Living in the Information Age

People have begun to call it the Information Revolution. Technological changes brought dramatic new options to Americans living in the 1990s. Over the decade, new forms of entertainment, commerce, research, work, and communication became commonplace in the United States. The driving force behind much of this change was an innovation popularly known as the Internet.

Personal computers had become widespread by the end of the 1980s. Through a device called a modem, individual users could link their computer to cyberspace—a wealth of information—using conventional phone lines.

The U.S. Department of Defense developed the Internet during the 1970s. In the case of an attack, military advisers would be able to operate one computer from another terminal. In the early days, the Internet was used mainly by scientists to communicate with other scientists. The Internet remained under government control until 1984.

One early problem faced by Internet users was speed. Phone lines transmitted information at a limited rate. The development of fiber-optic cables allowed for faster transmission of data.

In the early 1990s, the World Wide Web was introduced, largely for commercial purposes. Companies soon discovered that work could be done at home and submitted online, so a whole new class of telecommuters began to earn a living from home offices.

New forms of communication were introduced. E-mail became a common way to send a message to associates or friends. Internet service providers set up electronic chat rooms, which were open areas of cyberspace where interested parties could join in a conversation with strangers.

The commercial possibilities of the Internet were limitless. It offered convenience, communication tools like chat rooms and email, and educational opportunities through the wealth of knowledge now placed at available to any wired individual.

Critics claimed that the Internet created a technological divide that increased the gap between the haves and have-nots. Others complained about the impersonal nature of electronic communication compared to traditional methods. Hate groups were using the Internet to expand their bases and recruit new members.

Source: Living in the Information Age
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