Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The internet's twenty-five years old today, which is why I can't remember a damn thing

Somebody said the internet is twenty-five years old today. Funny that because tonight I'm taking part in a charity quiz and I was just listening to a New Yorker podcast in which Timothy Wu talks about how devices like smart phones have augmented our memory.

I'm also making a cup of tea and doing what I traditionally do on a quiz day, which is furrow my brow and think about what might come up. Clearly this is a stupid thing to do but, you know what they say, the harder you practise, the luckier you get.

What Wu has to say resonates with me because I've delegated the act of remembering things to digital devices. The only things I actually know are the things I learned before those devices came along, which was twenty-five years ago.

Beatles singles in order, speeches from Shakespeare, the England World Cup winning team, the registration numbers of cars I have owned. All these things can be instantly recalled. The big events of last year? I'm struggling, partly because I made no effort to commit them to memory and I've always known that it would be the work of seconds to look them up. This could be what we mean when we say things aren't very memorable.


  1. How many telephone numbers does anyone actually remember these days?

  2. Back from the quiz, where I did quite well thanks to my ability to retrieve such items as Flanders and Swann's "The Gnu Song" and "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square" out of my long term memory.

  3. Being pedantic, it's the a World WideWeb that's 25, not the Internet, which is the underlying interconnected networks. The internet has been around a lot longer

  4. Anonymous12:01 pm

    25 years! I remember it before that when I lived in paris and logged in for the first time to a remote site called 'The Source' from my phone coupler modem. It was a real breakthrough moment in my technology life. We also had a local precursor of the web called 'Minitel' which was part of the french phone system and had very interesting chat rooms back in 1981.