Stuff About the Computer

This covers a lot of territory, and making it orderly is a pretty big challenge. The following is mostly, at least initially, a place to stash links I happen upon as I work toward the on-computers part of the course, along with whatever bones of thoughts occur that need preservation for later gnawing.

What we're doing here is wrestling with understanding an evolutionary process that we're completely entwined in ourselves --it's difficult to find any vantage point from which to view the field of battle 'objectively', and there's so much going on that it's hard to decide to whom it makes sense to listen.

I realize that my own approach to exploring new territory is primarily linguistic: I'm fond of following up on the multifarious appearances and shifting meanings of words, and this time I began with the territory around cyber-, since that seems to be a widely-appropriated rubric for the phenomenon we're attempting to comprehend.

We're faced with an extraordinarily broad spectrum of kinds of literature, including scientific, hortatory, reportorial, speculative, fictional, muckraking, Luddite... to name but a few.

What 1999 finds us enmeshed in is a remarkably recent "consensual hallucination", in the words of William Gibson:
Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts...A graphical representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding... (from Neuromancer)

15 Feb
A search for 'jacking in' brought these disparate items:

16 Feb
Quick trolls of Annie for cyberspace and cybern*, and some early 'cyberspace' occurrences from Lexis/Nexis.

And n.b. that QA76.9 .C66 has a whole lot of "what is this???" books about computer evolution

Much of this thread was occasioned by some reading in

 AUTHOR       Noble, David F. (David Franklin), 1935-
 TITLE        Forces of production : a social history of industrial
                automation / David F. Noble.
 PUBLISHER    New York : Knopf, 1984.
 SUBJECT      Machine-tools -- Numerical control -- Social aspects -- United
              Automation -- Social aspects -- United States.
              Technology -- Social aspects -- United States.
 Science Library        TJ1189 .N63 1984
about the early development of computer-controlled manufacturing, specifically the machining of helicopter rotor blades (pp 96ff). In something of the same context (more exactly, with the MIT Servo connection, Forrester world dynamics, etc.), The World in a Machine: origins and impacts of early computerized global systems models (Paul N. Edwards)

William Gibson

Here's what he says about the term "cyberspace", which he's generally credited with having coined:
Assembled word cyberspace from small and readily available components of language. Neologic spasm: the primal art of pop poetics. Preceded any concept whatever. Slick and hollow --awaiting received meaning.

All I did: folded words as taught. Now other words accrete in the interstices.
(from "Academy Leader", in Benedikt 1991:27)

Take a peek at the first chapter of Neuromancer for a bit of the noir.

When I re-read Gibson's first trilogy I thought it might be interesting to see how it's represented in webspace. A search on Alta Vista for 'neuromancer' turned up about 5000 hits, and these are the cream (the most useful/groundbreaking/stimulating...) of the first 200:

Geospace and Cyberspace (essays from Syracuse)

A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age (Esther Dyson, George Gilder, Jay Keyworth and Alvin Toffler) --Progress and Freedom Foundation document ["...a not-for-profit research and educational organization dedicated to creating a positive vision of the future founded in the historic principles of the American idea"]. Associated with Newt Gingrich.

From City of Bits (William J. Mitchell) [TK5105.5 .M57 1995], and cf Frederick Jackson Turner:
The early days of cyberspace were like those of the western frontier. Parallel, breakneck development of the Internet and of consumer computing devices and software quickly created an astonishing new condition; a vast, hitherto-unimagined territory began to open up for exploration. Early computers had been like isolated mountain valleys ruled by programmer-kings; the archaic digital world was a far-flung range in which narrow, unreliable trails provided only tenuous connections among the multitudinous tiny realms. An occasional floppy disk or tape would migrate from one to the other, bringing the makings of colonies and perhaps a few unnoticed viruses. But networking fundamentally changed things --as clipper ships and railroads changed the preindustrial world-- by linking the increasingly numerous individual fragments of cyberturf into one huge, expanding system. (pp109-110)

17 Feb
I'm doing some investigation of the linguistic territory around cyber* in the OED, which we note has nothing to say about the flowering of 'cyber-' in compounds like 'cyberspace', 'cyberpunk', 'cyberlore', since the entries stop in 1970. Where might we find some analysis of the last 30 years of semantic development?

