What if the Internet never existed?

For starters, there would be no alternatehistory.com (obviously)... But I believe that the system which we call the Internet was NOT an inevitability. It was in fact a product of the Cold War era. Essentially, the Internet is a decentralized distributed computer network, whereas a more natural design would be a highly centralized network. This concept was suggested by Paul Baran who also invented packet switching (along with Donald Davies and later Leonard Kleinrock). The initial reason for the invention of such a computer network (known as ARPANET from its inception in 1969) was as a defense against nuclear war. Should Soviet nuclear strikes hit major American cities, the logical place for central nodes, this would sever military communications. A distributed-decentralized computer network would survive the loss of nodes however. ARPANET, which grew in the 1970's, was an experimental project in and of itself, but through its connections of universities (most Arpanet nodes were at major universities), it served a more civillian role. ARPANET (along with MILNET, BITNET, and NSFNET) eventually became the Internet and the development of the World Wide Web system from 1988-1991 enabled the Internet to attain popularity. Consider a world where ARPANET was never invented. A world without Internet, E-mail, USENET, WWW, IM, etc. Would the PC even exist (as we know it)? (Remember, the Internet is probably the "killer ap" of personal computers.)

1957- The year which will be infamously known as the International Geophysical Year. Major powers discuss launching satellites into orbit, chiefly the United States and the Soviet Union. The majority of the Soviet leadership oppose investing in space exploration, pointing out the numerous economic difficulties on the planetary surface. Sergey Korolyov, chief engineer of the Sputnik program in the OTL, is ridiculed in this scenario and he dies less than a decade later in relative obscurity.

1958- As a result, since Sputnik was never launched, the United States Department of Defense never founded the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which would have later been known as DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Additionally, the nonexistence of the Sputnik Program would considerably postpone the Space Race, but that is another story. In the OTL, ARPA was the leading organization to research and develop Internet technologies.

April 1958- Paul Baran, an engineering student at Drexel University, recieves job offers from International Business Machines (IBM).

1959- After graduating, Baran decides it would be much wiser to work for IBM and recieve a much higher salary, than working at measly little RAND Corporation, even if he would have more research freedom at RAND. Being more conservative in their research, IBM would have Paul Baran researching improvements in hardware and software designs rather than computer networking.

1960- Donald Davies, co-inventor of packet switching dies in a car crash. Result: Packet switching is not invented.

1969- Presumably an uneventful* year. ARPANET is never built (though it was launched this date on the OTL) as Paul Baran's theses on decentralised and distributed computer networking were never published, packet switching was not (yet at least) invented, and no active Department of Defense (DoD) research and development agencies existed. *(Remember that 1969 is remembered by Americans as the year of the moon landing. Considering that Sputnik never takes off on this timeline, the space race, if it ever occurs, would be delayed, perhaps the USA would initially lead space exploration. In either case, it is not as likely that the Apollo lunar expedition would occur on this ATL, at this date.)

1960's-70's:
1965- Gordon Moore writes about the exponential increase in computing power with an inversely related change in size of integrated circuits. This thesis is known as Moore's Law.

1968- Moore founds Intel Corporation.

1970's- This decade is marked by accelerating development of integrated circuitry in computers, calculators, and other electronic devices. Much of this R&D is driven by competition between IBM and Intel.

1976- Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs found Apple Computer.

1980's- Due to the accelerated growth in this altered timeline of integrated circuit technology, and further fine tuning in input and output devices including monitors, compact discs, and printers, the personal computer once a promising invention, fades into obseletion. Personal computers still exist, but by the mid-90's become increasingly rare. Instead by the late 90's/early 2000's, in this altered timeline computing devices the size of a large wallet rival OTL PC's in power, memory capacity, and speed. As such general-purpose PC's are replaced by application-specific devices from the mid-80's onward. Examples include cellular phones, digital fax machines, electronic organizers, word-processing machines (essentially a laptop-shaped device with built-in laser printer), multi-purpose digital cameras, information terminals, videogame consoles (think Playstation or XBox), and all manner of entertainment systems and sufficient stand-alone studio recording equipment. The closest equivalent to OTL PC's would be workstations in some office stations and CAD systems used in scientific research and industry as well as graphic arts and design. Essentially, the modern OTL PC has reduced to little more than a portal to the Internet. In this timeline however, the gap might widen between supercomputers and minicomputers...

1988-1991- Ending of the Cold War. The era of Mutually Assured Destruction has come to an end. The Soviet Union dissolved, the Berlin Wall fell, the Iron Curtain fell. At this time the only Communist country left is Cuba. On the OTL this time period was also known for the development of the World Wide Web, but if the technological prerequisites to the Internet were postponed to 1990, then it could be expected that the internet as we know it would never be invented.

2000's- Given the lack of an Internet, the outsourcing of jobs to India would be nonexistent or at least not as significant, but then considering that American monopoly on the Internet until the 1990's provided American computer technology a head start, in this timeline, Japan and subsequently Korea would have caught up long ago, possibly even surpassing American technology earlier on in such fields. As a result Silicon Valley would pale in comparison to Tokyo or Seoul. (Although this is not too different from the OTL!)

2004-2008- By now, due to lack of research and development on networks, decades of accelerated research and development in computer power, capacity, and speed on this altered timeline, compared to the OTL would have arrived near the limit of the integrated circuit (remember Moore's Law) and so, physicists would be interested in engineering alternative means of computing (i.e. nanodrive and quantum computing as opposed to silicon-based circiuts). Also, computer scientists would be ever closer to developing artificial intelligence.
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In conclusion, I make the following predictions for this altered timeline:

* In lieu of research on computer networking, more research would be devoted towards improving computers themselves, perhaps prompting completely different unforseen revolutions in computer science.

* Inventions involving optical technology may also progress faster, resulting in the inventions of compact discs, laser discs, DVD, and laser printers occuring over a decade earlier than on the OTL. As such, 8-tracks and certainly, audiocassete tapes (both of which are often considered technological steps down from vinyl records) would presumably never exist. Similarly, research improving television and monitor displays may be faster resulting in earlier advances in LCD and plasma screens and fiber optics technology may still be invented, though probably after an initial delay because computer networking largely created the demand for optical fibers.

