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A Brief History of the Future:
John Naughton, to judge by this learned but lightly written history of modern communications technology, is deeply interested in just about everything. It mystifies the Irish-born Cambridge University scholar that so few people share his fascination with the Internet--and, he grumps, "the higher you go up the social and political hierarchy the worse it gets."
A Brief History of the Future, whose title is just right, is Naughton's attempt to educate the uninitiated in how the Internet came to be. Although its development occurred in starts and stops over a half-century, the Internet came into its own only in the 1990s, with the arrival of the World Wide Web and widely available software to negotiate it. Each of those innovations, though, drew on work that sometimes extends deep into the past, and Naughton does a good job of tracing technical lineages. Though studded with geekspeak, his narrative doesn't presuppose much background knowledge on his readers' part, unlike Stephen Segaller's worthy Nerds 2.0.1., which covers some of the same ground. Naughton's cast of characters includes such scientific and administrative luminaries as Norbert Wiener, Vannevar Bush, Paul Baran, Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds, and Tim Berners-Lee (but, sad to say, not Al Gore), each of whom made contributions large and small to what Naughton insists is a technological revolution with endless possibilities for the common good.
Well-written and richly detailed, Naughton's book is a fine introduction to the Net, and to the countless, largely unsung innovators who made it possible. --Gregory McNamee [via]