One interesting source is New Hacker's Dictionary, which offers these entries in the vicinity of 'cyber'. FOLDOC, an online dictionary of computer terminology, offers these:

cyber cyberbunny cyberchondriac cybercrud CyberGlove cybernetics cyberrhea cybersex cyberspace cyberspastic cyber-squatting CyberWand CyberZine

Some other links, consequent upon a search for "cyber* near linguistic""

18 Feb
I've been working on a brand new book:

 AUTHOR       Hayles, N. Katherine.
 TITLE        How we became posthuman : virtual bodies in cybernetics,
                literature, and informatics / N. Katherine Hayles.
 PUBLISHER    Chicago, Ill. : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
 SUBJECT      Artificial intelligence.
              Computer science.
              Virtual reality.
              Virtual reality in literature.
 Science Library        Q335 .H394 1999
which develops all sorts of issues akin to those raised by Kurzweil's book. Here are some bits:
Information... came to be conceptualized as an entity separate from the material forms in which it is thought to be embedded ...a conception of information as a (disembodied) entity that can flow between carbon-based organic components and silicon-based electronic components to make protein and silicon operate as a single system. (pg 2)

What is the posthuman? Think of it as a point of view characterized by the following assumptions... First, the posthuman view privileges informational pattern over material instantiation, so that embodiment in a biological substrate is seen as an accident of history rather than an inevitability of life. Second, the posthuman view considers consciousness, regarded as the seat of human identity in the Western tradition long before Descartes thought he was a mind thinking, as an epiphenomenon, as an evolutionary upstart trying to claim that it is the whole show when in actuality it is only a minor sideshow. Third, the posthuman view thinks of the body as the original prosthesis we all learn to manipulate, so that extending or replacing the body with other prostheses becomes a continuation of a process that began before we were born. Fourth, and most important, by these and other means, the posthuman view configures human being so that it can be seamlessly articulated with intelligent machines. In the posthuman, there are no essential differences or absolute demarcations between bodily existence and computer simulation, cybernetic mechanism and biological organism, robot technology and human goals. (pp 2-3)

During the foundational era of cybernetics, Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Claude Shannon, Warren McCulloch, and dozens of other distinguished researchers met at annual conferences sponsored by the Josiah Macy Foundation to formulate the central concepts that, in their high expectations, would coalesce into a theory of communication and control applying equally to animals, humans, and machines. Retrospectively called the Macy Conferences on Cybernetics, these meetings, held from 1943 to 1954, were instrumental in forging a new paradigm. To succeed, they needed a theory of information (Shannon's bailiwick), a model of neural functioning that showed how neurons worked as information-processing systems (McCulloch's lifework), computers that processed binary code and that could conceiveably reproduce themselves, thus reinforcing the analogy with biological systems (von Neumann's specialty), and a visionary who could articulate the larger implications of the cybernetic paradigm and make clear its cosmic significance (Wiener's contribution). The result of this breathtaking enterprise was nothing less than a new way of looking at human beings. Henceforth, humans were to be seen primarily as information-processing entities who are essentially similar to intelligent machines. (pg 7)

The Neuromancer trilogy gave a local habitation and a name to the disparate spaces of computer simulations, networks, and hypertext windows that, before Gibson's intervention, had been discussed as separate phenomena. Gibson's novels acted like seed crystals thrown into a supersaturated solution: the time was ripe for the technology known as cyberspace to precipitate into public consciousness... (pg 36)

Incidentally, this is one of those books it's interesting to approach via its [very nicely done] index --a scan through the pages is sure to send the reader off to follow up a reference or two or three.

19 Feb
Thomas B. Riley (publications, including Living in the Electronic Village)

22 Feb
Here are two famously prescient Licklider articles: "Man-Computer Symbiosis" (1960) and "The Computer as a Communication Device" (1968). Lotsa pages (46, if printed out...), but can be read in .pdf form.

24 Feb
I'm inching toward another course proposal for next year, in which the computer-as-technology is the nexus of threads that extend to all other disciplines, and which would make use of a forest of essential texts and concepts that I think anybody needs to be aware of to be "educated". At this moment the likeliest "text" (for the breadth of intellectual background it provides) I imagine for such a course is:

 AUTHOR       Dyson, George, 1953-
 TITLE        Darwin among the machines : the evolution of global
                intelligence / George B. Dyson.
 PUBLISHER    Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., c1997.
 SUBJECT      Artificial intelligence.
              Artificial life.
              Neural networks (Computer science)
 Science Library        Q335 .D97 1997

1 Mar
Here's a brief sketch:

The Machine and The Garden:
history and prospects of humanity computing

How did computers become entwined in every aspect of our lives? What can we expect in the next 20 years of the evolution of silicon-based life forms? This course will use classic texts, syntheses, predictions, critiques and fictional extrapolations to explore technological history, scientific and social implications, philosophical issues and utopian visions of the computer.

