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Was the internet foreseen in 1901?

Was the internet foreseen in 1901?

Posted on 8th November 2021

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As you’ll know if you’ve been keeping up with my last few blogs, I’ve been looking at the ways in which techie geniuses have been doing amazing things that transform not just our current lives but will also transform the way we live over the next few decades.  With the need to come up with viable carbon-capture technologies, efficient and net-zero ways to heat our homes and water and generally to tackle the challenges of the human race and the planet, it’s incumbent on not just IT but also engineers of every stamp to come up with the ideas that will secure all our futures.

This is nothing new however, as I discovered when I came across a book by HG Wells, written over a century ago and called ‘Anticipations.’  Wells is best known for his sci-fi novels, such as ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘The Invisible Man,’ but there was much more to him than that (for a start, he was a radical, a socialist and an incorrigible womaniser), but ‘Anticipations,’ published in 1901, is a staggering book.

Railways and the nascent motor car were well known to Wells and he believed, correctly, that the improvements in communications that they engendered would lead to the rise of London.  He predicted the capital would have population of 20 million within the next century and also that there would be a conurbation from Glasgow to Edinburgh.  He also foresaw a ‘motor truck’ which would take goods beyond the reach of the railway and also that cars in general would transform the ways in which people lived. At that time, it was estimated there were about 800 cars at most in the whole of Britain, so he was bang on with his educated guesswork.

He also envisaged huge changes in family life, as more women were able to work and religious faith declined, but perhaps his most impressive ‘anticipations’ involved what we now know as the internet.  Wells imagined a constantly updated global newspaper, with pictures transmitted by the telegraph.

He also commented on the likelihood of human flight, commenting, two years before the Wright Brothers took off, that “I have said nothing … of the coming invention of flying,” but he did also add that he didn’t think it wouldn’t become a serious method of travel, although he did see a role for airplanes in war.  Again, he foresaw much of the military developments we take for granted today, writing about long-range shells, submarines and “dirigible aerial devices that can fight.”

For all our stupendous modern technological achievements, I wonder if there is currently anyone with the imagination of Wells who can predict what the world might be like in 2101 with the same degree of enthusiasm and relative accuracy that he demonstrated?

Scott Bentley, Be-IT

Posted in News, Opinion

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