* The fascimile machine, often thought of as a dinosaur in the workplace, would become more prominent, never falling into its OTL obscolete status. In fact upgrades such as digital fascimile (DigiFax) would increase its popularity. Without Arpanet and subsequent networks, e-mail would never take off.

* The invention of cellular phones (as we know them) may experience a delay, but once started they would grow even faster than one can imagine.

* Presumably computer networks of some form would eventually be invented, but these would in no way resemble the Internet. Soon enough modems, packet switching (or a related method), and time-sharing would be developed, but the computer networks which would evolve from these technologies would presumably be very different. Consider that the general trend in the evolution and development of the computer network was top-down; first a proto-internet (ARPANET), then smaller intranets, then finally ethernet. From wide-area networks (WAN) to local-area networks (LAN). In this TL, computer networks would initially begin as local connections between computers within a building (ethernets) and local area networks, followed by wide area networks (what we now call intranets). If Arpanet never existed and its technological prerequisites postponed until after the Cold War, the closest we would likely have to an Internet would be a series of localized, highly centralized "intranets" connected to other nearby intranets with modem-like connections. These would not be nearly as unified (being largely private and corporatized) or international as the Internet. For instance, very few of such networks would cross borders. In whatever case, PC's would be far less prolific in this timeline, thus limiting the accessibility of such networks. Instead private civilians would be more connected through centralized digital phone networks.

* Satelite technology, another prerequisite of the growth of the Internet would also likely experience developmental delays. (Remember in this TL Sputnik was never launched, leaving a huge effect on the Space Race).

* Bill Gates, would still likely be a millionaire, though most likely not a billionaire. Apple Computer became famous in OTL for the Ipod, and in this TL, PC's would not compete well with more portable devices. Microsoft software would not have the success in a world where personal computers are not as relevant, and Microsoft would be seen as a nerdy company catering to business, rather than a hip and trendy company, such as Apple. Then again, Gates might develop such devices as the XBox and software such as Microsoft Word for word processors.

* Tom Anderson, infamously known as the man behind MySpace would be a complete loser without the Internet. I guarantee you. Similarly, the guy behind Ebaum's World (I forgot his name) would fade into obscurity, probably remaining a college dropout working for his father rather than a millionaire. James "Jimbo" Wales of Wikipedia fame would be unknown except maybe in Las Vegas or Amsterdam, wherever the adult entertainment industry takes him. (Wikipedia was founded by a pornographer.)

* The youth culture of the developed nations would be very different. There would be no difference in the 60's and 70's, a neglible one from 1978-1984, and a considerable difference in the 80's and early 90's. From the mid-late 90's to today, much youth and pop culture was deeply ingrained with cyber culture. The Internet as a medium has shaped "Generation X" and subsequent generations in nearly every way. By 1996-2006 on the altered TL, the pop culture would seem almost unrecognizable compared to the OTL.

* Some bad things: For one, the Terminator trilogy may never be produced. Compare Hal, the antagonistic AI in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969, when Arpanet started and few people knew about such networks) with Skynet from the Terminator movies. Skynet is essentially an artificially intelligent Internet (presumably Cyberdyne = RAND & DARPA), and the first Terminator debuted in the mid-80's, when the Internet was this cool new thing. Whereas Hal is a singular solitary artificially intelligent supercomputer. Also, MMORPG's (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) would not exist, but then that's not so bad, considering that IMHO, many of them kind of suck. Finally, without the Internet, there would be no alternatehistory.com!
 
The rise of Compuserve, Genie, etc.

I'm wondering if the changes you suggest might just lead to this time-line developing commercial services like Compuserve, GEnie, and QLink (though probably not those specific services). The pay-per-minute model would have probably slowed down adoption of on-line services, but it would have probably happened anyway to some extent. Interconnectivity between on-line networks might have been a problem. If the population of personal computers took off like it did historically, and the phone companies didn't actively try to throttle it, some kind of connectivity would come anyway, though probably slower.

I suppose it is possible that someone might have come along with a cheap dumb terminal for on-line use, and kind of preempted the whole personal computers as on-line instruments thing. That happened to some extent in France.

Another possibility: personal computers don't take off as they did historically. How could that happen? Maybe IBM goes with a proprietary PC operating system instead of MS-Dos, and the market remains fragmented among the 8-bit companies. That would delay things, but probably not by too many years. Another possibility: someone like IBM, Texas Instruments or Burroughs invents and patents the microprocessor. I'm not sure that's possible or that it couldn't be worked around in some way, but if it happened and the company involved kept it proprietary for the lifetime of the patent that would make a major dent in--well everything about computers for the next couple of decades.

As to the consequences of no Internet: they are so huge as to be totally unfathomable. So much communication has occurred there. So many bright minds have found other bright minds and created so many things. Hard to imagine the impact.

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Check out Dale Cozort's Alternate History Newsletter - nine years of Alternate History ideas, scenarios, and fiction.
 
You said it yourself. It was a military decentralized inteligence system for a threat that has never gone away. What military necessity demands, billions are poured into. The fact that the internet sprang up so quickly is proof of its utility. Plus, decentralized intelligence access is useful far beyond a nuclear role; current smart weapons would be impossible without them.

Even your POD is questionable. The Soviet Union may have questioned the wisdom of exploring ballistic missles, but in the end it was the best bet they had, and gave them many rewards. The US always had more and better bombers (giving them a far supperior conventional capability), and the US fighters were either better quality or better tactics than anything the Russians could come up with. Without rockets or missles, the Russian nuclear sledgehammer is much degraded; MAD can not be assured. If MAD can not be assured, whenever the US figures it has a decisive edge in the air their will be little holding them back from wiping out Russia while they hold the upper hand. In fact, it would likely be an argument that now is the time to strike, because the Soviets could bounce back and make something that would give them the chance to hit back with little worry, and we all know what the Reds want to do...

This isn't the case with missles. ABMs and, to a lesser extent, cruise missles, can not be shot down with any real degree of reliability, even today. They are quick, they can not be countered once fired, and they can not be reliably be wiped out by a first strike of your own. This is opposed to bombers, which are slow, can easily be shot down before they reach their target, and must reach each target at a slow speed before they can deliver their payload. Compared to their bomber capability, rockets were a much more reliable deterent. In fact, it is very debatable that actuall MAD would existed without such a unblockable capability.



And finally, computers are one of those inventions that just keep making themselves better. When you look at the rate of scientific development before computers, the advances after but before networking, and finally after networking, a graph would look almost exponential. Networking is fast and efficient even for buisnesses, which would invest heavily for that if for nothing else.
 
Prior to the internet there were electronic bulletin boards, using PC's with dial-up capabilities.
They weren't great but they were an interesting precursor of what the internet became.
 
Fah, a more feasible WI would've been if the Soviet Union had developed an ARPANET-esque network and the internet had thus been a Russian creation.
 
Originally Posted by DaleCoz
I'm wondering if the changes you suggest might just lead to this time-line developing commercial services like Compuserve, GEnie, and QLink (though probably not those specific services). The pay-per-minute model would have probably slowed down adoption of on-line services, but it would have probably happened anyway to some extent. Interconnectivity between on-line networks might have been a problem.
If you don't mind me asking, did you really grasp the implication of my scenario? The assumption is NO Internet! Paul Baran never devises the idea of decentralized networking, time-sharing, packet switching, modems, etc. are never invented (at least not on their OTL dates), so in effect nothing that in any way resembles the Internet is developed. This does not mean computer connectivity will not eventually come to exist, but such networks would be centralized, and carefully controlled, either by the government or a corporation. No Internet -> no WWW. Therefore, there would be no market niche for such companies as Compuserve, AOL, etc.

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
I suppose it is possible that someone might have come along with a cheap dumb terminal for on-line use, and kind of preempted the whole personal computers as on-line instruments thing. That happened to some extent in France.
Interestingly, the scenario that you describe, the emergence of "cheap dumb terminals for on-line use," may be happening right now. The phenomenon known as NC's (network computers) was mentioned (with some satirical outlook) by Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic. Essentially an NC is a monitor, keyboard, and mouse set with a high-speed broadband modem (cable or DSL) built in, and a simplified CPU with reduced hard drive, with optional disk drives to boost the limited memory capacity. Most software and files are stored temporarily, and applications are web based or downloaded as needed. Essentially a computer for people who are not good with computers. Apparently this "NC" is already available in France. Of course, I am not talking about the NC preempting the PC. The general trend seems to be the opposite, that NC's may replace established PC's. Of course in my TL, since there is NO INTERNET, there are no NC's! PC's are not preempted by NC's. In my TL, for the short time they exist, PC's are phased out in the general civilian consumer market by smaller application-specific minicomputers (as miniaturization produces microcomputers in everything, and enhances the power of PDA's). Thus without the Internet PC's are partially obsolete. Think about it. What do you use your personal computer for? What do most people use their personal computers for? Chances are most computer use is somehow Internet related. Even before the World-Wide Web, e-mail was a major application of PC's, as was newsgroups (from the creation of USENET in 1979 onward). The WWW replaced non-web based email and newsgroup access with web-based services. Besides usenet, most people probably use computers to create spreadsheets and documents. But do you really need an entire PC to type a document? Essentially you need an electronic digital type writer. Just a keyboard, printer, and monitor, with a small processor and RAM. Such a device might resemble a laptop with a built-in printer. What about video gaming? Any current or recent videogame console: PS2, XBox, XBox360, Wii, etc. could compete with and even surpass most PC's for gaming needs at a much lower price. The only advantage of PC-gaming versus non-PC gaming is online multiplayer (ignoring XBox Live). But without Internet this would not be available. Therefore, a PC's expensive, sophisticated, multipurpose pieces of hardware, would find very little use in an Internet-less world. Even applications not involving word-processing, gaming, or fax would be better served by non-PC's. Afterall, in the initial absense in attempts to develop networking technology, both government and private R&D would emphasize computers themselves- hardware and software. Thus electronic computer circuitry would be smaller AND more effective, thus basic photo, video, and sound editing capabilities might be built into such consumer products as digital cameras and home studio equipment. Of course, PC's would probably still exist in the office, and even the studio, albeit not as widely.

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
Another possibility: personal computers don't take off as they did historically. How could that happen? Maybe IBM goes with a proprietary PC operating system instead of MS-Dos, and the market remains fragmented among the 8-bit companies... Another possibility: someone like IBM, Texas Instruments or Burroughs invents and patents the microprocessor. I'm not sure that's possible or that it couldn't be worked around in some way, but if it happened and the company involved kept it proprietary for the lifetime of the patent that would make a major dent in--well everything about computers for the next couple of decades.
Perhaps... Even so, that is not the point. The point to ponder is what would be the ramifications of their existing no Internet. Maybe additional POD's would butterfly PC's out of existence as well. Perhaps the invention of PC's is prevented, or shortly after their invention a monopoly prevents their becoming widespread (as you suggest). I assume a development of the PC similar to the OTL process, only in lieu of an Internet. The Internet as a concept was designed before anybody concieved of personal computers. Arpanet was launched before the PC was available to the general public. I am aware that personal computers were available to the general public before the Internet (and especially WWW) was, but this was as an obscure fad. How would PC's last on the domestic market when any commoner's computing needs could be met by simpler less expensive devices, and no "killer ap" (i.e. an internet) would exist to justify the purchase of a PC?

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
As to the consequences of no Internet: they are so huge as to be totally unfathomable. So much communication has occurred there. So many bright minds have found other bright minds and created so many things. Hard to imagine the impact.
I am glad you appreciate the importance of this topic. Needless to say, I have a very pessimistic view of the Internet. You might have noticed that most of my predictions anticipating a world without Internet were positive or neutral, with a only a few qualms (i.e. possibly no Terminator series and no AH.com). For instance, it should be pointed out that Arpanet connected computer network nodes at various American universities, so the first civilians to benefit from the (predessesor to) the Internet were universities. Needless to say, many of these bright minds who found other bright minds might have still met without the Internet, especially, the earliest Net users (university staff and professors) through older routes of communication (telephone, fascimile, etc.). Much of the communication is either provate or secret (not all Internet communication is archived in the form of websites), or lost, or drowned in a sea of information. Very little of it is published or easily accessible to the general public. In fact the ease of producing information without the process of editing, revision, criticism, review, etc. has generated a lot of junk data! The exponential increase in information is crippling! In short the Internet mostly generates noise, not information. Not to say the Internet does not have value! (Okay, now I sound like a cranky librarian! :rolleyes: ) In more cynical moods I view the Internet as a factor of the decadence of Western civilization. It is hard to consider the impact, both positive AND negative of the Internet, and therefore the result of its absence. In short, I mostly agree with Ray Bradbury on the Internet! Not to mention its effect on youth culture and pop culture in general (mostly negative and decadent). Then again I am looking at the negative and overlooking the positive. There are nevertheless many sites (i.e. https://www.alternatehistory.com/) filled mostly with intelligent creative people. (James Randi's site also is full of intelligent cool people, albeit a few nuts for entertainment.) Facebook used to kick ass until it turned into an Orwellian myspace. On the other hand most of the Internet is full of crap sites such as Wikipedia (an appaulingly bad information source), ads, Myspace, porn, ads, Ebay, IMDB, ads, porn, spam, Amazon, search engine queries and caches of the aforementioned, advertisements, and more porn! It is mostly inhabited by anonymous cowards. I get increasingly cynical whenever I hear people refer to the Internet as a library (what kind of library has 50 times as much ads and porn as it does books?) or a global community. Ironically perhaps in the longrun, people would be more interconnected without the Internet because they would have to interract with real people in the real world (which is generally much more meaningful). Nevertheless, I do enjoy the intelligent, creative, and fun correspondence with people at AH.com, but forums such as this are outnumbered by lousy forums, newsgroups, and blogs. Notably Amazon's reviews and IMDB. IMDB is probably the biggest nest of idiots on the planet! Although the idea of anonymous correspondence with people all over the world would not exist. Even so, in the long run, people would need to contact new people, so with improvements in transportation and broadcasting, forums would nevertheless inevitably result and an correspondence would not be through computer networks. I think the Internet gives people a false sense of democracy. It gives everyone a voice, but makes it unlikely the voice will be heard. Perhaps that is why we do not have the activism of the 60's and 70's. I could rant on about this for hours, and go into more detail why I think the way I do, but I will stop...

Originally Posted by Dean_the_Young
You said it yourself. It was a military decentralized inteligence system for a threat that has never gone away.
I don't know about that. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, the disintigration of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and the death of World Communism as a serious ideology, there was no Eastern Bloc, or Evil Empire. No competing superpower! Since the United States of America are essentially the lone super power, the threat (of mutually assured obliteration) has (largely) gone away. Of course we could have a butterfly after the POD where a more libertarian government recognizes that America as sole superpower need not continue in Cold War level military investment. Not to mention, no ARPA/DARPA exists in the TL, so someone would have to create one, and it is assumed that certain high tech endeavors (especially information technology) would have been forsaken for more conventional military research. Incidentally, whether or not the threat still exists, the only reason why Islamist terrorists did not attempt to destroy the Internet (aside from the fact that they often make use of it) is because there is no central core of the Internet, nor are there any local hubs. The only way to significantly damage the Internet would be to take out the thousands of network servers worldwide.

Originally Posted by Dean_the_Young
The fact that the internet sprang up so quickly is proof of its utility. Plus, decentralized intelligence access is useful far beyond a nuclear role; current smart weapons would be impossible without them.
All this is true, but it is after the fact. The military usage of internet technology is an application of an already existing system. Likewise, the civilian application is after the fact. The point is that the concept of the Internet, a distributed (decentralized) layout of networked computers, was originally thought up by Paul Baran in the context of nuclear warfare. It is extremely difficult to protect any network nodes from a nuclear device, so taking out a critical node could wipe out or sever the network. Thus the two primary applications would be to maintain communications in this worst-case scenario, and to facilitate a counter-strike.

Originally Posted by Dean_the_Young
Even your POD is questionable. The Soviet Union may have questioned the wisdom of exploring ballistic missles, but in the end it was the best bet they had, and gave them many rewards.
I was talking about the space race in particular, not necessarily the develpment of ballistic missiles. Specifically, what if the Soviet Union decided not to launch anything into space, not whether or not to launch ballistic missiles. What if the Soviet Union did not publicly flaunt potential superiority in technological matters? Of course an arms race might still result, but without anything like ARPA, it is unlikely that the US would coordinate research as innovative as it did in the OTL. For instance, while I consider the great man theory of history rediculous, no doubt that Paul Baran was a genius. If he never wrote anything for RAND, would anybody come up with his solutions? Probably not, but then someone else probably would have invented packet switching. Of course you never know...

Originally Posted by Dean_the_Young
Even your POD is questionable. The Soviet Union may have questioned the wisdom of exploring ballistic missles, but in the end it was the best bet they had, and gave them many rewards.

Originally Posted by Dean_the_Young
And finally, computers are one of those inventions that just keep making themselves better. When you look at the rate of scientific development before computers, the advances after but before networking, and finally after networking, a graph would look almost exponential. Networking is fast and efficient even for buisnesses, which would invest heavily for that if for nothing else.
Of course, if you understand Moore's Law, the exponential improvement in computer technology was anticipated WITHOUT networks. Few technologies advance in such a rapid fashion (progress is usually incremental). Perhaps networking had a positive feedback effect accelerating the advancement of computer hardware and software. Of course, it is just as likely, if not more so, that since much research and development was diverted from improving circuitry and programing to improving connectivity in the early years of information technology, that many more resources invested in computers themselves might have accelerated their development earlier on, and the boom in computer power, speed, and capacity might have occured earlier. Nevertheless, while business today benefit from computer networking, this is after the fact. No doubt in lieu of an Internet eventually computer companies would want to build networks, such computer networks would in no way resemble the Internet. I could for instance, go a few years further back and have POD's preventing anyone from inventing modems, time-sharing, or e-mail. If none of those things were invented at the time they were OTL, then if they ever do get invented, it might be too late for the resulting networks to develop into what we call the Internet. Computers were probably inevitable. Similarly computer networking may likewise be an inevitability of sorts. But the Internet as we now know it is not so inevitable. For private firms to build the Internet in a world where none existed is simply not realistic.