Among the texts and stimulus materials:

A link to some occurrences of the machine/garden trope

7 Mar
A day of reading journals produced a 20-year summary of my work in and around computers.

My first direct and personal involvement with computers began in December 1962, when I got a job as a research assistant to an anthropologist who was doing a massive project to summarize then-available cross-cultural data (Robert B. Textor, A Cross-Cultural Summary, HRAF Press 1964). I fed cards into machines, did coding, checked crosstabs... In the same machine room with the card sorters and reproducing punches I was using was Phil Stone's General Inquirer project, an early example of a large-scale attempt to use computer power to address issues in language and meaning, still remembered, as indicated by these General Inquirer links:

9 March
In addition to the perspective that concentrates on 'productivity', another view of the world of computing emphasizes communication, and especially the potentials of networking amongst participants. Here's a link to an article on Community from Esther Dyson's Release 1.0 (1993 --which makes it interesting as a bellwether [and there are lots of others that might be seen as bellwethers, a valuable perspective]). Another on Multi-User Virtual Environments (1994) carries interactivity in the direction of simultaneity. Another interesting one is The Fridge Door (1997), which discusses a lot of real-life domestic uses. See for access to other free articles from this publication. An interesting example of ...well, what? The annual price is $695...

This raises the interesting linked questions: what do I wish for in the evolution of computers? What would I like to be able to do better in the electronic medium? What are the current problems to which I'd like solutions?

For me, the content unit of the weblet has been a godsend: a construction kit for things I'm thinking about and looking into, a means to reach audiences, an ever-growing pool (forest?) of connections amongst my interests and activities... But I'm constrained to some degree by the interface: I'm still using the computer as a glorified typewriter, as evidenced by how I compose things (hard-coding HTML through a UNIX window, mostly --not WYSIWYG, though I do use Netscape's Composer for some pages [but can't when I'm working from home, since I can't reach network drives]; and I tend to write pages that go on and on, with occasional links, rather than constructions of links that go round and round). And the pages I make are confined to this small CRT window. What I'd like is a touch-active wall unit, a sort of a giant bulletin board, which I could use as an organizational interface and means of composition. One sector would be the 'glorified typewriter' for creation of text that comes from the head, but others would offer other modes of input and facilitate manipulations (like digitizing, linking, editing) without the keyboard. The whole would be a means to organize and interlink and make accessible to others what's in my head...

I can and do accomplish a lot of the above within the constraints of CRT-confined web pages, by way of workarounds like scanners, and I should be making better use of the flexibility of linkage that HTML encourages. My pages should look less like 8 1/2 x 11 paper on a computer screen.

I did some searches in FirstSearch (Applied Science and Technology) to see what I could find for early mentions of "world wide web" and "internet" and did find some useful items. Here's one that underlines how recent our take-it-for-granted present is:

       TITLE: What a tangled Web they wove.  
      SOURCE: New Scientist v. 143 (July 30 '94) p. 35-9 
        DATE: 1994
    ABSTRACT: The struggle to build links between the fragmented data on the 
              Internet computer network is considered.  Although the 
              Internet encompasses over 20 million computers in over 60 
              countries, there is still no central point for finding out 
              what information is held on the system.  In 1989, a computer 
              programmer at CERN began development of a system of "server" 
              and "browser" computer programs to form a hypertextual system 
              called the Web.  In this system, each of the documents that 
              the browser displays has links to other routes of information. 
              A protocol language called Hypertext Markup Language spells 
              out exactly how a document should be formatted in order to 
              work on the Web.  In 1992, programmers at the National Center 
              for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois 
              in Champaign-Urbana developed NCSA Mosaic, a way of accessing 
              the Web using icons and a mouse.  Versions of Mosaic are now 
              available for X-Windows, Windows, and Mac systems.
     SUBJECT: Network servers. 
              World Wide Web.
(A fuller set of results from these searches is available)

A whole other subject is growth. Some figures:

What makes the Internet's behavior really hard to understand, said Paxson, is that it's a complex system, like a living organism or a natural ecosystem. "It's an immense moving target," he explained. "Things change all the time." In January 1990, he said, there were only 200,000 Internet hosts. A year ago, there were 30 million. Today there are 43 million. "If you blink," read the slide he was showing at that moment, "you're out of date."

At his own workplace, Lawrence Berkeley Labs, World Wide Web traffic has doubled every six weeks since 1994. "We didn't anticipate that growth," Paxson said. "Even the dreamers didn't anticipate that growth." Nor did they anticipate the unpredictable nature of the traffic patterns.
(from The Internet as Model Organism by Lois Wingerson, In HMS Beagle: The BioMedNet Magazine (, Issue 49 (Mar. 5).)

I've examined some stuff in journals from the early part of this decade, when the Internet was just getting known outside geek circles and the WWW was still unnamed. A nice example, from December 1992 Communications of the ACM:

The personal computer has become my most important communication tool. I spend more time on the Net, the Internet and the global network to which it is connected, than I do on the phone, writing letters, sending faxes and watching television put together. the only medium where I spend more time is print. In the last 2 or 3 years the Net has become an indispensable part of my professional life; it is where I work and meet with colleagues... nearly all of my colleagues have also moved their offices to Cyberspace...

...the vision of the Net grew out of the realization that users of the first, experimental time-sharing systems formed communities... early email software, bulletin boards, and shared subroutine libraries made their community-building effect apparent...
(Larry Press "The Net: progress and opportunity". Communications of the ACM [December 1992] 35:12:21)

10 Mar
I've been looking for early statements about the WWW, and found this one in the August 1994 Communications of the ACM:

The World-Wide Web (W3) was developed to be a pool of human knowledge, which would allow collaborators in remote sites to share their ideas and all aspects of a common project... The idea of the Web was prompted by positive experience of a small "home brew" personal hypertext system used for keeping track of personal information on a distributed project. The Web was designed so that if it was used independently for two projects, and later relationships were found between the projects, then no major or centralized changes would have to be made, but the information could smoothly reshape to represent the new state of knowledge. this property of scaling has allowed the Web to expand rapidly from its origins at CERN across the Internet irrespective of boundaries of nations or disciplines.

...W3 has come to stand for a number of things, which should be distinguished. These include

...The W3 initiative occupies the meeting point of many fields of technology. Users put pressure and effort into bringing about the adoption of W3 in new areas. Apart from being a place of communication and learning, and a new market place, the Web is a show ground for new developments in information technology.

(Berners-Lee, Tim et al. "The World-Wide Web"
Communications of the ACM [August 1994] 37:8:76-82)

Some Babbage links:

OBS Cyberspace Extension of Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital

Net Losses: Cyberhype gives way to cybergripe in unexpected realms Copyright 1995 James Gleick. First published in The New Yorker, 22 May 1995.

Some other James Gleick material, mostly short articles

Here Come the neo-Luddites: Three Approaches Towards Encroaching Technology Reviewed by David Silver

Some idle wondering about concordances (as an example of the uses of computers in the humanities) led me to a search for 'concordances NEAR computer':

11 March
Some thoughts on the Electronic Frontier, occasioned by an NPR story this morning on "forensic electronic discovery" and the book

 AUTHOR       Ludlow, Peter, 1957-
 TITLE        High noon on the electronic frontier : conceptual issues in
                cyberspace / Peter Ludlow.
 PUBLISHER    Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1996.
 SUBJECT      Computers -- Social aspects.
              Information superhighway -- Social aspects.
              Computer networks -- Security measures.
              Sex -- Computer network resources.
 Science Library        QA76.9.C66 L84 1996
...a whole new mode of communications, of interaction, and of action itself --how are we to map our understandings of law, ethics, psychology, and the social order to this new arena of human behavior?
(Mike Goodwin, Foreword, pg xiii)

Among the issues is that of property, specifically intellectual property. Here's what one Founding Father has to say:

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its particular character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
--Thomas Jefferson, quoted by John Perry Barlow in High Noon on the Electronic Frontier, pg 9)
Barlow's whole article, Selling Wine without Bottles: the economy of mind on the global net, is worth reading in its entirety, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation is worth exploring in detail. And there's an archive of Barlow's EFF articles. His Is There a There in Cyberspace? is another worthwhile piece.

