Back to the Future: Cruising on the Information Superhighway

Twenty-five years ago, a month before Mosaic Netscape, the first internet browser, released; four months before PhD students at Stanford University started work on the code that became the Google search engine; and eight years before the first U.S. social networking site, Friendster, launched; my sister and I wrote an article about the future online.

We envisioned “A Day in the Life” for an “Internet-savvy entrepreneur”.

At the time, my sister, L.S. Goldhaber, and I had been in business for more than a decade writing, editing, and designing marketing materials such as newsletters, brochures, catalogues, press releases, stationery, direct mail pieces, resumes, and presentations for individuals, non-profits, and businesses as well as creating corporate identity programs and helping clients adjust to life “Cruising on the Information Superhighway”. We had two offices, one in Seattle, Washington where she lived; the other in the Chicago, Illinois suburbs where I did with five employees besides ourselves.

We already used the Internet more than most, communicating via email, transferring electronic files back and forth to take advantage of the two-hour time difference when managing work flow, and networking via bulletin boards and usenet groups. We had been producing documents using Aldus Pagemaker (launched in 1985) for more than seven years, owned personal computers since 1984, and been using personal digital assistants since 1991, five years before the introduction of the PalmPilot.

The article, published in Svoboda’s Home & Small Business, resulted from an invitation for me to speak at a “Marketing Through the Internet” seminar on September 7, 1995, and appeared in the issue promoting the event.

Re-reading the article today, it seems simplistic but it’s still a relatively accurate picture of how businesses use the Internet. We didn’t envision the Internet becoming a shopping mall, smart phones allowing you to check your email before you get out of bed, the invasion of privacy by corporations selling personal information so we can be inundated with advertising, or social networking destroying our Democracy.

But much of what we wrote still applies. I still use:

  • WordPerfect to create documents (okay, I may be in the minority on that one);
  • the internet to network with others (in my case, other authors and editors instead of small businesses);
  • listservs and online newsletters to deliver useful information, especially submission calls;
  • search engines to find information in real time;
  • online petitions to learn about issues and for information to include in letters to legislators and corporations (I won’t sign the actual petitions because of privacy issues).

And, we’re still dealing with congressional interference from people who really don’t understand how the Internet works to this day.