Consider what Napoleon XIV said in this thread, specifically page 2:
Originally Posted by Napoleon XIV
The electronic digital computer was invented to aid in English code breaking efforts during WWII. I’m not sure if this would have affected the Internet much, however, as something else would have come along requiring it. Still, what would that be? The need for making thousands upon thousands of calculations per second is not something that comes up a lot in regular life, though once you can do it, the applications become endless. I still give more credit to the American space program, which miniaturized the computer.
(emphasis mine) Napleon's formula, "the need for X is not something that comes up regularly in real life but once doable, the applications become limitless," is just as true for the Internet, if not more so, as it is for computers themselves. Essentially, there is no reason to build anything like the Internet from the ground up in a world without computer connectivity, and in fact its actual development was sort of accidental, but then we found virtually unlimited applications for the Internet (porn ;) ). Not to mention, the space program had a large role in miniaturizing the computer. In this TL since Sputnik never took off, the space race would likely be postponed (assuming it happened at all), so this would have a major impact on this process.

In fact, in my scenario, the nonexistence of the Internet does not preclude the inevitable development of all forms of computer networking. See the following for reiteration:
* Presumably computer networks of some form would eventually be invented, but these would in no way resemble the Internet. Soon enough modems, packet switching (or a related method), and time-sharing would be developed, but the computer networks which would evolve from these technologies would presumably be very different. Consider that the general trend in the evolution and development of the computer network was top-down; first a proto-internet (ARPANET), then smaller intranets, then finally ethernet. From wide-area networks (WAN) to local-area networks (LAN). In this TL, computer networks would initially begin as local connections between computers within a building (ethernets) and local area networks, followed by wide area networks (what we now call intranets). If Arpanet never existed and its technological prerequisites postponed until after the Cold War, the closest we would likely have to an Internet would be a series of localized, highly centralized "intranets" connected to other nearby intranets with modem-like connections. These would not be nearly as unified (being largely private and corporatized) or international as the Internet. For instance, very few of such networks would cross borders. In whatever case, PC's would be far less prolific in this timeline, thus limiting the accessibility of such networks. Instead private civilians would be more connected through centralized digital phone networks.

So the question remains. Is the Internet (i.e. not computer networks in general) an inevitable invention? I say no.
 
Since the internet is just a more efficient computer networking system, I say it is an inevitable evolution once basic networking is ironed out, commercial if not military. It's not like there's any huge hurdle to overcome, once the basic idea is there. In fact, decentralizing it would make it cheaper and less prone to break down, giving an economic incentive only slightly less than the military incentive, which would be to prevent a key system from dying at an inopertune moment. What's to keep networking from improving into something better? The End of History mentality?


Major Points, since I don't want to paste and quote.

-MAD and Rockets
I brought up rockets becuase you mentioned that the threat of rockets was an impetus to develop a decentralized network. I just pointed that rockets were the only reliable way for the USSR to ensure MAD, thus creating the impetus. The USSR wouldn't need to do space exploration, but it would be bloody stupid to not branch out into a field that expanded its science base, gave them great global PR, and let them declare how peaceful their intentions as to rocket technology was.

-End of MAD
In fact, the threat of MAD has not ended, merely diminished. While no longer a constant threat (the end of mainstream communism greatly lessened tensions), both the US and Russia still have their nuclear retaliation systems up and running 24/7. There have even been some scares in the last few years which almost led to nuclear annihlation. Which means even if the internet hadn't been invented yet, the reason for doing so is still there.

-USSR "Flaunting" Technology
The USSR had many reasons to flaunt their abilities, both foreign and domestic. As a missionary ideology in the same sense as liberal democracy, the Soviet union had/would have a much easier time convincing others of the benefits of communism if it could show that communism could bring forth advances that would better the common person's life. Domestically, flaunting superior technology was a great moral booster. For untold centries, Russia had been a backward land who's sole strength was numbers and size. Now it is number one, better in a brand new field than the rest of the world put together. The Red Star is truly in reach! Anything that can keep the masses happy is good, remember.

-No Space Race w/ICBMs
Unlikely, since they were essentially the same field. Space is a much more benevolent field to research in than deadly ICBMs, and much better PR. Plus, the potential benefits of space colonization in the long run are to die for. If the Soviets hadn't started it, the Americans would have. Von Braun had been pushing for years; the Soviet sattelite (which corresponded to ICBM capability) would serve the same impetus that a ICBM would have. And if the Americans start ahead in the space race, the chance for the Russians to catch up is close to nill, leading to a huge embaressment.


In the end, the need for a decentralized network to resist nuclear attack is still there (heck, it would still apply even without rockets). Plus, there will be an economical impetus as well as the military impetus. One or the other will grow, and ARPNET or whatever will develop de facto or de jure until someone takes the next step. You can delay progress, but you can't stop it (unless you kill everyone, or pull a 1984).


Oh, and just a tip? Short is good for lazy readers. I know you have a lot to say, but more people will read all of your posts when it doesn't take four minutes. Not so much a criticism as a friendly tip, one which I believe I myself received. Plus, small paragraphs when short posts aren't possible.
 
Sorry, can't see it

I'm not sure if I misunderstood your point or not. When I said that something like Compuserve, GEnie, etc would probably take over the position that the Internet had, I did assume that given PCs or any type of computer in the hands of individuals, you would at some point get the equivalent of modems. Those 'modems' would then be used to connect the computers through the phone lines to other computers.

That connection could be through on-line services like GEnie, or through the Bulletin Board systems that were popular in the early days of home computing. What protocol was used and the technology of the modem might change, and some aspects of the timing might change, but shortly after you got computers in the hands of individuals you would have people finding ways to create interconnectivity. Why would people buy computers without the initial connectivity? Well, I bought my first one to play games, program and do word processing. I don't think I even knew what on-line was when I got my first computer, and I certainly didn't know how to get there.

By the way, I'm not sure how dependent Genie and Compuserve were on the infrastructure of the Internet. They used dial-up from chains of local phone numbers. If they used the protocols developed for the Internet they would probably have developed their own if need be. As I recall it, GEnie did not have Internet access for quite some time after I started using it. When it started getting Internet feeds I noticed that the signal to noise ratio got much worse, so it is possible that no Internet would have resulted in a more intelligent on-line experience. Services like that could have probably coped with spam more effectively, for example.
 