Barlow's notion of "Cyberspace, the native home of Mind" (in "Selling Wine...") is tempting. So is what he has to say in the section "A Taxonomy of Information", six pages or so (excerpted below) of (somewhat Delphic) explication of the ideas that

Turner keeps coming back to haunt me as I read about the evolution of what we now call Cyberspace. A chapter called "The Rise and Fall of Netville: the saga of a cyberspace construction boomtown in the Great Divide" (King, Grinter and Pickering) in Sara Kiesler (ed.) Culture of the Internet (1997) is not strictly Turnerian, but consider this characterization:

...the story of the homesteading of the unique virtual settlement of Netville within which the Internet was born. The pioneers of Netville faced the hardships of a technological frontier but they also exploited a great divide --a zone of freedom and opportunity that allowed them to create something truly new. Netville was a community where deeply ingrained institutional values of intellectual curiosity, informal meritocratic reward structures, and egalitarian presumptions enabled a highly disaggregated and distributed population to work together to create an amazing artifact quite unlike any seen before. Through their labors, the people of Netville created cyberspace and a community that was geographically distributed but bound together by a shared interest in a technology that was both the subject and the object of their efforts. (pg 4)

...This idyllic state began to change around 1990 as the news of Netville and of cyberspace began to spread to new domains --to commercial firms, nonprofit organizations, and most important, the media. Soon the tides of immigration flooded Netville with new settlers, and with them came powerful new institutional interests that displaced the institutional forces that gave life to Netville... (pg 4)

There is little doubt that the founding citizens of Netville have lost their ownership of the electronic frontier. Their cozy home in the great divide is rapidly being colonized by commercial organizations, followed closely by regulators who wish to control access, uses, content, and so on. The citizens of Netville will never regain control over cyberspace. Curiously, the citizens of Netville can be said to have manufactured their own downfall. By developing a technically sophisticated network and encouraging universal access for all, they maintained low barriers to entry to a highly desirable resource... Some of the early citizens of Netville have found very lucrative niches in the new commercial order, and have apparently found happiness in doing so...

Netville joins the list of legendary ghost towns with little but relics and ruins to mark what was one a vibrant and progressive social venture... In the other vision Netville evolves in the model of Las Vegas. Las Vegas was a sleepy village until the lure of the Dynamo brought can-do engineers and builders, backed by huge sums of federal money, to build a great hydroelectric dam across the Colorado River... Las Vegas capitalized on its rapidly developed infrastructure of vice-filled entertainment, which served the huge dam project, leveraged by the cheap electricity produced by the dam. (pp 24-25)

And here's another book that drifted across my desk. David S. Bennahum's Extra Life: coming of age in cyberspace (Basic Books 1998) pointed out the obvious to me:

Where's the operating system? was the first thing I thought as I stared at the Macintosh'e screen. Where is the system?

There's no operating system on the Mac. Then I understood, with a mixture of bliss and disgust, that the interface is the operating system! You can't "go" deeper. This machine wasn't built for programming. It was built for using programs... You could use this Macintosh --no, you could master this Macintosh-- without having to understand how it worked. Magic, beauty, metaphor had replaced the tactile thing, the sinews of logic gates and charged electrons...

On the surface the Macintosh appeared to represent the triumph of the ideals of a collaborative man-machine symbiosis that began in the 1960s, when computers created the first hacker cultures in universities. Here was a machine designed to "augment" our intellect through easy yet powerful software applications... (pp 210-211)

12 Mar
I haven't tackled Artificial Intelligence yet. There's a nice clear article by Ray Kurzweil: "Another formula for intelligence: the neural net paradigm" for starters. It has this somewhat startling sentence:

The purpose of a neuron is to destroy information. Indeed the selective destruction of information is what intelligence is all about. Artificial intelligence (AI) pioneer Ed Feigenbaum says that "Knowledge is not the same as information; knowledge is information that has been pared and shaped."

See also Kevin Gurney's historical summary, part of a larger document.

