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History of the Internet: A Chronology, 1843 to the Present Library Binding – April 1, 1999
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This work presents a readable history of perhaps the biggest technological phenomena of this century. The intent, according to the preface, is to weave "together . . . the many strands that make up the history of the Internet: technological, military, educational, corporate, and civilian." The chronology is current through the November 1998 announcement of America Online's plan to purchase Netscape. (To satisfy the curious, the year 1843 saw the publication of Ada Lovelace's Sketch of the Analytical Engine, a work that helped publicize Charles Babbage's ideas.)
Each of the first seven chronologically arranged chapters opens with five or six pages giving a descriptive overview of the span of years covered within that chapter, the work features year-by-year entries of key events. The descriptions are quite detailed compared to most chronologies, typically ranging from two hundred to more than eight hundred words per event. Because of the intertwining of the Internet with computers in general, History of the Internet can practically be considered a history of computing. Entries cover such topics as the invention of the transistor, the debut of the Macintosh, Usenet, and the first use of the term cyberspace. In addition to the chronology entries, there are several separate boxed entries in each chapter on such themes as "Biography," "From the Hacker File," "Media History," and "Netspeak." The various biographies feature a "who's who" of computing: Tim Berners-Lee, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mitchell Kapor, among others. The work's eighth chapter, "Future Trends," covers such topics as the Microsoft trial, advertising on the Internet, and Internet2. The work concludes with some statistical appendixes, bibliographies for each chapter, a brief glossary, biographies of the four authors, and a detailed index. Black-and-white photographs are scattered throughout the volume. The bibliographies are noteworthy for including recent works as well as historically significant works. Many entries in the bibliography, appropriately enough, are Web sites^-with the caveat that the addresses are current as of January 1999.
There are places where the breezy style of the authors almost detracts from the information itself. A section heading in the introduction of chapter 2, for example, is titled "A Sputnik Cocktail: (Two Parts Stolichnaya and One Part Sour Grapes)." The lack of cross-references within the entries themselves is unfortunate. The 1998 entry Linux Operating System Becomes a Cause Celebre, for example, fails to refer the reader to an earlier entry, Linus Torvalds Develops the Linux Operating System, that appears in the 1991 section. One error was spotted--it is stated that the Yahoo! Web directory uses the AltaVista engine when in fact they switched to Inktomi in July_ 1998.
This work can justifiably find a home in the reference collection or in the circulating collection, because an interested layperson could read it cover to cover. Public, academic, and secondary-school libraries looking for a readable, nontechnical history of the Internet will want to purchase this reasonably priced volume. But do so quickly--the Internet is changing as this is written.
"This is a terrific reference book, both well written and thorough. It will be welcome in any library, and in many personal offices as well." - American Reference Books Annual
"Recommended to general and undergraduate readers who need a broad, nontechnical history of the Internet." - Choice
"The volume contains extensive reference material, statistics, reading lists, and worldwide Internet distribution. The appendix information alone is worth the purchase price of this user-friendly book. Highly recommended." - The Book Report
"The extensive bibliography and glossary, importance of the topic, readability of the entries, and large number of topics covered make this an important work for all types of libraries and readers." - American Libraries
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The editors' decision to use present-perfect tense on past events seemed, at times, disconcerting; as did the decision to handle events on a straight chronological basis rather than to follow a specific development through a multi-year transistion in a single section.
The book has an excellent bibliography at the end for further reading on key points of interest. It is good to be aware of this from the start, since the book does not use footnotes and, when read as a whole, there were times when I wanted that "hyperlink to more details."