Title says it all. The internet featured in a number of early '80s films, for example Wargames. Were there any earlier tv shows (or indeed films) that used the internet as part of the plot?
I’m not sure if Wargames is based on the internet. Wasn’t he using a dial-up modem to access a mainframe directly?
It’s that long since I’ve seen it I can’t say for sure. I thought he accessed the internet, however I could be incorrect. Maybe Tron is a better example from a similar time period?
I don’t think “Tron” counts as Internet, either. I’d say “Star Trek.” That was one of the early programs where a computer was shown as an interface to what was apparently a network of libraries, databases, etc. Mostly, computers had been shown to do number crunching. They didn’t call it “Internet,” but it had a similar concept.
That’s a good answer but I was thinking more of shows in a contemporary setting rather than a future one. I know Tron and Wargames are of course speculative fiction but they’re both set in the times they were made.
Wargames was definitely not about the internet. He dialed into and accessed the WOPR directly. If it had been the internet, he’d have dialed into, say U of Washington and then used telnet to get there.
The first television show I remember to mention the internet by name was Seinfeld. ETA: A little research leads me to believe I’m remembering episode 8.19, “The Yada Yada,” which I admit is too late to likely be the actual first. EATA: And, of course, that’s just a mention, not a plot device.
Suburban kids in 1983 didn’t have access to the Internet and in fact very few people had even heard of it. If Matt and Allie had been using the Internet, they would have baffled most the audience, and made a select few laugh derisively.
Still *Wargames *had the idea that every computer in the world was connected to an all-encompassing network, just one based on dialup phone lines, rather than Cisco routers. If you could just figure out the right phone number for your modem to dial and a password for access, you could get into anything. It was something like the early Internet in concept.
Not sure if that was how Wargames billed it, pretty sure the Broderick character explained it realistically to his girlfriend and us the audience that certain computers had phone numbers through which they could be accessed. There was no hopping from computer to computer once you logged into one. If you found a bank’s, free cash! If you found an airline, free tickets! If you found a gaming company’s, unreleased games, like Global Thermonuclear War… hmmm, that sounds like a fun one.
Back to the OP, I was thinking that X-Files might have been an early adopter of Internet plotlines… my first thought was the Lone Gunmen, but they just had a crusty paper 'zine as far as I can remember.
Murder, She Wrote on the Hallmark Channel is one of my day off guilty pleasures, and there’s an episode from perhaps the 1990 season that hinges on the killer’s miraculous ability to access his home computer from a completely different one.
The great thing about that episode is that all the characters call it “internet”, without the definite article. So it’s all “Tell me again how one sends a message on internet,” etc. It’s surprisingly jarring.
It’s not a TV show, but the Terminator movie (1984) stated about Skynet:
“Defense network computers. New… powerful… hooked into everything, trusted to run it all. They say it got smart, a new order of intelligence. Then it saw all people as a threat, not just the ones on the other side. Decided our fate in a microsecond: extermination.”
Didn’t call it “the Internet”, though.
Seems like early Law & Order had some internet plot devices.
Dawson’s Creek, 90210, and X-Files had internet plot devices, but I’m not sure how early.
Simpson’s did it.
Probably all from the 90s, tho.
I can’t narrow it down any, darn it all.
Argh, The X-Files would certainly be a strong contender. The season 3 episode “2Shy” certainly uses the internet as a plot point. Aired November 3, 1995, a mere 2.5 months after Joe Sixpack and Jane Boxwine got internet access built in.
That’s not how I remember it. I think the Broderick character had a war dialer that tried phone numbers continuously until it found a modem, then saved the modem list for further investigation. So each destination required a different dialup number. That’s not the modern concept of an Internet, as you are only connected with one place at a time.
The first Simpsons’ reference to the internet, albeit not a plot device, that I recall is in Homer Goes to College.
The show aired in October, 1993.
I vaguely recall an early episode of L&O that included a BBS as part of the plot.
Little House on the Prairie had an episode where little Laura is IMing someone she thought was a 3rd grader from China but who ended up being a local pervert who lived in the church basement.
Or did I dream that?
Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970) had computers linked together, didn’t it? Not just the Soviet and USA big ones, but all the little ones in the silos, too, right?
I also have fond memories of an HBO Real Sex spinoff called Sex Bytes from the mid 90s that was basically Real Sex style stories presented in a cyberspace sort of framework. Porn? On the Internet? Shocking!
There was an episode of the cartoon Bobby’s World that was all about the internet. And they definitely called it by name, along with “World Wide Web” and “Information Superhighway.” I think his parents get hooked on it.
If it’s the episode I’m thinking of, “Bobby On-line” aired October 1995.
One of the mystery arcs on “Ghostwriter” used the Internet as its main plot device–“Who is Max Mouse?”, which aired between 12-26-93 and 1-16-94. I don’t recall if the word “Internet” was used, but the episodes did employ modems, chat rooms and hacking as part of the mystery. Oh, and the team learned that Ghostwriter could travel through the 'net!
When I first watched these, I was in elementary school and the idea of chatting and playing games with other computer users in real time seemed just baffling.
This is funny to me, because in '83, I had seen the internet at UW. Sort of.
My roommate in the dorms at the University of Washington was from Palo Alto. He had an H19 terminal and a 300-baud modem, which was virtually unheard of then. But even better, he had friends in the Stanford comp-sci department (not to mention Xerox and HP) that let him use their ARPAnet accounts. He’d dial a toll-free number in Omaha or somewhere, then choose his university. Then he’d be connected to the machines at M.I.T., Carnegie-Mellon, or wherever.
I remember MIT had one mainframe devoted to a math-solving program. It could do calculus, once you learned how to tell it the problem.
Needless to say, every comp-sci nerd in the dorm would show up at our door at all hours. But we were freshmen, so we didn’t sleep.
I still regret that seeing all this didn’t get me to change majors. In those days, everyone who graduated from UW with reasonable grades in comp sci was hired by Microsoft, and most all of them were millionaires by the middle of the next decade.