– Clifford Stoll, 1995
In a 1995 Newsweek column entitled “The Internet? Bah,” astronomer, author, hacker and computer geek Clifford Stoll bravely dissed the newfangled gizmo formerly known as the WWW. He claimed it overflowed with a “cacophony” of voices and opinions – some intelligent and worthy of our attention, but many not. He spoke of a “wasteland of unfiltered data” and problematic information searches. He asked facetiously, “Who needs teachers when you’ve got computer-aided education?” And he lamented there was no trustworthy way to send virtual money.
Funny – when you consider Stoll flapped his yap all the way back in the Internet breast-feeding days of 1995, much of what he said was on target. But then he made his mistake – predicting the future based on his current experiences. Aside from the excerpts above, Stoll went after e-tailing: “So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?” and got all sarcastic over the future of book-selling and printed media: “Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”
Stoll, obviously, was seriously mistaken. Yet he’s remained good-natured about it. After his column reappeared on Boing Boing in 2010, Stoll chimed in the comments, “Of my many mistakes, flubs, and howlers, few have been as public as my 1995 howler. Wrong? Yep.” Later, he added, “And, as I’ve laughed at others’ foibles, I think back to some of my own cringeworthy contributions. Now, whenever I think I know what’s happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff…”
Click through the different predictions below: