This Week In Techdirt History: September 28th – October 5th

from the dear-history dept

Five Years Ago

Last week, we revisited the Lily Allen incident of 2009. This week, we round that memory off with the most entertaining part of its legacy: Dan Bull’s musical open letter, Dear Lily.

Also in 2009 this week, we saw the debut of the North Face/South Butt dust-up, watched Disney prevent a Disney appreciation club from watching Disney movies, and discovered some complications in the rights battle over Spider Man.

The US prosecutor from the Lori Drew case, ridiculously, started looking to appeal the ruling, while at the same time Congress was showing reluctance to pass any anti-cyberbullying laws. Meanwhile, we talked about the importance of establishing software ownership rather than software licensing, and later in the week were pleased to see the court in a case involving Autodesk do just that by defending the right of first sale.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2004 we had a pair of DMCA-related rulings. One was good: Diebold was found guilty of abusing the DMCA to take down sensitive documents showing the company was aware of security flaws in its system. The other was not so good: some developers who reverse-engineered a game server were ruled to have violated the DMCA despite no clear act of infringement on their part.

Tech panic was in full-swing, with the media telling one-sided stories about internet use at work, other media worrying about iPod use at work, and cops attacking people for using cellphones. But there was plenty of tech optimism happening too.

It was also this week in 2004 that we first heard Tim Berners-Lee speak out about patents and the harm they do to the web. Meanwhile, SpaceShipOne made the first of the two flights that would win it the X Prize.

Fifteen Years Ago

Once again, this week in 1999 was a simpler time. The concept of paid product astroturfing online was new and uncertain. Traditional retailers were still struggling to get online, and Nike had just brought its products to the web.. Amazon started letting people set up their own stores for the very first time. Online bill payment was still somewhat arcane. We were still surprisingly tepid about smartphones. Biodegradable plastic grown from crops was brand new. And, for some reason, you could trade stocks with a Sega Dreamcast.

Sixty-Three Years Ago

On September 28th, 1951, CBS released the first commercial color television in an interesting moment from the history of innovation. CBS had been actively pursuing color broadcasts, and was making them available in many US cities, but it had a problem: nobody had color receivers, manufacturers didn’t want to build them, and advertisers didn’t want to pay for color ads when nobody would see them. So the network bought a TV manufacturer and starting building the sets itself. It was an utter failure, with only 200 sets ever shipped, only half those sold, and the operation shut down in less than a month. Three years later, NBC would do a much better job of getting America hooked on color TV.

BONUS: Nine-Hundred And Forty-Eight Years Ago

It’s not exactly a Techdirt topic, but it has to be mentioned, because if you can so much as read this article, then this event impacted you. September 28th marked the beginning of the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror (or Bastard, depending on who you ask) in 1066, just three days after Harold Godwinson defeated the viking invaders at Stamford Bridge. The war lasted just over two weeks, and the Norman victory would set the course of all English culture (and its offshoots) forever, shape the English language, and consign the Anglo-Saxon kings to history. It’s almost impossible to imagine the last thousand years of Western history (and much beyond) had the invasion never happened, or ended differently.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: September 28th – October 5th”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Has history ever become so antique as quickly as it has in the last 20 years?

90’s technology looks like it’s been on the bottom of the ocean for a thousand years, still gleaming, but crusted with a sense of usefulness ended…quaint, as if something used by the Victorians for studying phrenology.

Technology is a continuum, of course, a glass bead rolling in a gravity well. But ask yourself, what is the impetus? The answer to this can be gleaned indirectly by asking another question: who is pushing against the future?

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: Has history ever become so antique as quickly as it has in the last 20 years?

Has it really?

I look at the latest technology in PowerPoint charts, for example, and it looks like it came straight out of the 1990s.

Compare the Internet and the phone system: the basic Internet protocols at least date from the 1970s and 1980s, but phone numbers go back to the 19th century. Why doesn’t the phone system use Internet-style names, instead of forcing people to try to remember numeric addresses?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Has history ever become so antique as quickly as it has in the last 20 years?

Why doesn’t the phone system use Internet-style names, instead of forcing people to try to remember numeric addresses?

Because it is still an analogue system, with bits of digital technology bolted on. This problem will remain until the Internet replaces the phone system,, and all wires and radio channels simply become an end connection to the Internet. The phone companies are resisting this, because it would become obvious as to how they are overcharging when the price per megabyte of voice traffic becomes apparent.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Re: Re: Re: Because it is still an analogue system, with bits of digital technology bolted on.

No, nowadays the phone system is digital through-and-through.

What it does preserve is the centralized mentality: that all the smarts are in the network, while phones are still dumb devices. (Yes, even our modern mobile smartphones are still dumb devices as far as the phone network is concerned.)

Contrast this with the Internet, where it is the network that is dumb, and the endpoints that are smart. Phone people hate this.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Why Is English The Only Language In The World With Separate Words For Animals Versus Food?

A live pig is a “pig”, but serve it on a plate and it is “pork”. Similarly “cattle” become “beef”, and “sheep” become “mutton”. No other language makes this distinction. Why?

The clue is in the respective origins of the words: the animal words are Anglo-Saxon, the food words are French. The conquering Norman nobility (who spoke French) never had much contact with the live animals (that was the responsibility of their Anglo-Saxon servants), only the meat presented as food. Hence the adoption of French words for the latter.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Why Is English The Only Language In The World With Separate Words For Animals Versus Food?

Indeed — that’s one great example of the impact of the Norman invasion. I also like the fact that, if you take all the English words with Scandinavian roots, you’d think we picked them all up into Anglo-Saxon, from invading Vikings over the pre-Norman centuries. But in fact it turns out only a tiny handful of them came to us directly that way — most of our Norse words came via the Normans, who had been dealing with their own with viking raiders for hundreds of years. But, there are both — so we have both first-generation and second-generation Norse words in our language.

One correction, though: it’s not true that no other language makes the distinction at all. French has “vache” for cow and “cochon” for pig, for example. It’s just that ours is the only language where there is such a clear etymological divide between the two sides — we use all the Latin words for the foods, and all the Anglo-Saxon words for the animals.

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