And of the Jacquard loom:

The Analytical Engine weawes algebraic patterns just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves. (Ada Lovelace)

I chanced upon The Difference Dictionary, and accompaniment to William Gibson and Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine. Lots of interesting links. And here's a picture of the business end of the Jacquard loom:

15 March
Today's catch is these two:

 AUTHOR       Norman, Donald A.
 TITLE        The invisible computer : why good products can fail, the 
                personal computer is so complex, and information 
                appliances are the solution / Donald A. Norman.
 PUBLISHER    Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1998.
 SUBJECT      Microcomputers.
              Human-computer interaction.
 Science Library        QA76.5 .N665 1998

 TITLE        Talking nets : an oral history of neural networks / edited by
                James A. Anderson and Edward Rosenfeld.
 PUBLISHER    Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1998.
 SUBJECT      Neural computers.
              Neural networks (Computer science)
              Scientists -- Interviews.
 Science Library        QA76.87 .T37 1998

Donald Norman's home page is chock full of interesting things. His Preface,Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 are available (from MIT Press), as is Being Analog (Chapter 7), which begins

We are analog beings trapped in a digital world, and the worst part is, we did it to ourselves.

Paul Saffo's Welcome to the laser decade: "...the communications laser is replacing the microprocessor as the fundamental enabling technology reshaping the computing and communications terrain today." (From a Harvard Business School Colloquium, 1995 [Multimedia and the Boundaryless World])

Of Talking Nets:

Since World War II, a group of scientists has been attempting to understand the human nervous system and to build computer systems that emulate the brain's abilities. Many of the early workers in this field of neural networks came from cybernetics; others came from neuroscience, physics, electrical engineering, mathematics, psychology, even economics. In this collection of interviews, those who helped to shape the field share their childhood memories, their influences, how they became interested in neural networks, and what they see as its future.

The subjects tell stories that have been told, referred to, whispered about, and imagined throughout the history of the field. Together, the interviews form a Rashomon-like web of reality. Some of the mythic people responsible for the foundations of modern brain theory and cybernetics, such as Norbert Wiener, Warren McCulloch, and Frank Rosenblatt, appear prominently in the recollections. The interviewees agree about some things and disagree about more. Together, they tell the story of how science is actually done, including the false starts, and the Darwinian struggle for jobs, resources, and reputation. Although some of the interviews contain technical material, there is no actual mathematics in the book.
(from MIT Press web site)

And here's a snippet from a Washington Post article on various aspects of digital information at the Library of Congress:

Billington believes the library must play a role in saving the Internet from turning into a dumb-bunny domain, a mere offshoot of what he calls the "audiovisual culture." The Internet shortens attention spans, he says. It destroys the sentence, the foundation of the English language, with its diction-mangling chat rooms. And the Internet is heavily skewed toward recent information, the latest data, with little trace of older material. A person might surf the Web for hours and not encounter anything written before 1995.

"It's inherently destructive of memory," Billington said. "You think you're getting lots more [information] until you've found out you've made a bargain with the Devil. You've slowly mutated, and have become an extension of the machine." (from

Another pair of books, found via Norman's bibliography:

 TITLE        HAL's legacy : 2001s computer as dream and reality / edited by
                David G. Stork.
 PUBLISHER    Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press, c1997.
 SUBJECT      Computer science.
 Science Library        QA76 .H265 1997

 AUTHOR       Norman, Donald A.
 TITLE        Things that make us smart : defending human attributes in 
                the age of the machine / Donald A. Norman.
 PUBLISHER    Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., c1993.
 SUBJECT      Technology -- Philosophy.
              Cognitive science.
              Man-machine systems.
 Science Library        T14 .N67 1993

And here's a nice summary statement by Norman:

I have been increasingly bothered by the lack of reality in academic research. University-based research can be clever, profound, and deep, but surprisingly often it has little or no impact upon scientific knowledge or upon society at large. University-based science is meant to impress one's colleagues: What matters is precision, rigor, and reproducibility, even if the result bears little relevance to the phenomena under study. Whetehr the work has any relevance to broader issues is seldom addressed. This is a common problems in the human and social sciences, where the phenomena are especially complex, variable, and heavily influenced by context. Most academic study is designed to answer questions raised by previous academic studies. This natural propensity tends to make the studies ever more specialized, ever more esoteric, thereby removed even further from concerns and issues of the world.
(Preface to Things That Make Us Smart 1993:xii-xiii)

Motto of the 1933 Chicago World's Fair: Science Finds, Industry Applies, Man Conforms.

19 Mar
Electronic Labyrinth home page, with a fascinating timeline that casts very interesting light on the history of hypertext.