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Recalling the Modem World 

Histories of the internet often invoke a familiar mythology: dreamed up during the Cold War, it started as a US Department of Defense-funded network to connect computers at universities around the country. True in broad outline, the story helped explain the origins of this transformative new technology when it exploded into the cultural consciousness in the 1990s in the form of electronic mail, the World Wide Web, and those ubiquitous AOL CD-ROMs. 
But this history doesn’t help us to understand today’s social internet—or to imagine what might come after. “What this origin story leaves out,” writes Kevin Driscoll, “are the thousands of people running highly local networks of personal computers who created early online communities at a grassroots level.” 
The hobbyists and computer enthusiasts of the 1980s prefigured today’s social media by building bulletin board systems (BBSs) that they accessed through dial-up modems. “Exploring how these communities developed and sustained themselves not only provides a fuller history of the internet,” argues Driscoll, “but offers insights into how we might build healthier online communities that are more just, equitable, and inclusive.”

Read more about the community-oriented amateurs and entrepreneurs who helped built the social internet.

Plus: Removing the dangerous junk humans have left in orbit is costly and risky. Marissa Heron, Karen L. Jones, and Darren McKnight offer their ideas for ways to make orbital debris remediation more feasible.
Our podcast is back! To kick off the second season of conversations about science, art, technology, policy, and society, host J. D. Talasek talks with artists David Allen Burns and Austin Young of Fallen Fruit and professor Molly Jahn to explore how creativity and systems thinking can change the food system. Listen wherever you get your podcasts, or click the button below. (And be sure to subscribe to catch a future episode featuring Kevin Driscoll discussing the prehistory of social media.)
On September 22, 2022, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in collaboration with The Kavli Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Issues in Science and Technology, will host the Endless Frontier Symposium 2022: Research and Higher Education Institutions for the Next 75 Years. The symposium will bring together experts and leaders from across the world to consider the transformations needed from research and higher education institutions in the next 75 years to better address global challenges.
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Issues in Science and Technology is a publication of Arizona State University and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
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