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Internet's demise is a bit exaggerated
Oct. 27, 1996
By JIM BROOKS
Recent stories about the coming crash of the Internet may have been -- to paraphrase Mark Twain -- somewhat exaggerated.
For those who may have missed it, a recent story by the Associated Press pitted opposing points of view about the Internet.
One view (by Ethernet inventor and Internet pioneer Bob Metcalfe) said that the Internet we all know and use -- will soon come crashing down on our heads.
And in the other corner, Unix operating system and networking guru John S. Quarterman says the Internet is doing fine -- though it is experiencing occasional bumps while it tires to accommodate its still-explosive growth.
Now both men have valid points to make about the Internet, there's no denying that.
Yes, to Metcalfe's credit there are problems with the Net. It can be slow. And there have been outages -- InfiNet subscribers can remember earlier this year when a propane tank explosion in Norfolk, Va., kept subscribers from accessing the Internet for more than a day.
Quarterman, whose Matrix Information and Directory Services Web site offers the Internet Weather Forecast (http://www2.mids.org/) -- a graphical map that indicates areas of slow Net response times -- admits the Net's not perfect. The explosive growth of the Internet makes keeping information flowing an ever-increasingly difficult job.
Metcalfe says that since the National Science Foundation's involvement in the Internet ended in April 1995, there's no organization left ``in charge'' of the Internet.
The NSF's involvement in what later was dubbed the Internet began in 1984 when an office was established to concentrate on computer networking for ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet.
One of the NSF's first goals was to develop a national computer-network backbone, which was deployed in 1986, and subsequently upgraded over the next several years.
And since the NSF was funded with public money, commercial traffic was banned on the Internet. It wasn't until the NSF ended its major ties (and supervision) of the Internet last year that commercial traffic was allowed.
And since last year, the growth of the Internet has been phenomenal, to say the least. Commercial companies now in charge of the network's continued growth have expanded and beefed it up in ways that Metcalfe fears will be self-serving at best -- and lead to the Net's impending doom, at worst.
And it is precisely the NSF's move from overseeing the Internet -- and the lifting of the ban on commercial traffic -- that has led to the phenomenal popularity of the World Wide Web.
In reading between the lines, I felt that Metcalfe (and other Net critics) may have another agenda to promote (The story I'm referring to can still be found on The News-Enterprise Online at http://www.newsenterpriseonline.com. Click on the Woven Web icon on the righthand column).
First, Metcalfe seems to support the ``crash'' of the Internet (he's been writing about it in his InfoWorld column since December) so a new, heavy-duty Internet will rise from the ashes.
This new industrial-strength Net would have the ability to carry gobs of information to our computers, giving us the speed we all crave. And it would give commercial interests the speed to offer quality audio and video over the Internet. It would, in short, create a new market for services.
Metcalfe's vision for a new-and-improved Internet would abandon the current flat-rate system of usage (which he calls ``naive,'') and adopt a by-the-minute or by-the-bit-of-data scheme -- which would increase consumer costs to pay the price for the creation of this new super-duper Internet.
It's no secret that the major telecommunication companies have wanted measured usage for Internet connections, but with the flat-rate pricing as the standard, it would take a major crash -- and rebirth -- of the Internet to push users into a new pricing scheme.
And since commercial companies are now the ones who are taking care of the major data pipelines that make up the Internet, there's no denying they'd love to make a little more money for their labor. And we all know you can best justify higher prices by improving and expanding services -- services a new-and-improved Internet could bring us.
So maybe the Internet will crash and burn. But if I were a betting man, I would put my money on new and faster technologies now under development.
These will pave the way to a faster Internet -- one where the market will determine pricing, much as it does now.
QUEEN CITY ON THE WEB. If like me you enjoy an occasional trip to Cincinnati, you owe it to yourself to visit the Cincinnati Museum Center's new home page on the World Wide Web.
The center is housed in the historic Union Terminal, a gorgeous 10-story Art Deco building that once was the city's main train depot.
The center is home to four major facilities: The Museum of Natural History & Science, the Cincinnati History Museum, the Cincinnati Historical Society Library and Collections and the Robert D. Lindner Family Omnimax Theater.
Amtrak also has a terminal on the grounds, and the center hosts the Arts Consortium of Cincinnaiti and the Cincinnati Railroad Club.
As you might expect, there's much to see at the Cincinnati Museum Center -- and lots of information at their Web site.
Just in time for Christmas, the center's latest event is ``Holiday Junction.'' If you're a train fan, you may want to check this out: the event features extensive model train exhibits (what's a better holiday gift than a model train), activities for kids, ``Whistle Stop Review,'' a revue of favorite holiday and train tunes, or check out what's showing in the theater.
The Cincinnati History Museum is featuring displays on the community's response to World War II; or step back in time to 1860 to experience the early days of Cincinnati's growth and development as the river town began to grow.
The center's Web site offers a listing of scheduled events through early 1997, as well as both telephone and e-mail contacts for more information on any event or exhibit.
In short, the Web site is a vital tool for planning a trip for one or 100.
For the details, point your browser to http://www.cincymuseum.org/
CARTOON WORLD. I bumped into this Web site entirely by accident, and it quickly won the hearts of me and my three-year-old daughter.
Cartoon World is a ``roller coaster ride to your past,'' the site's home page says, and it and features sound and images of many classic cartoons and children's shows, some of which remain staples of Saturday morning television. If the words ``Sleestak'' or ``Freddie the Flute'' mean anything to you, this site's what you need to refresh your memory of kids' TV shows of the past.
There's images to download (handy for making wallpaper for your Windows), sounds to play (including the complete theme songs to a number of shows, including the Jetsons, Underdog, the Flintstones H.R. Pufnstuf and the Roadrunner) and even line art images to print out for the kids to color.
The site's content also features some more recent cartoons, including pages devoted to mystery-based 'toons (Scooby-doo, Speed Buggy, Josie & the Pussycats), action cartoons (Thundercats, Transformers and more) and my favorites, the live-action programs (H.R. Pufnstuff and others). The content is all arranged quite well, and though it isn't a commercial site, it is very well done.
Point your browser to http://www.cet.com/~rascal/ and prepare for a blast from the past.
Comments and questions about this column may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.
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