A Digital World

Driven by natural inquisitiveness, and encouraged by scientific discoveries and engineering achievements, the human environment is constantly evolving. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 540–c. 470 BC) is said to have taught that there is nothing permanent except change. In social, political, and commercial affairs, change is everywhere. Change is an eternal condition of mankind, and so it is with modes of communication. Change is most obvious from generation to generation as the new generation picks up developments made by the previous one. Without personal knowledge of what went before, new generations are free to innovate and discover new uses. Certainly this is true of the current period. Within a lifetime, entire industries devoted to digital devices, such as personal computers, mobile phones, software that performs amazing feats without human intervention, and a worldwide data network that is available to anyone with a connection and a compatible terminal, have been born and are thriving. The confluence of solid state (electronic and optical) components, high-level software, and pervasive digital communications has changed the developed world so that new generations are forging a computer-enabled, data-enriched, social, industrial, and political environment.

The development of the Internet and its global reach surprised most communications experts. In the 1970s the incumbent telephone companies were more interested in voice than in data, perhaps for good ...

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