On the Other Hand …

The impact of the 50-year-old Web is staggering. But is it “more staggering” than, say, the arrival of railroads? I’ve been doing a bit of railway reading, and I think it’s either a dead heat, or the railways may win by a nose.


“[The railways] turned the known universe upside down. They made a greater and more immediate impact than any other innovation before or since. … The shock was both sudden and universal … With the railways came the development of modern capitalism, of modern nations, the creation of new regions from the American Midwest to Lake Victoria to the pampas in Argentina.”—Nicholas Faith, The World the Railways Made

I like this one even better—written at the time of inception, 1844, and using extremist language of the sort that’s also commonplace regarding the Web:

“… Time and space are annihilated by steam. … Oh, this constant locomotion, my body & everything in motion. Steamboats, Cars, & hotels all crammed & crowded full the whole population seems in motion & in fact as I pass along with Lightening speed & cast my eye on the distant objects, they all seem in a whirl nothing appearing permanent even the trees are waltzing, the mind too goes with all this, it speculates, theorizes, & measures all things by locomotive speed, where will it end.”—Asa Whitney, first to formally propose transcontinental railroad to Congress, diary entry, 1844, from David Haward Bain, Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad

“Time and space were annihilated”—that’s the ticket.

No grand purpose here other than amusement—and a reminder that we’ve lived through and survived such “everything-has-changed” upheavals in the past. Just ask the spirit of your great great grandfather!