1995: The year the future began
The conversation with program host Mark Nolan and his colleagues was lively and can be heard here. We touched on the rise of the Internet, the O.J. Simpson murder trial, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the sex-and-lies scandal the swept up President Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky — topics that all are chapters in 1995.
As I write in the book, the Internet and the World Wide Web in 1995 moved from “the obscure realm of technophiles and academic researchers” to become household words. Also that year, Clinton began his sexual dalliance with Lewinsky, a furtive liaison at the White House that would explode in scandal and lead to the spectacle of his impeachment and trial.
I noted during the discussion on WMJI that it is interesting to consider “how many digital mainstays took hold and began establishing a presence online in 1995.” Amazon.com opened for business in 1995, as did eBay and Match.com. And I mentioned that Sergey Brin and Larry Page, met at Stanford University, “setting in motion the relationship that gave us Google,” the dominant Internet search engine.
I also mentioned the Time magazine cover story in June 1995 about the supposed scourge of cyberporn — an overstated fear based on a dubious report prepared by a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. Not only was the Time story exaggerated; its publication, I write in 1995, offered an early example “of the Internet’s capacity to debunk and deflate, to act as a potent vetting mechanism. In the days and weeks following publication of the ‘cyberporn’ story, the corrective power of the Internet was on display, in a blizzard of condemnation and commentary posted at online discussion forums.”
The online critics soon enough made clear, I write, “that Time’s cover story was exceedingly alarmist, a messy blend of exaggeration, thin research, and dubious analysis.”
We also recalled the unmistakable sound of an Internet dialup connection being made over a telephone line. The digital handshake — or what Evgeny Morosov has called “the funky buzz of the modem” — is recognizable to this day, I said.
We also spoke briefly about the heartbreaking moments in Cleveland sports in 1995 — the move of the storied Cleveland Browns professional football franchise to Baltimore and the defeat of the Cleveland Indians in the World Series, losing in six games to Atlanta.