Leaked Today clip shows pace of progress
Last week an employee of NBC’s Today Show was fired for leaking a clip from 1994 that showed off air footage of then-hosts Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric trying to understand what the Internet was and how it worked.
The employee should have known better than leaking material without permission, but I think the show’s problem with the footage being revealed is for the wrong reasons. Hearing a pair of respected news professionals sounding clueless about the Internet sounds funny in 2011, but in 1994 most of us were even more unaware of how computers would change our lives.
I remember the year 1994 vividly because I was a senior in high school. Only two years earlier we had traded in our typewriters for computers during the beginning of the school year.
In 1994 shortly before I graduated I can remember marveling over a new computer in the library that had a CD drive.
In 1995 my family purchased a top of the line computer. I still didn’t even know the Internet existed. When dial-up Internet started becoming available later we discovered that our computer wasn’t even capable of handling the connection.
Our computer was a relic before we finished paying for it.
I didn’t really get much experience dealing with the Internet until I was a student at Delta State University, and even then it took me a while to appreciate it. We were provided free dial up connection in our dorm rooms, and I finally had a 1998 model computer that could handle it.
Do you remember all those odd noises computers used to make as the dial-up connection was being made?
At the time I wondered why so many of my friends were so interested in doing research online when they could just go to the library and get the books. I still think that’s the best approach for most scholarly research, but I vastly underestimated the power of the Internet.
As a journalist it has totally changed my life. I can now find information in seconds that would have previously taken days to track down.
Email has also changed everything. We can cut and paste announcements that we would have once had to retype from faxes or hand typed submissions. People can submit digital photos from their home computer.
There’s still no substitute for getting out and doing interviews and developing stories, but the Internet has proven to be a priceless tool for journalists even if all of its effects on our industry haven’t been positive.
And if I had to go back to that 1998 connection speed, I’d probably pull my hair out. What once seemed like blinding speed is now totally unacceptable by today’s standards.
I can even access the Internet on my phone. In 1994 I would have never dreamed that I would one day be carrying a phone around in my pocket, much less one that could connect to the Internet.
That clip from the Today show might have been good for a few laughs at first, but it really puts the pace of the progress of technology in perspective.
Jason Patterson is the managing editor of The Yazoo Herald.