This Week In Techdirt History: February 5th – 11th

from the five-ten-fifteen dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2012, as congress sat in the wreckage of SOPA, 70 different groups put together a letter telling lawmakers to halt all other efforts to expand intellectual property. Despite this, a number of elected representatives were still inexplicably backing the dead bill, while Lamar Smith was trying to declare all anti-SOPA data as invalid. At the same time, he was being trashed by Politifact for his claims about the impact of piracy, and styling himself as an enemy of the internet by continuing to push a data snooping bill. The RIAA was also on the warpath, attacking Google and Wikipedia and hypocritically complaining about ‘misinformation’.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2007, we were digging deeper into Viacom’s takedown of 100,000 YouTube videos, and noticing that some were short, innocent home movies that were clearly not infringing. They weren’t alone, of course: people were starting to realize how the RIAA’s DMCA notices were slapdash and flimsy, and we even saw a bizarre push from the supposed creator of the Electric Slide to get videos of “his” dance off of YouTube. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs personally spoke out against the recording industry’s DRM demands, prompting a rather strange response from the RIAA (which was also ludicrously calling for higher prices on CDs).

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2002, congress was all over the internet with its “dirty dozen” crop of digital regulation bills. Apple and Sony were battling over the future of home entertainment and what the technology would look like, while other companies were avidly pushing home networking to a mostly-uninterested public that didn’t really understand what the benefits would be or why they’d want such a setup. Broadband was still failing to gain a real foothold, but spam was going strong and people were trying to figure out how to create the next Silicon Vally. One thing was clear though: the dot-coms that dropped big bucks on Superbowl ads weren’t seeing much return on investment.

One-Hundred And Eight Years Ago

There are lots of big milestones in the history of consumer electronics and communication technology, and many involve the invention of critical components like the transistor. But this week we celebrate one that gets discussed less often: the invention on February 5th, 1909 of of Bakelite, one of the first synthetic plastics. It was useful for a huge range of applications, but quickly became a critical material in the world of electronics where it formed insulating and non-conducting components like telephone and radio casings, lightbulb sockets and bases, automobile distributor caps and more. Though it began to be replaced in the 1940s, it is still manufactured today.

(Fun side fact: Bakelite also became a tool for advanced art forgery, because it could be used to harden paint and make it appear much older than it really was.)

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