What’s the Internet? Hilarious Video of NBC’s The Today Show 1994

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What's the Internet Today Show 1994

The Today Show cast asks, "What's the Internet?"

Let me take you back seventeen years - Ace of Base was on the radio, Mrs. Doubtfire was dominating the box office, and The Today Show's Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel had no freakin' clue what the internet was. In the following video segment from January 24th 1994, the morning anchors stumble over the identity and jargon of the technology that has come to define the past decade. Gumbel is unclear how you pronounce "@", Katie Couric suggests "about", and no one wants to say "dot" when they read ".com". Confusion with lingo aside, The Today Show cast has to ask a crew member to clarify how the internet works. Do you write to it like mail? Is it just in Universities? Does it require a phone line? ...This was less than two decades ago, and it's a wonderful reminder of how unprepared the mainstream media was for the innovation that was about to sweep the globe. As the crew member says of the internet, "...it's getting bigger and bigger all the time." What a delightful understatement.

To be fair, it wasn't just Couric and Gumbel who were clueless, most of the population was too. Even those who were in the know couldn't quite grasp how much things would change. Yahoo was just being founded around the time of this Today Show video clip, but none of today's biggest online players (Google, Facebook, etc) were even conceived of in 1994. We were in such a pioneer time for the internet.

That was only seventeen years ago.

That's more than half my age, but I still think of it as "not so long ago." Just ten years after this segment aired, Google would make its IPO and create some of the internet's richest billionaires. It's amazing that it takes such a short amount of time (less than 20 years), for a single technology to go from being obscure and outside the general mainstream media to becoming central to modern society and the home for a growing segment of the media. It really makes me wonder what technologies are out there today, on the fringes of public awareness, that are going to explode in the next decade and radically alter global civilization. Like the internet, such technologies may have been under development for decades before they finally 'takeoff' and change the world. It's really only our narrow focus on today's developments that makes such disruptive events seem to appear out of nowhere. If we had been paying close enough attention maybe we could have seen the internet coming. Some did.

But you know, the veil that surrounds emerging technology cuts both ways. We didn't really understand the science of 2011 back in 1994, but those born in the last decade wouldn't understand the technology of 1994 either. I'll leave you with one of my favorite videos about the rapid march of technology. To a child of 2011, the tech of yesteryear is just as incomprehensible as the internet was to The Today Show cast of 1994.

[screen capture credit: The Today Show via DrHexagon011 on YouTube]

Discussion — 26 Responses

  • Anonymous February 1, 2011 on 7:37 pm

    The scene from Futurama where only Fry knows the inner workings of the wheel and what it’s used for, is more believable now.

    • Joey1058 February 1, 2011 on 8:01 pm

      No kidding! Anybody 30 or older can laugh at Futureama, but dang if they weren’t spot on with THAT prediction!

  • Joey1058 February 1, 2011 on 8:04 pm

    I had to giggle. The person that created the video even got something wrong. It’s a 5.25″ floppy disc, not an 8″ floppy disc. 8″ discs were already obsolete by the time I bought my first Commodore 64 computer.

    • Harry Cunningham Joey1058 March 24, 2011 on 9:18 am

      I noticed that too. It was too close in size to the 3 1/2″ disk to be an 8″. I wonder what the children would have made of one though?

  • Anonymous February 1, 2011 on 8:11 pm

    Please don’t excuse the stupidity and ignorance of morning talk show hosts to generalize about what the population thought about the internet in 1994. I was online back then, through dial up, and I was not surprised by the revolutionary technology, just that it didn’t happen fast enough. Look at Twitter– wasn’t around 5 years ago, now it’s referenced in the major media as an example of the live worldwide conversation, used to facilitate revolution…

    • The FLAP February 1, 2011 on 10:23 pm

      The fact that they are still ignorant and stupid goes by the wayside

    • kristoph February 2, 2011 on 12:59 am

      Wow, your really cool, I want to be just like you, can you teach me to be an investor in 1990

      • Nathan kristoph February 2, 2011 on 4:27 am

        No, but I can teach you the difference between “your” and “you’re”

        • Harry Cunningham Nathan March 24, 2011 on 9:19 am

          You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. With some people, even simple grammar rules are too much 🙂

  • Jim February 1, 2011 on 9:16 pm

    It would be better to use YouTube’s newer iframe embed method to embed the videos:


    • Adsaenz Jim February 1, 2011 on 9:50 pm

      You know, we’ve had issues with iframe and WordPress not talking to each other well. Not sure if that is just us or a general bug.

