The Internet will be a fad with little value

The Internet will be a fad
He thought the Internet had no future. Merely a fad. A passing fancy.
We were reminded of scientist Clifford Stoll yesterday when we posted a photo from when the Internet first came to NPR. MPR News reporter Curtis Gilbert recently stumbled upon a gem from the MPR archives, a 1995 interview with Stoll by MPR host Paula Schroeder. Stoll was promoting his book Silicon Snake Oil (at the same time he also published a Newsweek article titled, "The Internet? Bah!")

"STOLL: I'd say it's not that important. I think it's grossly oversold and within two or three years people will shrug and say, '"Uh yep, it was a fad of the early 90's and now, oh yeah, it still exists but hey, I've got a life to lead and work to do. I don't have time to waste online." Or, "I'll collect my email, I'll read it, why should I bother prowling around the Worldwide Web or reading the Usenet" simply because there's so little of value there."


Cliff Stoll gave a talk at the Commonwealth Club of California on April 4, 1996. The video for the talk is available here:

He mentions libraries several times. He also discusses information, knowledge, and wisdom. Interesting and entertaining talk.

Clearly the Internet is useful. It is what is allowing you to see his video. Did Cliff make some statements that when singled out seem crazy or at least over broad? Sure/ But he is a very thoughtful man in general and if you listen to the totality of his talk you will find it interesting.

He is no doubt a very thoughtful man in general, and a likable curmudgeon... but damn he was SO FAR OFF on so many things in that book. One of my profs made us read a few chapters in library school in (97 or maybe it was 96?) and even then I remember thinking he was wrong more than he was right in that book.

I am assuming you are referring to Silicon Snake Oil. He also wrote a book called High-Tech Heretic: Reflections of a Computer Contrarian. I may go back and read both books again just to remember all of what he did say. His nonfiction book where he caught a German hacker is a good read -- The Cuckoo's Egg: Tracking a Spy Through the Maze of Computer Espionage

Silicon Snake Oil, yup, some of the things still stick with me, the biggest being "this isn't perfect so it's stupid to even use it" he applied that logic to email and search engines (assuming I remember it correctly still).

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