Katie Couric And Bryant Gumbel Discover The Internet

from the ah,-discovery dept

A whole bunch of people have been sending in this video, which has already gone viral, of Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric having a very confused discussion about the internet on The Today Show way back in 1994 (at which point the internet really was not that obscure):

It kicks off with a debate over how to pronounce the @ symbol, with Gumbel properly saying “at,” but being unsure of himself, after Couric suggests maybe it’s “about.” This is even though @ was the “at” symbol well before the internet. Then there’s a conversation as they’re totally confused by the email address that is put on the screen and what it means, leading up to Gumbel declaring in a frustrated voice:

“What is internet anyway?”

Eventually someone tries to explain it, and Gumbel seems to just get more frustrated and incredulous:

How does one… what is it? What do you write to it, like mail?!?”

It’s not like they’re supposed to be reporters or anything, who can do some research to find out what it is they’re talking about…

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Comments on “Katie Couric And Bryant Gumbel Discover The Internet”

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Not an electronic Rodent says:


And pulled down. Classy, Today Show people, classy.

And sooooo effective – took me all of 45 seconds of googling to find an alternitive copy. Perhaps the idea is to change the story, though how “the owners of Today have no sense of humour and overreact” is a better story than “Oh look some people said something dumb and funny on Today almost 20 years ago” is a mystery to me – clearly I don’t have the rarified TV mogul head for it.

lavi d (profile) says:

It kicks off with a debate over how to pronounce the @ symbol, with Gumbel properly saying “at,”

Well, technically, at that time, that wasn’t entirely correct.

Of course, I can’t find any references to back up my claim, but trust me, I took typing in Jr. High and that’s not what it used to be called.

I’m fairly certain that the majority of people familiar with that symbol (outside of the computing world) at that time would know it as an accounting symbol signifying “each at”, as in, “five pairs of shoes @ at $100”

Sean T Henry (profile) says:

Before it became the standard symbol for electronic mail, the @ symbol was used to represent the cost or weight of something. For instance, if you purchased 6 apples, you might write it as 6 apples @ $1.10 each.

With the introduction of e-mail came the popularity of the @ symbol. The @ symbol or the “at sign” separates a person’s online user name from his mail server address. For instance, joe@uselessknowledge.com. Its widespread use on the Internet made it necessary to put this symbol on keyboards in other countries that have never seen or used the symbol before. As a result, there is really no official name for this symbol.

Griff (profile) says:

Give them a break

This was, what, 2 years before the netscape browser went mainstream ?

There was no web to speak of, people like me who were heavily into CompuServe knew the internet as this necessary evil to send mail to people outside CIS but which (without MIME yet becoming widely accepted as the defacto way to attach a file) was a real mess to use for communication and tended to full your screen with horrible headers few could understand.

At this point “the internet” (Archie, Gopher etc) was for serious geeks only.

You could argue that they shouldn’t have been even trying to do the segment without more research, but to not know what they were talking about in 1994 hardly put them at the bottom of the pile.

In fact considering there was no real web yet, it was actually fairly prescient for them to be even realising it was worth talking about

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Give them a break

I remember the internet in the 90’s. I first used it on ’94 at the University (home internet was unheard of).

I never understood that Gopher thing. I know it was like… link browsing? But each click just seemed to randomly take you elsewhere and another set of links.

Maybe in the USA it was more popular, I don’t know. I’m a tech person, nowadays I use internet more than anything else and understand most of the protocols and concepts. Still, Gopher don’t make no sense to me.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

this is some funny stuffs all the way around.

it was 1994… not everyone had caught on to the internet quite yet so them not knowing about it could be easily excused. if this was an off the cuff spontaneous conversation their total lack of knowledge could even be excused (a little bit, not completely). keep in mind some of what was super shiny and new in 1994:
ordering pizza from pizza hut started in 1994
consumers finally outpace academics by 2:1
netscape was founded
mosaic still climbing the charts
the 20million user number had not yet been hit
some ‘best of the internet’ lists for 1994 still include separate categories for best gopher site and ‘best workaround for non-SLIP users’.

oddly, some things never change such as the dire warnings back in 1994 that the ‘information superhighway’ is going to fall under government protection which as all other things the government attempts to regulate causes it to basically suck more than a black hole.
and yes the idea that “A protocol will be developed for smaller interest groups to form larger common-interest federations.”

its fun to look at this video and be judgmental about their knowledge (or lack thereof) on the internet but keep in mind… the internet as we know it was still quite young at that time just as katie and bryant were… thankfully time has improved two of those three.

ill let you figure out which two…

Rekrul says:

I loved this...

Hey, don’t joke about those CDs… Back in my Foul Bachelor Frog days, me and my roomies would pop a buck on those self-adhesive rubber feet, grab those CDs, and -BAM- infinite coasters.

The idea of CDs being used as drink coasters never made any sense to me. The whole idea of a coaster is to keep moisture off the table by providing a barrier. Except that CDs have a hole in the center which can act as a drain. Not only that, since the plastic doesn’t absorb liquid, it would just pool on the surface and spill off when you picked it up.

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