The 20th anniversary of the first news broadcast on the Internet is coming up on November 23. In 1995, our friend Victor Dorff made history by talking ABC TV News into letting him put “World News Now” on the web. They thought he was crazy, but gave it a try.
“Why would anyone want to watch TV news on a computer,” they asked. Dorff had to convince them that it was even possible. Back in 1995, you rarely heard the word “email” in a conversation, let alone “Internet broadcast.” (When Joy created a website for her woman’s club in 2000, no one thought to mention it in the club’s annual report.)
Twelve people tuned in to that first Internet news broadcast. As engineers and reporters in the ABC newsroom monitored the response, the number quickly dropped to seven. Maybe the execs were right about there being no interest. Maybe not.
This reminds us of other great insights — what executives like to call “the vision thing.” When the first telephone line was strung between Washington and Baltimore, President Rutherford B. Hayes was given the privilege of making the first call. “A remarkable device,” he is reported to have said; “but what good is it?”
When Steve Wozniak presented his original personal computer board to his employer, Hewlett Packard, and suggested they might want to manufacture them, they told him they weren’t interested. When Xerox developed a mouse-controlled computer that used icons on the screen for navigating between programs, they dropped it. The executives agreed they were in the copier business and there was no market for small computers. Steve Jobs looked at it, though, and thought there was something big there.
When Bob (this Bob) met with Kodak many years ago to see the new digital camera they had invented, he told them this was the future — that they should drop the film camera business and concentrate on digital. A very high executive looked at him like he was the dumbest guy in the world and said: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Film is our cash cow.” Moo.
Thomas Watson, long time chairman of the board for IBM, famously remarked to the press: “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Ken Olsen, president of Digital Equipment, then a giant in computer manufacturing, said publicly in1977: “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” This was at a time when the first Apple and Radio Shack computers were already being sold. It’s not that these people are stupid, it’s that they get comfortable and see no reason to change.
We could go on and on with many such stories, some of which Bob was present for — like the debacle at Texas Instrument when they had to dump their personal computer. At the debut press conference, they ignored his observation that people wouldn’t buy a computer that could only run TI-approved software. When it became obvious there was a market developing, IBM introduced their own “PCjr” personal computer — with the notorious “chiclet” keyboard that was extremely difficult to use. Why did they do that? They deliberately made it hard to use so it wouldn’t compete with their best selling “Selectric” typewriter. (Saw one of those for sale recently on eBay. A curiosity.)
So to get back to the anniversary at hand: You can see this first ever Internet broadcast by going to YouTube.com and searching on the phrase “ABC News First Internet Broadcast.” Note that in the intro, they tell people to tune in at 2 a.m. A San Diego woman broadcast a live video stream of herself back to them. She was ahead of her time; we call it a web cam now.
Epilogue: One of the things we’ve noticed over many years covering this industry is that no one was ever pleased or grateful when we pointed out they had just committed a fatal flaw. We had done something unforgiveable — we had rained on a corporate parade. None of them ever contacted us again.
(subhed) What to Do with an Old Computer
If you have a computer laying around that’s no good any more, consider turning it into a lightning-fast Chromebook.
Search on the phrase “How to turn an Old Laptop into a Chromebook” and you’ll get instructions from Digital Trends. You should only attempt this on a computer you don’t need, because it will wipe out the old contents. Be sure you transfer any pictures or files to an external drive or online storage first. You’ll install a version of the Chrome operating system called “Cloud Ready.”
A Chromebook isn’t like a Mac or a PC or even a Linux computer. It uses the Google Chrome operating system (not to be confused with the Google Chrome web browser). It’s great for browsing the web, doing email and playing online games. But you can’t install programs on it, such as Microsoft Word. Many people use it as a second computer, and it’s become the popular choice for schools –72 percent of the market. That’s because every time it boots up, it fixes any problems encountered the last time you use it.
There was a rumor reported by The Wall Street Journal recently that Google was dropping Chrome to make it simply a new version of the Android operating system they use for smart phones. This turned out to be false.