Holy crap, you find yourself in 1900! How do you describe the Internet?

I have been thinking about it but it is hard, The Internet is so wholly different from anything else incommon life, how could you describe it to someone who is not familiar with the modern world? For that matter, how would you competently describe a computer to an otherwise educated fellow from that era?

I’d just draw a loose parallel to the telegraph, saying that the Internet was a more advanced version that allowed information to be transmitted more quickly and efficiently to a much larger number of users all around the world.

"It’s like a great big picture book, only inside a pane of glass, and the pictures and words come by telephone wire, in code. Then a machine decodes them and they appear on the glass. The machine has a typewriter, too, so you can write messages for everybody to see. And write letters to your friends and family, too. All by electricity.

“Then there’s this thing called wireless…but that’s a whole other story.”

The internet is like the Bra Section of the Sears Catalong, only a helluva lot better!!!

I don’t. I’ve got some money to make if I can figure out how to pass as a guy and work the stock market.

But I’d talk generally about free discourse with people just as if they were in your living room, through incredibly fast written word.

I wouldn’t waste my time, either. Too busy on a Mass Murder Spree. Ah, the “salad days”.

This is tough because in 1900 there ain’t no TVs, no computers, heck not even talking motion pictures! You can slowly explain each of these inventions and how they relate to the internet, but be prepared to face a slack-jawed, incredulous audience. I think that the hardest thing to explain will be the modern computer. I’ve been around since the first computers and I find it hard to believe how far we’ve come in terms of computing power. I can only imagine where we’ll be one hundred years from now.

This book presents some interesting information along those lines. (No pun intended.)

“It’s a system for distributing very realistic paintings of vaginas.”

I’ll go with “I don’t”. The last thing I want to do is spend any time in a turn-of-the-century insane asylum…

First, I think I’d gentle them into acceptance by breaking the idea of a bean, beef and cheese burrito. If they can handle that, I’m in! :smiley:


"Imagine you had a book in your house with nothing in it but the titles of every other book ever written. Now imagine that you are able to tap your finger on any title of any book and the book you have will change into that book. And if you tap your finger a second time it will change back into your original book of titles. The internet works something like that.

People have a machine in their homes or schools or businesses. This machine is like a typewriter connected to a lamp. The typewriter allows words to be entered into the machine and the lamp projects words and images onto a piece of glass. In addition, huge collections are kept in centralized storage areas. Each individual home machine is connected by a means similar to a telegraph to other home machines and to the storage areas. This connection can transfer huge amounts of information at incredible speeds - so fast that the entire contents of a book can be sent from one machine to another or to or from storage in a few seconds."

I don’t think you could describe the Internet successfully to a non-academic person in 1900, as it’s vastly different from anyone’s experience back then. Hell, I came of age when the modern Internet hit the scene and I’m still getting used to it, and I’ve even been working in the computer industry. How do you tell a farmer who may still be using a horse drawn plow about stuff like this:

This board
Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games*
streaming media
homestarrunner.com and other geek culture sites
viruses and malware
the Digital Millenium Copyright Act
the blog phenomenon (ie, the desire to share every damn personal thing with complete strangers)

*available light tried to explain World of Warcraft to her mom. The response was, “And that’s fun?” This is from a woman who has held high positions at software companies.

I don’t think you could describe the Internet successfully to a non-academic person in 1900, as it’s vastly different from anyone’s experience back then. Hell, I came of age when the modern Internet hit the scene and I’m still getting used to it, and I’ve even been working in the computer industry.[/quotre]Of course you could describe it – people in the past weren’t stupid. You just had to put it into the right context.

It’s much like a book discussion group, though all the comments are written down. And it’s open to any subject.

Like children playing cowboys and indians.

It’s like watching a play, though you can see it without leaving your home.

Similar to magazines. The main difference is that they have articles of interest to a small group of people instead of having articles to interest everyone.

Like vandals deliberately letting locusts loose into your field, just for fun. You end up having to spend time to stop them.

The same sort of copyright protection that is in the current law, just modified for the new technology.

It’d be like a pharmacist using the phone to take orders. If everyone phoned or mailed in the orders, the pharmacist could fill them from home and just have an assisntant deliver them to you.

Like writing a diary. The only real difference is that people don’t care that everyone sees it.

And, as a bonus:

The Sears Roebuck catalog, only faster.

In the future, there will be a race of humans known as computer geeks , who will live in their homes like cave dwellers, only venturing out to meet with others of their kind in places called “comic book shops” and “cons.” They’ll never have any interaction with other humans that doesn’t involve fantasy games or something called Star Trek . No one will be exactly sure how this mysterious race of creatures thrives, because none of them ever seem to have dates or know how to interact with members of the opposite sex. Even more strangely, the richest man on the Earth will be one of these creatures.

One day, one of these creatures got the idea to develop a machine that would allow all the inhabitants of the world to waste vast amounts of time, and it was called “The Internet.”

Considering that Guglielmo Marconi had patented a wireless tranmitter/receiver in 1896, and had demonstrated same to the British military, and had a factory in Chelmsford, England opened in 1898, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Could just show the catalogue around. In 1897 Marconi had registered his company as the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company.

And it’s only a year away from Marconi’s first successful trans-Atlantic message, sent from Cornwall, England to Signal Hill, Newfoundland, in December, 1901.

It’s like a card catalog. Only the cards in the catalog have all the information the real books do. And there’s a whole lot of them. The only problem is, the people who write those books on the cards are about as truthful as authors and newspaper reports are now, so you can’t trust what they say one hundred percent, unless you check a few other cards.

Got it? Okay. Now those cards are scattered all over the world, so there’s automatic librarians that index them for you.

Yeah, that’s about it. All the knowlege of all mankind at your fingertips. Not a bad deal.

“You put your right hand on a mouse and move it around on your desk. Pretty soon people show up to give you clothing, frozen vegetables, and pictures of naked women.”

What’s the big deal?

According to one of Martin Gardner’s articles, H.G. Wells described what was essentially the Internet, but I don’t recall in which book this appeared (either Gardner’sd or Wells’ article). Essentially, it was as a central repository for information that could be easily and rapidly accessed from any of a number of stations.

Murray Leinster’s story “A Logic Named Joe” is uncanny in its prescience about the internet – but he wrote it in the 1940s, so it’s well beyond the date the OP sets.,