http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet#HistoryDay 1 of the Words Matter Week blog challenge:
For details, see WordsMatter.Naiwe.com here
PROMPT: Is there a word that has changed, or could change your life? What is it, and what difference would it make?
As a warm-up essay, I'll start the week with the word: INTERNET ... Talk about a life-changing word!
Since first used by the U.S. government in the early 1960s as a resource-sharing electronic communication device, and early use in academics, it rapidly led to a brief life as nationwide free dial-up internet service (read full history here at Wikipedia), we've been given unforeseen opportunities to expand communication, knowledge, resources, improvements in science, medicine, job creation, and business. Technologies came before such as flight, radio, and television, but none have brought such rapid change to so many people.
We might wish to take back a few of the mistakes along the way, improve the learning curve, and shorten the digital divide that has created a benefit that favors a class of people who can afford it. But I doubt anyone wants to go back to the days before the dial tone, modem screeching, busy signal, "you've got mail." early days of the internet.
We fear what may come of a society already reeling from tech-overload, multitasking and absorption in the chaos of streaming video, tweets, chats, and millions of conversations lacking in substance. But still we rush to the lure of exploration with the internet's riches - web sites making our travel plans, worldwide communication, 24x7 live video news from around the globe.
The internet has indeed changed my life, and that of everyone I know. It became my career about 15 years ago. People who chose to disregard it can do so. In fact, it is as simple as turning off a switch. We can revel in a view of history through museum exhibits, scholarly dialog, and reading the works of great authors from past generations right on our computers and digital devices.
Humans have developed all of this in the span of a single decade, so much, so fast, I feel I can almost see tomorrow.