@TR:
"In my TL, for the short time they exist, PC's are phased out in the general civilian consumer market by smaller application-specific minicomputers (as miniaturization produces microcomputers in everything, and enhances the power of PDA's)."

Just because you mentioned minicomputers: I think it's funny, because IOTL this is a term for computers in cupboard-size, like the famous PDP-10. (They were called mini because they hadn't the size of a room.)

And I'm working at wikipedia, and the few dozen articles I wrote aren't too bad.
 
Originally Posted by Johnestauffer
Prior to the internet there were electronic bulletin boards, using PC's with dial-up capabilities.
They weren't great but they were an interesting precursor of what the internet became.

I am guessing by Internet you mean to say World Wide Web, right? I would appreciate if you provided a date for this innovation. After all, I presume that these electronic bulletin borads were accessed through the Internet, and therefore were not a precursor to the Internet at all. Of course they may be a precursor of the WWW.

Originally Posted by Oafaloaf
Fah, a more feasible WI would've been if the Soviet Union had developed an ARPANET-esque network and the internet had thus been a Russian creation.

More feasible? I do not see how. Even assuming that the Soviet Union had the technological capabilities, the plans, and the initiative to create an Arpanet-type network, how would an Eastern Bloc proto-Internet develop? I could imagine a Soviet experimental computer network perhaps resembling ARPANET, but then this would initially be limited to Russia (and subsequently other Soviet Republics), maybe eventually spreading as far as East Germany and Mongolia. (Taking into account the Sino-Soviet split, the likelihood of a Soviet Internet in China seems unlikely.) Even so, it would remain confined to the Warsaw Pact nations until the eventual fall of Communism worldwide. Of course, then the "internet" might cross the former Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. Would Russian be the language of the Internet?

Still, what is to say that a "Soviet Arpanet" even resembles our Internet? Two immediate politico-socio-economic prerequisites for the Internet include an open society (or a relatively free and democratic one) and a moderate capitalism. The statist socialism and totalitarian rule of the USSR would make a Red Internet impossible (except as a strictly military tool). For one thing, a citizen's communication network (especially a private one) could undermine the effectiveness of propaganda, dissident suppression, and any authoritarian government. Of course a truly capitalistic laissez-faire economy in lines with the ideas of Adam Smith, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian School, Milton Friedman, etc. (usually coupled with a libertarian minimal government), would likely fail to produce anything like the Internet given the considerable government investment required, especially from a space program. Nevertheless, Oafaloaf, this seems like a fascinating possibility.

Originally Posted by Dean_the_Young
Oh, and just a tip? Short is good for lazy readers. I know you have a lot to say, but more people will read all of your posts when it doesn't take four minutes. Not so much a criticism as a friendly tip, one which I believe I myself received. Plus, small paragraphs when short posts aren't possible.

Criticism? Nah! I appreciate the tip! :)

You are right. I do tend to ramble and that anti-Internet rant kind of veered off topic... In the meantime, I will respond to your arguments later.

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
I'm not sure if I misunderstood your point or not. When I said that something like Compuserve, GEnie, etc would probably take over the position that the Internet had, I did assume that given PCs or any type of computer in the hands of individuals, you would at some point get the equivalent of modems. Those 'modems' would then be used to connect the computers through the phone lines to other computers.

Interesting point to remember. The modem was invented around the same time that Paul Baran developed his concept of an internet (but he did not use that term), around the late 50s/early 60s. Modem technology was developed by the US Airforce before PCs, indeed before any reasonably sized computer ("minicomputer") was available. (Think closet-sized vacuum tube computers.) Of course since there was no Internet, indeed no computer networks anyware, modems would connect distant computers, but these connections were not network connections at the time.

The modem, largely invented before the Internet, was not originally used in computer networking, but soon became incorporated. Let's assume that even if the invention of the modem was prevented around its OTL date, someone would eventually event a modem or something roughly equivalent later on. As I have said, I am not precluding the possibility of computer connectivity and networks, just anything like the Internet. Assuming that integrated circuits on silicon developed and the computer subsequently miniaturized (as in OTL), no doubt computers would be small enough and cheap enough for domestic use. Still, given the trend towards miniaturization, once PCs became available, something even smaller, more efficient, and less expensive than a PC would result, hence challenging the PC's hegemony in computing in lieu of an Internet. (I will explain more about the PC in detail.)

Also, PCs and modems alone are insufficient to create an Internet. You need a large network of time-sharing computers. (Modem connections are not network connections.) You need servers and hosts in addition to ISP's. Also Compuserve, GEnie, Qlink, even AOL, etc. were all Internet services. If a global or national public-access computer network did not exist, there would be no use for a Compuserve to build one. (Such companies provided access to the Internet. They built very little of the Internet infrastructure.)

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
That connection could be through on-line services like GEnie, or through the Bulletin Board systems that were popular in the early days of home computing. What protocol was used and the technology of the modem might change, and some aspects of the timing might change...

Which were all connected through the Internet. What are these bulletin board services I hear of? Were they Usenet? All these services provided access to the Internet before the WWW. USENET was a major predecessor of the worldwide web. It seems people confuse internet and WorldWideWeb. The reason I chose a POD around 1957 is to preclude the development of technologies such as packet switching and decentralized computer networking and organizations like ARPA so nothing like the Internet emerges. Not merely to prevent the invention of a software protocol such as hypertext or WWW.

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
...but shortly after you got computers in the hands of individuals you would have people finding ways to create interconnectivity.

Easier said than done! :D First of all, why would people care to create interconnectivity? To email or chat? People would have telephones, fascimile, text messaging, etc. (In this timeline I assume upgrading of fax technology and earlier development of such innovations as cell phones and text messaging.) Even so, the Internet was not built from the ground up by private individuals or entrepreneurs. IOTL it was an existing resource for which the information technology, computer, and telecommunications corporations found a use and sold to the general public.

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
Why would people buy computers without the initial connectivity? Well, I bought my first one to play games, program and do word processing. I don't think I even knew what on-line was when I got my first computer, and I certainly didn't know how to get there.

