Probably the thing that I’m most known for would be helping to evangelize the use of the Internet in public libraries. In the United States now, if you walk into a library you’ll see public computers set out and people can get free time on them. But it wasn’t always like that.
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RNP was launched in September 1989, exactly thirty years ago this month. So we’re now at the stage of looking back and seeing how we are at present.
Part of my networking experience as I grew as a networking person, and Internet person, people would come up and say, “Well what was it like to be a woman in a men’s field?” And I’ve gotta compliment the Merit folks who hired the NSFNET staff. They were gender-blind.
So many previous awardees have spoken of the magic sauce of the Internet. The opposite of secret sauce, I guess, because they all use the word “open.” Open standards, open architecture, open source. They said this openness is what made the Internet the Internet. Which sounds mostly right, although not much like how we experience the Internet today.
If you’re looking to the question how can the whole thing be regulated, how can one get control of this whole environment, so as to create a world in which those original freedoms that Barlow was talking about are shared by everyone, the answer is you can’t do it.
I learned a lesson. It’s acceptable to give up one dream. Still, there should be something for us to contribute to human society. In my life, that was the Internet.
Looking at Brazil again thirty years later, we see the very same situation. And the question is what to do. The whole country has been waiting to see when and how recovery will begin, political, economic and so on.
People have asked me, “Why did you create BITNET?” Well, the truthful answer is I was envious of ARPANET users. They had access to the most exciting technology at the time. But ARPANET, as you know, was only available to a relatively small group of developers and researchers. And we didn’t know if it would ever be made available to others.
I had a life-changing moment in 1984 that finally got my students excited about learning. Apple launched a program called Kids Can’t Wait and gave every school in California a computer. Unfortunately the computer did not come with software.
If you talk with people worried about the evolution of technology one of the things they often comment about is that in many cases the future is quite clear. You can see it coming, but you don’t know how far away it is.