50 years since its birth, the internet has meant the death of …

On the 50th anniversary of the first message sent over the ARPANET — the Department of Defense’s predecessor to the internet — a lot has changed since the night of Oct. 29, 1969.

“Think back to all the things you used to do on a regular basis that you no longer do,” said Ken Colburn, founder of Data Doctors.

“Things like phone books, encyclopedias and even physical shopping have changed dramatically,” said Colburn. “Travel agents are still around, but they’re not the go-to anymore.”

The internet and smartphones have transformed the way people communicate one-to-one, as well as one-to-many.

“How about just remembering phone numbers?” said Colburn. “These days, we probably don’t remember any of the phone numbers for the people we call on a daily basis.”

Entertainment has been altered dramatically, even since the early 2000s.

“When was the last time you listened to an entire album?” Colburn wondered. “If you were into CDs as much as I was, you probably had this huge book of CDs in your car — that’s no longer necessary.”

Foldable maps or large map books have largely disappeared, too. “Not wanting to ask for directions, that whole stereotypical scenario, that no longer happens, now that we’ve got the internet and smartphones.”

Consumers often turn to their phones, rather than look in newspapers or magazines.

“Newspaper classified ads — it was a pretty standard way to communicate and sell things,” said Colburn. “How about trying to figure what movies are playing by calling the theater directly to get what’s playing, and what time?”

In his computer services business, the internet has made it easier for him to help customers.

“If a customer had a problem with a printer driver, I’d have to call the manufacturer, request they mail a floppy disk to my shop, wait five days for it to arrive, and call the customer,” said Colburn. “So what takes seconds today could take a week prior to the internet.”

“And the big one: Because of the internet, we all lost privacy,” Colburn said.

And even with the startling inventory of what has changed 50 years after the birth of the internet, it remains an evolving technology.

“There’s more to come in the next 50 years,” said Colburn. “And none of us can even imagine what it’s going to mean.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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