This Week In Techdirt History

from the memory-lane dept

For the most part, digging through Techdirt’s history tends to trigger one of two feelings: “wow, that was really [x] years ago already?” or, alternatively, “oh yeah, I remember that! It was only [x] years ago?” Often enough, the deciding factor between the two is simple: is the issue in question one that has actually evolved, or even been resolved, or is it a signpost on what feels like a long road to nowhere? Of course, there’s a third more simple feeling that pops up a lot too, which can be summed up as “huh… neat!” Let’s take a tour and experience all three:

Five Years Ago

Five years ago wasn’t all that different from today, though some issues that were blurry then have come into sharp focus, like discussions about online privacy at the Supreme Court level, or government agencies struggling to manage watch lists and surveillance. Conversely, the issue of online bullying, while hardly resolved, has lost some of the spotlight it had this week in 2009 — spurred by the ongoing prosecution of Lori Drew, with prosecutors seeking a symbolic three-year sentence and a congressional rep launching a bill to criminalize online trolling.

It was also a week where we (and most of the gaming community) made a mistake, declaring famous vaporware Duke Nukem Forever to be officially dead and buried. Two years later we would be proven wrong, with the game finally launching to reception that, in an act of staggering generosity, I will describe as “lukewarm”.

Finally, five years ago this week, we got this:

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2004, the discussion about online privacy was even younger, with people just catching on to the fact that this is about redefining entire paradigms of privacy to build a new framework that works, not starting by focusing on specific individual breaches. It’s also about this time that everyone began to notice America’s double standard on internet censorship when a block-circumvention system offered to people in Iran and China turned out to be blocking its own list of supposedly objectionable content.

Schools were just starting (and failing) to cope with cellphone-bearing students, and the large-scale future of PayPal payments and online shopping in general was still being debated. The ringtone market was relatively new, and the world record for speed-texting was set on a phone that may or may not have had the T9 Engine but certainly did not have a touchscreen and advanced prediction algorithms.

Long before Google Glass was a thing, and before anyone would have even placed Google on a shortlist of prime candidates to build such a device, we were discussing the still-early baby steps towards wearable displays, and also wondering if the best place for wearable computing might be in your shoes. Of course, this was 2004, when people still weren’t convinced that “camera phones” served any purpose.

Also, this week in Still-Hadn’t-Adopted-The-Term-Patent-Troll news, we reported on “small intellectual property houses that buy up perfectly obvious patents, or those with prior art, and then go around threatening small sites”.

Fifteen Years Ago

This was a fairly quiet week in 1999, but apparently a lot of people were thinking about the internet and the stock market. Victims of April Fools stock hoaxes were suing to reverse their errors, the SEC Chairman was warning casual day traders about the dangers of the market, and brand new stocks for buzzy dotcoms were still skyrocketing at their IPOs.

Nine-Hundred Years Ago

Admittedly nobody’s actually sure of the exact week, but 1114 was the birth year of Bhāskara II, the greatest mathematician of medieval India, who developed many elements of differential calculus and applied them to astronomy — five centuries before Newton and Leibniz.

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