It seems reasonable
to envision, for a time 10 or 15 years hence, a 'thinking center' that will incorporate
the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information
storage and retrieval.
picture readily enlarges itself into a network of such centers, connected to one
another by wide-band communication lines and to individual users by leased-wire
services. In such a system, the speed of the computers would be balanced, and
the cost of the gigantic memories and the sophisticated programs would be divided
by the number of users.
J.C.R. Licklider, Man-Computer
Joseph Carl Robnett "Lick" Licklider created
the idea of a universal network, spread his vision throughout the IPTO,
and inspired his successors to realize his dream by inventing the
ARPANET, which led to the Internet.
He also developed the concepts
started his scientific career as an experimental psychologist and professor
at MIT interested in psychoacoustics, the study of how the human ear and brain
convert air vibrations into the perception of sound. At MIT he also
on the SAGE project as a human factors expert,
which helped convince him of the great potential for human / computer interfaces.
psychoacoustics research at MIT took an enormous amount of data analysis, requiring
construction of several types of mathematical graphs based on the data collected
by his research. By the late 1950's he realized that his mathematical models of
pitch perception had grown too complex to solve, even with the analog computers
then available, and that he wouldn't be able to build a working mechanical model
and advance the theory of psychoacoustics as he had wished.
to this revelation, in 1957 Licklider spent a day measuring the amount of time
it took him to perform the individual tasks of collecting, sorting, and analyzing
information, and then measured the time it took him to make decisions based on
the data once it was collected. He discovered that the preparatory work took about
85% of the time, and that the decision could then be made almost immediately once
the background data was available. This exercise had a powerful effect, and convinced
him that one of the most useful long term contributions of computer technology
would be to provide automated, extremely fast support systems for human decision
After Licklider was awarded tenure at MIT, he joined the company
Bolt, Beranek & Newman to pursue his psychoacoustic research, where he was
given access to one of the first minicomputers, a PDP-1 from Digital Equipment
Company. The PDP-1 had comparable computing power to a mainframe
computer of the time, at a cost of $250K, and only took up as much space of a couple of household refrigerators. Most importantly, instead of having to hand over punched cards to an operator
and wait days for a printed response from the computer, Licklider could program
the PDP-1 directly on paper tape, even stopping it and changing the tape when
required, and view the results directly on a display screen in real-time. The
PDP-1 was the first interactive computer.
Licklider quickly realized that
minicomputers were getting to be powerful enough to support the type of automated
library systems that Vannevar Bush had described.
In 1959, Licklider wrote his first influential book, titled "Libraries of the Future",
about how a computer could provide an automated library with simultaneous remote
use by many different people through access to a common database.
also realized that interactive computers could provide more than a library function,
and could provide great value as automated assistants. He captured his ideas in
a seminal paper in 1960 called Man-Computer
Symbiosis, in which he described a computer assistant that could answer questions,
perform simulation modeling, graphically display results, and extrapolate solutions
for new situations from past experience. Like Norbert
Wiener, Licklider foresaw a close symbiotic relationship between computer
and human, including sophisticated computerized interfaces with the brain.
also quickly appreciated the power of computer networks, and predicted the effects
of technological distribution, describing how the spread of computers, programs,
and information among a large number of computers connected by a network would
create a system more powerful than could be built by any one organization. In
August, 1962, Licklider and Welden Clark elaborated on these ideas in the the paper
"On-Line Man Computer Communication", one of the first conceptions of the future
In October, 1962, Licklider was hired to be Director of the IPTO
newly established by DARPA. His mandate was
to find a way to realize his networking vision and interconnect the DoD's main
computers at the Pentagon, Cheyenne
Mountain, and SAC HQ. He started by writing a series of memos to the other
members of the office describing the benefits of creation of a global, distributed
network, addressing some memos to "Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic
Computer Network". Licklider's vision of a universal network had a powerful influence
on his successors at the IPTO, and provided the original intellectual push that
led to the realization of the ARPANET only seven
In 1964, Licklider left the IPTO and went to work at IBM. In
1968, he went back to MIT to lead the Project MAC project. In 1973, he returned
again to lead the IPTO for two years. In 1979, he was one of the founding members of Infocom.
Netizen. In April, 1968, Licklider
and Robert Taylor published a ground-breaking paper The Computer as a Communication Device in Science
and Technology, portraying the forthcoming universal network as more than a service to provide transmission of data, but also as a tool whose value came from the generation
of new information through interaction with its users. In other words, the old golden rule applied to an as yet unbuilt network world, where each netizen contributes
more to the virtual community than they receive, producing something more powerful and useful than anyone could create by themself.
Hauben, a widely read Internet pioneer, encountered this spirit still
going strong in his studies of online Internet communities in the 1990's,
leading to his coinage of the term "net citizen" or "netizen".
Newcomers to the Internet usually experience the same benefit of participating
in a larger virtual world, and adopt the spirit of the netizen as it is handed
down the generations. It cannot be a coincidence that so many Internet technologies
are built specifically to leverage the power of community information sharing,
such as the Usenet newsgroups, IRC, MUD's, and mailing lists. The concept
of the netizen is also the foundation for the motivation of netiquette.