Download: The True Story of the Internet

John Heilemann is one of my oldest and dearest pals and one of the most talented journalists in the business, so take this with a caveat, but only one that emphasizes how worth your time it will be to watch this series. Download: The True Story of the Internet…


John Heilemann is one of my oldest and dearest pals and one of the most talented journalists in the business, so take this with a caveat, but only one that emphasizes how worth your time it will be to watch this series. Download: The True Story of the Internet is a documentary he’s been working on for more than a year. And I am certain it will be masterful. More details here.

16 thoughts on “Download: The True Story of the Internet”

  1. On February 27, Tim Mullaney, reported that Chris Marangi, associated manager of the Gabellie Value Fund in Rye, NY, (which owns Liberty, Direct TV and News Corp. shares)commented that Malone may buy Bethesda, Maryland-based Discovery Communications, Inc to add programming…” Discovery Communications, Inc. is a vast collection of “education” and “entertainment” properties — many of which are viewed by “Moms” and “kids.”

    Howard Gossage, an accidental advertiser, (not so unlike Google) was quoted as saying, “The narrower and better defined the objectives are, the greater are the chances of accomplishing successful advertising.”

    Two by Four is right — the internet matters. It is not about the second click. It is about monetizing — “what has up till now been the ‘free’ click versus the paid click.” Discovery Communications, Inc. and its house of programming will bring relevancy to not just the “first result”, but will capture the “first page” of results because of its vault of rich, relevant, video/keyword content — addressing scalability and the synergies of content and distribution.

    Howard Gossage made people “think.” John Malone is doing exactly the same thing, and he is involving his audience – Google.

  2. This is amusing. I can’t even embed one of the promo videos for this show – which looks great, finally a decent doco about the Internet. Petard? Hoist? Typical ‘big media choice’.

  3. . . . especially since the name of the show starts with “Download”.

    Bingo. “Filtered and targeted” – education and entertainment – a new beginning for online-relationship marketing.

  4. I am a high school Business Teacher, and I would love to show this to my web design class, but unfortunately, I have not found any way to do that since the videos are not online, or even for sale anywhere. What a disappointment! This is quite possibly the most topic appropriate series I’ve seen yet.

  5. “Download” has me simultaneously excited and frustrated. I’ve created a dot-com enterprise of my own, and I believe it could feature in the next chapter in the series. Now I am trying to figure out how to make contact with those people in the documentary who find money and build management teams to launch companies like mine into orbit. It looks so easy on TV, but I’ve spent months making calls and sending emails without even reaching people like that.

    BTW, If anyone’s interested, I think I’ve solved the digital piracy problem. No, it’s not yet-another DRM to preserve archaic copyright. I have a market mechanism harnessing what John called the “power of us” to pay off copyright holders to release (some but not all) rights to the public domain. It’s a win-win solution that could empower file sharing while satisfying the MPAA and RIAA. Read all about it at Propagate Ltd

    So, does anyone know how to drill through the layers of insulation now surrounding the people who convert web sites into businesses? I can’t even get the time of day from them.


    Jeffry R. Fisher
    President, Propagate Digital Content, Limited

  6. Your piece on the Internet misses a large portion of the early development (but I understand why – you and your respondents are much too young to have experienced or even come into contact with the early explorers or their worlds.)

    While the music industry and its proponents and followers have done a lot to grow the WEB and its use, lately, the earliest developments of the Internet were not music-based or even driven by a basic interest in music (as you suggest). You also make it seem that university students were at the center of the early developments – they were not. The earliest Internet, difficult to use because of the code that had to be memorized by everyone who used it, was developed by the American military. Internet usage outside the military was allowed to specific research Universities first, and then the whole university world joined (.edu) it. In the mid-eighties school districts were allowed in and the transmission of information and data was central to the system. The drive was created then to develop a much easier-to-use communication system where code-use was cut to a minimum, the system worked to become an intuitive system. During this time the use of Internet-based Bulletin Boards, locally, and in networks regionally, became the order of the day.