I am not surprised that you would say that. Indeed very few people bought their first computers for networking purposes (indeed most probably never even heard about the internet). Hence why, in my timeline PCs do exist for a short period and are purchased by ordinary consumers:

1980's- Due to the accelerated growth in this altered timeline of integrated circuit technology, and further fine tuning in input and output devices including monitors, compact discs, and printers, the personal computer once a promising invention, fades into obseletion. Personal computers still exist, but by the mid-90's become increasingly rare. Instead by the late 90's/early 2000's, in this altered timeline computing devices the size of a large wallet rival OTL PC's in power, memory capacity, and speed. As such general-purpose PC's are replaced by application-specific devices from the mid-80's onward. ... The closest equivalent to OTL PC's would be workstations in some office stations and CAD systems used in scientific research and industry as well as graphic arts and design.

I assume that without research and development on computer connectivity, including networking, packet switching, modems, and time sharing, not to mention network security measures, more R&D would be invested into computers themselves earlier on, especially integrated circuitry and other electronic hardware. This results in a faster computing boom early on, and considering Moore's exponential growth theory, an earlier computing boom matters. Therefore, without an Internet to utilize the capabilities of PCs, and with an even faster miniaturization of computers and more efficient designs, microcomputers would compete with traditional PCs. So for the relatively short time that PCs are on the market, they are gradually phased out by devices which better serve specific computing needs for a lower price. If you explore the registry or Desktop of a modern PC (all the folders and files that is), you will realize that much space is dedicated to Internet-related applications. Most modern operating systems are needlessly complex, especially if only to be used in Microsoft Office.

Why did you buy your PC? To play video games and word process. (And to do some programing.) I do not know what year you bought your first computer, but I am willing to guess that this was before Sega Saturn, PS1, N64, Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube XBox, etc. Indeed probably before Genesis or SNES. Until Playstation and Nintendo 64, even a lower-end computer was superior to any contemporaneous video game system- Atari, Coleco, Intellivision, NES, Sega, etc. Even with N64 and Playstation, most computers were all-around better for video gaming (but PCs were more expensive and consoles began catching up). With the advent of PS2 and XBox however, consoles have surpassed the average computer. Only the most high end personal computer could compete in terms of graphics, performance, or speed and even then often requires upgrades and modifications (such as graphics cards and sound cards). Video game consoles are always easier to use and less expensive. If someone only cares to play simpler games such as Solitaire, Minesweep, Skifree, Subs, Tetris, etc. then a PDA or even a cell phone or calculator would suffice. Of course I anticipate Moore's Law recieves a head start so these developments in videogaming happen earlier.

What about wordprocessing? Again, in light of the kickstart to Moore's Law, miniaturization proceeds even earlier and faster, so all the computing one needs to run a word processor is compact enough to fit in a combination printer-keyboard. Additionally, this package could be further optimized for word processing applications without the more generalized design of PCs. Just attach a monitor and a mouse (or incorporate into a laptop configuration). The typewriter of the twenty-first century!

Originally Posted by DaleCoz
As I recall it, GEnie did not have Internet access for quite some time after I started using it. When it started getting Internet feeds I noticed that the signal to noise ratio got much worse, so it is possible that no Internet would have resulted in a more intelligent on-line experience. Services like that could have probably coped with spam more effectively, for example.

Very fascinating prediction DaleCoz! :) Of course, the only way any computer network infrastructure would exist in an Internet-free world is if built from the ground up (obviously) because there would be no pre-existing infrastructure to plug into. The problem is that the demand for such a network would have to outweigh the initial investment in building a network. It is understandable why corporations might have such computer networks, initially IT companies would build for themselves, then for other companies. But what might be the reason for the interest of private citizens in these computer networks. I assume that the kick start to Moore's Law hastens the invention of text messaging and digital cable for instance. For one thing, the lack of an open computer network would mean that different private networks might be connected through modem-like connections.

Originally Posted by Max Sinister
Just because you mentioned minicomputers: I think it's funny, because IOTL this is a term for computers in cupboard-size, like the famous PDP-10. (They were called mini because they hadn't the size of a room.)

My usage of the term "minicomputer" is as a neologism of sorts. I neglected that in the OTL minicomputer referred to smaller computers though still far larger than a PC. In my ATL, presumably experts still refer to such computers as minicomputers before the silicon revolution, however after the advent of silicon wafers, the hierarchy of computers in actual size and general capacity goes as follows. Supercomputers (mainframe size, e.g. Cray) -> Desktop PCs, workstations, laptops -> PDAs, higher end videogame consoles (post-Playstation), word processors ("minicomputers" as I so call them) -> numerous integrated circuits in calculators, cell phones, automobiles, household appliances, toys, etc. There is a similar, often corresponding hierarchy from broad general-purpose computers to specialized application specific devices. (In this ATL, the latter predominate over the former.)

Originally Posted by Max Sinister
And I'm working at wikipedia, and the few dozen articles I wrote aren't too bad.

I could go on and on about my displeasure with Wikipedia, but my criticisms are too many to list! I could if you wish, provide links to thorough criticisms of Wikipedia and explain why the entire wikipedia concept is flawed. Nevertheless, good for you. I am glad that you edit, and willing to trust that you wrote some good well-researched pieces, but the bulk of Wikipedia is crap!
 
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Still, what is to say that a "Soviet Arpanet" even resembles our Internet? Two immediate politico-socio-economic prerequisites for the Internet include an open society (or a relatively free and democratic one) and a moderate capitalism.

Prove it. China didn't create the internet, but net use there is booming, and they are neither 'open' nor 'capitalist' in the conventional sense.

Plus, we have no 'control' for this assertion, nothing to compare it against.

I also think that, as intranets are joined up, something bearing a passing resemblance to the internet will evolve anyway in your scenario. It might start off slightly more locally-based, but once the advantages are seen, government investment would boost the core network.

And I also object to your Techno-Luddism. Without the net, I would probably not be at the university I'm currently at; I would not be able to access 95% of the academic journals and articles I use; and I would not have been exposed to as many differing political standpoints, ideas, opinions, and so forth. Knowledge is power, and you can't blame the medium for the message.
 
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@TR: Don't bother about people who don't know the difference between WWW and Internet. There are too many of 'em.
But yes, I'd like to see your "proof" that wikipedia's bad.
 
