Life was very different in America 50 years ago. That’s because the beginnings of the internet happened by mistake in California on Oct. 29, 1969.

 A UCLA professor and his graduate student wanted to send a transmission from one computer to one at Stanford. Those were two of only four universities that even had computers in 1969. By the time they typed the first two letters of their message, the system crashed. It took them an hour to send the entire first word, which was “login.”

 America — and the world — would never be the same.

 Two years later, a full email message was sent, using the “@” sign for the first time. That meant each transmission could be sent to one specific recipient — or a million people. The World Wide Web wasn’t invented until 1989, when a British scientist figured out how to access, create and share web pages — but he didn’t publish the first web page until 1991.

 This isn’t a dry history lesson with facts, figures and dates. It’s a reminder that one tiny event can completely change the whole world when we least expect it.

 Amazon’s founders didn’t figure out how to launch their company until 1995 — and today it’s the largest online “store” on earth. The search engine Google didn’t launch until 1997 and Facebook didn’t begin until 2004, but today it has 1.5 billion users worldwide. All within the past 15 years.

 The easy availability of using the internet has turned the world upside down. Think of how your music listening, TV and movie watching, book and newspaper reading habits have changed.

 Wikipedia answers questions instead of dictionaries. Students get tablets instead of books. We take digital pictures instead of using real cameras with film. We hail ride-sharing apps like Uber instead of calling taxis — and we pay our bills or reserve hotel rooms with a few finger taps on our phones.

 More than 95 percent of Americans have cell phones to handle all this activity. No problem if we don’t have time to cook — food (and toilet paper) can arrive at our door from grocery stores or restaurants in minutes.

 And it’s all because a professor wanted his computer to talk to another one 50 years ago. What in the world can top that in the next 50 years?

Opinions offered in this column are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Tri-County Times or its staff. Email Mark Rummel at

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