    Using a specific example from 1988, we can see the further developments of these systems. In 1988, working with an advanced bulletin board use company founded by an ex-Stanford graduate who was a Peace Corps member in San francisco, the Copen family Fund (a family-based foundation in New York) began to use networked bulletin boards to link schools together around the world – the aim of this system was (and still is) to get children to speak and plan with each other around the world so that when they grow up they will not kill each other. The first comprehensive link was created between the NY State Educational System and the Moscow City School System – 30 teachers from each system worked together and were trained over a two week stint in 1988. Other schools joined, and in 1989 one of the first school student projects came to fruition: high school students from The Soviet Union (as it still was, then), the U.S. and Belgium, working together on the network (known as the International Education and Resource Network – iearn), created a set of international laws to help control environmental degradation by controlling large company abuse. Through the New York Bar Association these students presented their finding and recommended laws to three judges in the International Court in the Hague. Projects then included a world wide team of boy scouts helping to build water pumps in mountain villages in Peru, and the research of violence among school students with Palestinian, Irish, and Israeli students working together. This was all done on networked bulletin boards created and built by the team in San Francisco.

    Iearn’s growth expanded to include nineteen countries in the early days. The organization developed an international management team that met once a year in different countries. These early days were before the WEB. As the WEB grew and expanded, so did iearn, and today it is part of a WEB network of well over 100 countries, operates in multiple languages, and has has multiple, changing projects on it supported by its management system, with its headquarters in NY City, and with a multitude of mentors supporting the interconnected students (available at

    Not one section of this development was music-based (although kids today use it to swap music of their countries). This whole movement was started based on early bulletin board system (BBS) which you choose to omit. And it was working with multiple international partners by 1988.

    In 1989 we were even looking for a medium to speed up the BBS network information transmission and we were looking at low-level satellite systems (small satellites which circle the earth at low levels). The first one of these to be partnered by a school system was built by a small, four-year college in Utah and placed in orbit from one of the
    Challenger missions. The satellite (about 12″x12″x12″ in size) was linked to a set of Apple 2e computers and the experiments on board transmitted data to these computers. The Apple 2e computers were manned 24 hours a day. The school experiments included simple experiments such as the measurement of temperature. But the satellites fall to earth too quickly (about 9 months) to be of real use, and need their own network to work quickly (multiple satellites). This early satellite had to be monitored all the time and was able to transmit data when only when it was “visible in the sky” to the computer antennas (it changed its orbit all the time and there was no way to control it so if its orbit in your region was below the horizon, you lost your chance at connection.) We did not use the system.

    Your research needs a little more depth. It seems that you are discussing only the WEB – the Internet was available long before the WEB, but everything the WEB now does was as a result of the early Internet explorers. They deserve to be included in your story and your exclusion of them shows that your “True Story” is only part of a much larger system that began before your earliest study and provided the whole foundation for the WEB.

  7. Look for BitTorrent file downloads for (“The True Story of the Internet” torrent). I can see a torrent file for espisode 4. I’ll put out a torrent download of all four episodes as soon as I can convert it from my ReplayTV mpeg2 files to divx.

    If you don’t know about BitTorrent, you should. It would be in the next episode of DL:TTSOTI.

    I agree with the people who say there should be an episode zero before episode one.
    It should concentrate on Metcalfe and the development of Ethernet and IP protocols, and
    the delevopment of the DOD network. There was also the development of early PC/Telephone Modem Bulletin Board Systems. And there was AOL, and Compuserve, etc which were not the public domain Internet as we know it, but were private pay-to-play mass market networks.

    Episode one also left out a lot. It didn’t even mention Sun Microsystems in the Microsoft anti-trust suit. The suit would never have happened if Netscape were the only party to the suit. The explanation of the Google search mechanism also left a lot to be desired.

