This Week In Techdirt History: June 14th – 20th

from the not-so-much-difference-engine dept

Five Years Ago

If you’re reading this from a Starbucks, take a moment to celebrate: it was this week in 2010 that the chain first announced its plan to offer free Wi-Fi (something we’d been saying since 2003).

Once you’re done celebrating, it’s time to come back to the reality of all the stupid stuff that was happening that same week. In the midst of the campaign to sue people who shared The Hurt Locker, the producers defended their use of the true story it was based on as part of their free speech rights, though at least one independent director was pointing out that filesharing only hurts bad movies. Following the RIAA’s victory over LimeWire, music publishers decided to pile on with their own lawsuit, while some people were starting to question the IsoHunt decision and Rapidshare was countersuing Perfect 10 for being a copyright troll. The government was getting ready to enact a law that made universities subsidize the entertainment industry, while a new anti-piracy campaign compared downloading to “killing” pop stars — while we noted that big labels and singers seem to copy from each other quite a lot. Who could blame them? Copying is often efficient and smart, copyright is barely workable when recording everything is standard, and (some) content creators were starting to come to terms with the fact that their work will be shared.

Others, like the producers of Twilight, were suing fashion designers for simply mentioning Bella and holding official Twilight t-shirt design contests where no official Twilight material is allowed. Still others, like many modern jazz musicians, were being held back by the copyright regimeseeking special exemptions from said regime. The RIAA was busy up in Canada, astroturfing for a Canadian DMCA and doing a damn good job of it.

Ten Years Ago

Oh the formats, they are a’changin’ — this week in 2005, the bell began to toll for many an old medium. Wal-Mart supposedly announced that it would no longer sell VHS movies, and though it later denied the report, the signs still couldn’t be clearer, much like they were for cassette tapes, supposed death of the music industry. EMI jumped on the CD copy protection bandwagon, accelerating that format’s path to obsolescence, while reports were urging the music industry to embrace file sharing. Libraries were introducing (but still struggling with) digital downloads, the number of mainly-online news readers hit 20%, and surveys were already showing that people much preferred watching movies at home.

And when formats shift, industries panic. Some were calling for universal DRM or struggling to maintain their walled gardens, some were still pressuring congress to approve the broadcast flag, journalists were railing against Wikipedia and Warner Movies was threatening ISPs in the hunt for user data, while the MPAA was doubletalking about Grokster and Bob Geldof was calling eBay evil.

Fifteen Years Ago

Not much changes. This week in 2000, the RIAA was going crazy against Napster and seeking the removal of all major label songs, while the CEO was insisting the service is completely legal. Internet speeds were getting closer to making movie piracy a large-scale reality, while the MPAA’s attack on illegal rebroadcasting signalled that it would surely behave much like the RIAA when faced with that reality. The web was already changing journalism and people were already going online for news… and journalists already weren’t getting it. One person was surprisingly on-the-ball, though: Courtney Love, one of the first musicians to speak out with real insight on the music industry moving into the digital age.

The UK’s Royal Navy embarrassed itself by accidentally emailing lots of confidential info to a teenage girl, while the US Navy was touting its new ability to send emails from submarines. JP Morgan made its own embarrassing error when it failed to pay the $35 to renew Meanwhile, it was still trendy to ask the big questions about the internet: what do people really think of it? Does it actually increase productivity? And how do you keep kids innocent online?

64 & 193 Years Ago

June 14th marks two concurrent and related anniversaries in the history of computing. First, in 1822 it was the day Charles Babbage proposed his Difference Engine, the theoretical mechanical marvel that heralded the computing revolution way ahead of schedule. So it’s fitting that it was also on June 14th, over a century later in 1951, that UNIVAC I, the first ever commercial computer produced in the US, was dedicated.

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Comments on “This Week In Techdirt History: June 14th – 20th”

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Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

Even Though The Difference Engine Wasn’t Actually Programmable ...

… (that being the specialty of the later Analytical Engine), it still had some remarkable subtleties in its design, that only came to light when attempts to build it for real took place over a century and a half later.

For example, Babbage took pains to ensure that the gears could never accidentally count one notch too many or too few: they were locked in place until it came time for them to move, and then they could only move the right number of steps before being locked again. Thus you could have a high level of confidence that the numbers that came out were correct. Talk about high reliability! And all done with mechanical parts …

Torque Wrench says:

Where are all the comments as last week? -- Answer: I didn't put out bait and you pirates have nothing positive to say! Just denials.

Pirates NEED content to steal; creators don’t need pirates.


Having again built up frenzied expectations among Techdirt’s yapping fanboy-trolls, I now withhold bait to show how empty you kids are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where are all the comments as last week? -- Answer: I didn't put out bait and you pirates have nothing positive to say! Just denials.

Or it’s a summer Saturday and everyone but you has a life.

Not only did we not spend all day responding to your cookie-cutter stupidity, we didn’t even spend all day thinking about it the way you apparently did!

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Where are all the comments as last week? -- Answer: I didn't put out bait and you pirates have nothing positive to say! Just denials.

Or it’s a summer Saturday and everyone but you has a life.

So very true.

Blue also operates under two other misguided delusions concerning the “strawman Techdirt” he’s build up in his own head.

#1) That Techdirt readers are all juvenile delinquents living in their parents basements downloading copyrighted material 24/7.

This delusion is easily dispelled by simply looking at Techdirt’s actual demographics. %58 make over 50k/year, 77% are over the age of 24 and 75% are college graduates. That sounds like responsible adult members of society to me.

#2) That his comments are actually influential here at Techdirt.

This can also be easily dispelled by simply looking at how many times Blue’s comments are hidden via the consensus of the community.

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