and widely available software to negotiate it. Each of those innovations, though, drew on work that sometimes extends deep into the past, and Naughton does a good job of tracing technical lineages. Though studded with geekspeak, his narrative doesn't presuppose much background knowledge on his readers' part, unlike Stephen Segaller's worthy Nerds 2.0.1., which covers some of the same ground. Naughton's cast of characters includes such scientific and administrative luminaries as Norbert Wiener, Vannevar Bush, Paul Baran, Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds, and Tim Berners-Lee (but, sad to say, not Al Gore), each of whom made contributions large and small to what Naughton insists is a technological revolution with endless possibilities for the common good.

Well-written and richly detailed, Naughton's book is a fine introduction to the Net, and to the countless, largely unsung innovators who made it possible. --Gregory McNamee

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Title: A Brief History of the Future: From Radio ...
Publisher: Overlook Books

Binding: PAPERBACK
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