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The Machine That Changed the World: Episode 5 - The World at Your Fingertips
The Machine That Changed the World is a 1992 documentary series on the history of electronic digital computers, from the dawn of the computer in the 1800s to the early 1990s. It was produced by WGBH Television in Boston MA, in cooperation with the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), with support from ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), NSF (National Sciencie Foundation) and UNISYS. The series consists of five episodes.

Episode 5 - The World at Your Fingertips. This episode focuses on global information networks including the Internet, and the communication benefits and privacy risks they create.

Computer networks, including the Internet, and their global impact on communication and privacy.

Here’s the fifth and final episode of The Machine That Changed the World, this one focusing on global information networks including the Internet, and the communication benefits and privacy risks they create. This is the most familiar material of the documentary, so I’m going to skip the notes and annotations this time. I hope you enjoyed the documentary as much as I did.

Robert Lucky (AT&T Bell Labs),
Dave Hughes,
Kathleen Bonner (Trader, Fidelity),
George Hayter (Former Head of Trading, London Stock Exchange),
Ben Bagdikian (UC Berkeley),
Arthur Miller (Harvard Law School),
Forman Brown (songwriter, died in 1996),
Tan Chin Nam (Chairman, National Computer Board of Singapore),
B.G. Lee (Minister of Trade and Industry, Singapore),
Lee Fook Wah, (Assistant Traffic Manager, MRT Singapore),
David Assouline (French Activist),
Mitch Kapor (founder, Lotus),
Michael Drennan (Air traffic controller, Dallas-Fort Worth).

Note 1: This episode was produced in advance of the development of the World Wide Web, and thus cannot be expected to cover this development. However, the fact that the WWW is now a part of our lives is a proof of the fast pace of innovation in this field.

In this episode:
Rapid development of computers.
Print media --> Digital media.
450 books on one CD.
Digital world vs. analog "real world".
Real world digitized into digital form - permanence; no degradation.
Digitized information amenable to rapid transmission.
Global communications lead to shrinking world - disappearance of "place" as an attribute.
Physical presence vs. "electronic presence" --> new forms of social interaction.
Global communities - distance no longer an obstacle.
Stock market.
Increase of information travel rate.
Timeliness of information.
London Stock Exchange - physical "marketplace" rendered redundant.
New social gatherings - linked by common interest, not geography.
Internet and USENET - new forum for exchange of ideas.
Cold fusion - quicker interchange of ideas via USENET news than possible via existing journals.
SeniorNet - computer networks entering everyday lives.
Electronic presence.
Data pollution - wrong information propagated between computers and databases.
Invasion of privacy - casual information gathering can give rise to distorted views of individuals.
Electronic sweat shops.
Technological evolution outpacing social evolution.
1987 Stock Market crash.
Speed of light as a constraint.
Effect on stability of social systems.
Singapore - developed nation status via transformation into an "information society".
"Digitization" of Singapore - Land Data Hub.
Singapore - total electronic efficiency.
Social engineering and control of people vs. tool for democracy.
MINITEL - large growth from one to 12,000 choices.
1986 - Student protests against admissions policies successfully coordinated via MINITEL.
The future is digital!
Dependence upon computers.
Computers programmed in "craftsmanlike" manner.
Software errors - no reliable engineering techniques for the production of software.
Software bugs - human consequences; Therac-25 radiation machine software malfunction.
AT&T telephone system crash caused by a single line of bad code.
Untestability of large software systems.
1989 - Dallas Fort Worth airport computer failure.
Unlike traditional engineering, small errors can completely cripple entire software systems.
Wheel turns full circle: Babbage's inspiration stemmed from the desire to eliminate errors.
However, computers are still prone to errors via programmers, as in Babbage's time.
Communication central to digital future.
Uses of computers different from original goals.
Computer a medium, not a machine.

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