      • Chris Gray Adsaenz February 1, 2011 on 10:29 pm

        Yeah, WP doesn’t like iframe at all, as soon as you edit the page in the WYSIWYG editor it strips all of the iframes out. You have to either edit in text mode, or get a plugin that uses [shortcodes] to pull up an iframe.

        Annoying, but that’s about the only thing wrong with WP that I’ve ever encountered.

  • wuah February 1, 2011 on 9:48 pm

    reminds me of diggnation when they ask prager or glenn to explain stuff

  • StephanieC February 1, 2011 on 11:42 pm

    OHMAHGAAAAHD. This is a gem. Fantastic. “Giant computer network…. several universities online together”…

    Wow, how times have changed. Who would have thought that it would cause the demise of travel agents, Blockbuster video, insurance agents, and, most importantly, porn stores. lpl

  • Socrates February 2, 2011 on 1:10 am

    These videos are hilarious but also show very well how far and how unrecognizable are some of the technologies that were in every home just a few years ago. Reminds me very much to another similar video from roughly the same time titled: The History Of Internet Search And Google http://snglrty.co/5t

  • kristof February 2, 2011 on 1:27 am

    Im thinking the next big thing is automated vechiles. Robots navigating our world, interacting with society, completing errands on our behalf (for now); these advancements will kick start the age intellgent machines. For example: An automated mail truck will first just drive the mailman around, then someone will design a robotic arm that can open the variety of mail boxes and insert the correct mail, mailman is still necesary in that circumstance because some boxes have to be delivered at the front door until further invotion accomplishes that task as well, eliminating mailman completely. Their are hundred examples of this and once it starts it will blossom as quickly at the internet.

  • Phrenzy February 2, 2011 on 3:22 am

    It’s quite easy to get caught up in how amazingly post modern we all are and how unique the pace of modern change is but consider the following.

    Wright brothers fly a distance a unix admin can run without getting breathless: 1904

    Lt. J. A. Macready (USA) broke world altitude record in a Packard LePere fighter plane by reaching 34,508 feet : 1921

    Same 17 year difference.

    I think they’re both amazing demonstrations of what a civilization can do in a decade or two when everyone gets behind a good idea but we shouldn’t count ourselves unique in the progress stakes.

    • Harry Cunningham Phrenzy March 24, 2011 on 9:20 am

      I just said something similar to a colleague. Given the pace at which technology is advancing, I wonder what these children’s children will make of current cutting-edge technology?

  • Andy Collins February 2, 2011 on 4:04 am

    To post this vid would have been entertaining… but to make the cuts both reference and add the 2nd video, now that’s gold. Nice work 🙂

  • Asuyuka February 2, 2011 on 6:38 am

    I was on the Internet at 94 XD Wow

  • Dingus February 2, 2011 on 7:58 am

    Took two seconds for the black kid to start scratching it up lol, not that i am racial stereo typing or anything.

  • Runnerwer February 2, 2011 on 4:29 pm

    bryant gumbel is a real jerk, just does’t stop talking (never liked the guy)

  • Colm Brophy February 2, 2011 on 5:39 pm

    A great article on a 13 year old swapping his iPod for a walkman

    Highlights include:
    “It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equaliser, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette.”

  • Robi February 4, 2011 on 11:26 pm

    I find it ironic that an article commenting on pronounciations and notations related to the Internet fails to capitalize the word Internet, which is a proper noun.

  • Steve February 6, 2011 on 7:22 pm

    This made me smile. Except for a few geeks we all were scratching our heads & wondering “WTF?” I don’t understand why NBC fired the employee who released this video. I would have given them a raise.

  • Jknash2007 February 10, 2011 on 7:29 pm

    I think wireless power will be a huge game changer like the Internet. The tech can be applied to so many different areas of our lives. From charging to kitchen appliances, offices, electric cars. This wireless power tech is on the brink of explosion.