Counterfactual Cyberspace

Internet retro-futurism is taken to a whole new level by Andrew L. Russell:

What happened to the “beautiful dream” [of Open Systems Interconnection]? While the Internet’s triumphant story has been well documented by its designers and the historians they have worked with, OSI has been forgotten by all but a handful of veterans of the Internet-OSI standards wars. To understand why, we need to dive into the early history of computer networking, a time when the vexing problems of digital convergence and global interconnection were very much on the minds of computer scientists, telecom engineers, policymakers, and industry executives. And to appreciate that history, you’ll have to set aside for a few minutes what you already know about the Internet. Try to imagine, if you can, that the Internet never existed. …

The article is rich enough to support a number of take-away lessons. The most compelling from the perspective of this blog: the real benefits of bypassing discussion are huge. We got a TCP/IP Internet because OSI was discussing the future far too widely and comprehensively. The route that avoids the talking shop is the one history tends to take.

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