    I worked for Digital Equipment in the late 1980’s. Digital had the largest world-wide computer network at the time, second only to the DOD network. The early Internet ran on Digital PDP systems (later many Sun systems as well) before specialized networking hardware was developed.

    Many computer companies were developing ‘networking’/ communications systems software to sell to business. But DecNotes was a fabulous (albeit test only) system that delivered real group *people* communication way back in 1988 in a way that was very non-technical. There were discussion forums on every conceivable subject: Personal, Woodworking, Boating, Feminism, Human_Relations, and of course Sexetera! In a way DecNotes had features most discussion forums ***still*** haven’t duplicated. We even had DecPhone as a chat program!

    If only Ken Olsen hadn’t entirely missed the boat on Personal Computers. DEC Pioneered networking with Ethernet (developed by Xerox, etc), but Dec was selling ‘mini’-computers, so he never saw a stand-alone computer on each desk, he saw a mini-computer serving terminals on each desk. In 1977 he said there was no reason to have
    a computer at home.

    Around 1990, the internet consisted mostly of mail gateways to education, military, (mostly) computer company networks. These were quite difficult and technical to use.
    You literally had to specify the path that you wanted your email to follow through the internet; the old bang-path, “Hydra!DecLTN!MayHub!DecGWY!MITGWY!WNGGWY! WngHub! WnhTow!WGDiag!Superb@PennyP”.

    The only thing resembling the Internet as we know it was a random set of what were called Newsgroups, which flooded back and forth across the internet on newsgroup servers. These were originally for military development technical discussions, but of course were soon hijacked for other purposes. These were difficult to use or even get access to if you weren’t well connected.

    I worked for the Navy in the early 1990’s. Again, I was happy to be in a position to be well connected. I remember when Yahoo first started with it’s categories with numbers of links. There were also a slew of web crawling web-bots to find stuff which deserved mention.

    There was a big culture shock when the first mass of the uneducated appeared on the internet. Oh My Ghod, the clueless hordes of AOL were unleashed onto the Internet!!!
    It was the beginning of the end as we knew it then.

    By God, it’s humbling to think that I started out with Punched-Cards, Paper tape, and Analog Computers. And here I am still Computing. I could tell way back when that computers were going to be used in the following succession: calculation, number storage, data storage, information storage, and finally many different ways to communicate and store communication.

    Of course I was one of those many nerds at each step of the way bending the systems to suit our own purposes! 🙂 I wrote an early virus on a Univac 1100 which used terminal escape sequences through a phone program to trigger an editor macro to display fireworks on the terminal and then log the user off. Ok, it wasn’t a “Virus” perse, but it was a great joke at the time.

    Here I am waiting for the next big thing. Often-times I’ve asked myself asked myself why, when I had a bright idea, I never tried for the brass ring. My problem is that I’ve never been focused enough of a geek. I have had a life outside of computers to distract me.

    Anyway, I’ll post when I’ve seeded “The True Story Of The Internet” torrent.


  8. I am reading for a Phd at the University of Sheffield and I am focusing on the the duality of technology in the implementations of Internet based Systems in the Maltese Information Society.
    I have read a lot on the way the Internet came to be but wow the program is nothing less than Fantastic. I agree with Chris that there is a big chunk of the early developments missing though. Still it has vividly brought my readings to life. Thanks!

  9. I’m extremely impreesed with the wy the entire story being narrated by none other than john Heilemann.He looked wonderful in the show & it will definintely boost the confidence of people who dont completely believe in the power of internet.

  10. This show is completely fueled with the passion to spread the revolution around the globe. The narrations of John Heilemann worked nice for this show. This show erectly reflects his efforts for this series.

    Thank you John Heilemann Keep the good work On .

    Now we know The True Story of The Internet.

  11. >But DecNotes was a fabulous (albeit test
    > only) system that delivered real group
    > *people* communication way back in 1988
    > in a way that was very non-technical.

    It was certainly not test only when I started working at DEC in 1989. It was one of the most useful tools we had. I still use it almost eveyr day at work.

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