Maybe IBM goes with a proprietary PC operating system instead of MS-Dos,

MS-DOS is a proprietary PC operating system; what you mean is that it's cheap compared to proprietary Unix which in turn ended up comd' the PC hardware business from under IBM.

None proprietory PC operating systems are things like OpenBSD and Linux.
 
Some Quick Thoughts....

-First, in regards to the People's Republic of China, the Internet was one of the first events wherein the world had access in real-time to the events at Tiananmen Square. While it is certain that the massacre would have certainly taken place, it would have been similar to the 1980 purges, without the glare of international attention. This would have also prevented later protests, such as the 1991 Tibetan protests, the 1997 Hong Kong legislature protests, and the 1999 Falun Gong protests...

-Second, in regards to the former Soviet states, from 1989 until 1991, many of the "ethnic cleansing" campaigns in Yugoslavia, Romania, Albania, et al. would have been unreported without the presence of the Internet....

-Third, the 1996 Asian currency Collapse would have taken place at a slower pace, due to currency exchanges in Great Britain. This would have the effect of delaying the collapse of the Indonesian government in 1998. This would have certainly prevented the independence of East Timor. This would have also prevented the collapse of the Cambodian government, and the susequent arrest of Khmer Rouge leader, led by Pol Pot in 1998....

-Fourth, in the Middle East, groups like Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah would have a harder time spreading their message to the media and for recruiting potential foot soldiers. This makes the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Africa difficult. This also makes the 1994 attacks on American troops in Somalia, less likely to be funded by Al-Qaeda leaders. This also prevents the 1998 Abu-Sayyef attacks in the Philippines...

-Fifth, the sudden recruitment of right-wing militias of the 1990s remains a small-fringe activity. This prevents Timothy McVeigh and his ilk from planning and organizing the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The David Koresh and the Branch Davidian Disaster would have been seen as just another failed federal law enforcement incident, and not linked to some dark "New World Order"....
 
I personally think the internet is an inevitablilty. Any way to connect computers so people can share information is incredibly important and therefore, since nessicity is the mother of invention, the internet would've been invented by someone.

Now, just to entertain the idea that the internet could never be invented, I believe that the internet has yet to make a large impact socially, but it will within the next ten years. I mean bigger than anything else we've seen. Anyone can share ideas with anyone over huge distances in the blink of an eye. The butterflies are massive and endless. You circumvent that and an ATL could go any which way.
 
Talking past each other

I think that to a certain extent we are talking past each other. I'm probably partly at fault for using some terms without defining them:

Bulletin Board: In the pre-World Wide Web days, it was fairly common for an individual to buy a spare computer and a modem, have an extra phone line installed, and have the computer set up so that the public could access it. The public could access that bulletin board simply by dialing the phone number of the extra phone line.

Most local computer clubs had at least one bulletin board system, as did a lot of local computer dealers. Some bulletin board systems got pretty elaborate, with their owners installing extra serial ports so that they could have multiple modems and multiple phone lines. Some of the larger bulletin boards charged a small monthly fee for access. For that fee you got a subset of most of the things you now get from the Internet: public domain programs, a soapbox, a way to share specialized new, a way to act as though you had a social life. I want to emphasize: (1)This was done over the phone lines, from one person's computer to another. (2) This was not theoretical. Bulletin boards were common and popular among techies in the pre-World Wide Web era.

GEnie and Compuserve: In the pre-World Wide Web era, these services were not primarily used as means of accessing the Internet. As a matter of fact I'm pretty sure GEnie couldn't access the Internet, or at least the service did not make such access available to their users. GEnie, Compuserve, and AOL each had their own content, separate from the content of the Internet. Having used all three of those services in the pre-World Wide Web era, I'm reasonably sure they were not dependent on the Internet to provide people with access to their content. Each of the major services established local access numbers. You called one of those numbers and connected to the service. I can't say this with absolute certainty, but everything I saw or read during that era indicated that the major online services simply consisted of several mainframes in some central location that people accessed through the local access numbers.

The major services charged by the minute for access time, and I can personally vouch for the fact that it was not hard to wrack up a $200/month GEnie phone bill.

Would computers automatically generate connectivity? Yep. Almost a hundred percent certainty of that. In the early days, hobbyist computing attracted a lot of people who were either "phone phreaks" (people who liked to spoof and otherwise play games with the phone system), or amateur radio geeks. For example, both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (founders of Apple) were phone phreaks back in their college days. Both hobbies were heavily into connectivity, so the members would and did carry those notions into the new hobby of personal computing.

Would personal computers be supplanted by specialized devices? There has always been a tension between computers and specialized microprocessor-based devices like video games. However, there has never been a point where video game consoles seriously threatened to push personal computers per se out of the market, though they did do a number on specialized home computers like the C64 and the Amiga. Part of the problem is that it was far easier to justify a computer to parents, spouses, significant others, than it was to justify a video game console. The two were likely to coexist, and always have. Even if game consoles totally won out, they would probably then develop computer-like functions, and connectivity functions. Playstation and XBox have certainly gone down the connectivity route.

Bottom line: I can see you getting rid of the Internet as currently structured. If you did, the local BBSs and the likes of GEnie and Compuserve would do somewhat the same function for a smaller and more computer literate portion of the population, just as they did historically for over a decade in parallel with the historical Internet. A lot of very smart, very technologically savvy people wanted personal computers and connectivity. They were going to get both. The only question was how.

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Check out Dale Cozort's Alternate History Newsletters - nine years of Alternate History ideas, scenarios, and fiction.
 
If the Internet had never existed there would be very very few home or personal computers. The Internet was a very big factor in the development of the personal computer and in them becoming a routine item in almost every home.

Had the Internet never existed, the world would in many ways be much like it was before the Internet was invented and developed. In many ways the world would be much like it was in the 1970's and 1980's.
 
I think 'personel computers" would still have a major role in things.
They are more flexible than main frame computers and would be desired by smaller businesses. They would also be useful in the education world.

The entertainment aspect of the small computer would still be there.
You could still have computer games.

Using computers in the business/education world would provide encouragement to have more used in the home. (Price was the major barrier to my getting a PC in the 'old' days prior to the internet)
 
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